USC redshirt junior offensive lineman Zach Banner just recently returned from a trip to his mother’s native land, Guam, where he continues to convert the entire U.S. territorial island into Trojan fans.
But now it’s time to get back to work for the cardinal and gold’s starting right tackle. Banner again resumes his title as largest human being on campus. However, the 6-foot-9 behemoth is sporting a slimmer frame from the 360 pounds he was listed at last season. Banner had trimmed down to 350 in the spring. The efforts have only continued in the summer.
“I wanted to lose a few pounds and get my feet quicker,” Banner said. "Obviously, everyone wants to get bigger and stronger, but I think the biggest thing about me was making myself a more versatile player, a more athletic player and moving my feet a lot better.”
The Lakewood, Wash. native is trying to slim down to 330 and find a happy medium between 330-350 pounds where he still is able to push around defensive linemen, but also being nimble enough to get to the second and third levels to block linebackers and safeties on run plays.
“I think everybody feels those extra pounds on them. Also, it’s going to help me get looked at at the next level. Everybody’s athletic at the next level and everybody’s at their best shape. Just working on things and got goals in life.”
One of those goals is improving on his performance last season. Banner saw his first action as a Trojan, taking over the right tackle position. It was a year with some growing pains, but a season Banner has taken a lot away from.
“There were a lot of lessons learned. Going into last year, I told everyone to look at me as a rookie and that was just a humble standpoint. Now after I’ve had my first year playing, I promise you that some of the things that might have happened during my first year starting, that’s for sure not going to happen next year because I’m going to be a whole different player.”
With a season of experience under his belt, Banner is also taking more of a leadership role with the incoming freshmen. His message his pretty simple: “That sense of entitlement that you had, drop that. You’re a freshman. You’re a rook now. Everybody has a lot of stuff they can learn.”
Banner said that hasn’t been an issue for the Trojans. That starts with recruiting where Banner said the coaches have focused on the mental aspect rather than just the physical abilities of a player. The coaches are looking for good people as well as good athletes.
Now it’s up to new offensive line coach Bob Connelly to meld the young freshmen with the veteran core that has a year of experience in Steve Sarkisian’s up-tempo offense. He takes over after Tim Drevno left to take an offensive coordinator position with new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“Coach Connelly is a very good dude. He’s a good person on and off the field. He knows his stuff. I’m just happy he’s here.
“We’re a veteran group. We got a lot of guys coming back. We don’t like the term young anymore because we all got our first years, our first games. We like to call ourselves a veteran group. He treats us that way, but he also understands that we have a lot of things to learn, so he’s willing to coach.”
One philosophy Connelly is trying to institute that Banner likes is wanting the offensive line to be “bullying the defensive line and making the other team fear us.”
“We want to dominate the other group. And that’s the plan. That’s how we’re going to take it.”