Reflecting on the offensive line

USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno inherited a young group. While there was some experience between upperclassmen Max Tuerk, Aundrey Walker, Nathan Guertler and Giovanni Di Poalo, it was evident early on the Trojans were going to have to rely on their youth.

Of the 60 offensive line starts this season, 12 went to upperclassman while 20 have gone to sophomores and the final 16 went to freshman.

“I have confidence in everyone of those guys that they’re going to line up, they’re going to compete and do it at a high level,” Drevno said of his unit. “I thought they progressed really nicely. We had a few bumps in the road and things. They’re really coming along. The future is very very bright for them and I’m excited to lead them.”

Besides Tuerk, who started all 12 games at center, the Trojans started exclusively freshmen and sophomores. Veteran redshirt sophomore Chad Wheeler went down after eight games leaving three freshmen starting alongside Tuerk and redshirt sophomore Zach Banner, who had only two games of backup experience prior to this season.

Rather than having Walker or Guertler — both seniors — starting while the highly rated trio of true freshmen Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao studied under them, the true freshmen (and redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers to a lesser extent due to injury) were thrown in the fire immediately.

Talamaivao played in all 12 games, starting 10, primarily at right guard. Mama and Rodgers each made three starts, but the headliner has been Lobendahn. He was named a USA Today Freshman All-American after starting the first eight games at left guard and then taking over at left tackle after Wheeler’s injury.

“I think every day he steps out, it’s huge. The last four or five weeks he’s really done a nice job of stepping in there and just progressing very nicely. He’s got tremendous football awareness. He can feel something when it’s happening. You can tell him once and he fixes the problem and that’s really cool.”

Drevno said the entire unit is starting to become so cognizant of the scheme that they are correcting each other’s mistakes in the film room rather than Drevno having to fix each individual’s issues.

“I just sit in there and then they start to talk, ‘Hey, we should do this. We should do that.’ That’s when you feel like an offensive line is really progressing nicely.”


Watch the video below to see Tim Drevno’s full thoughts as he talks with the media Tuesday about a variety of topics, including his assessment of the unit’s progression this season, dealing with potential top five draft pick — Nebraska defensive lineman Randy Gregory, the possibility of Jim Harbaugh taking the Michigan job, Damien Mama’s potential mission trip and Toa Lobendahn’s learning curve being accelerated by him being the son of a coach: Top Stories