We’re nearly five weeks away from the start of the college football season. That means fall camp will be opening soon and then the games are around the corner. We know this is one of the most excruciating times of the year for Trojan fans that are anxiously awaiting the season. USC’s opening kickoff against Arkansas State on Sept. 5 will be here before you know it, but the anticipation is probably killing you guys.
We all want to see Adoree Jackson back in action and Cody Kessler throwing darts all around, but to help pass the time prior to that day’s arrival, we’re bringing you the “30 Key Trojans.” We are already one-third of the way through the list and continue to count down the 30 USC players that are most important to the Trojans’ success this season. This list is not the 30 most talented players or the 30 players that will put up the best stats, but instead the guys that could propel USC to a successful season.
Which players’ success is key for the Trojans’ season to be a success?
19. Zach Banner - Redshirt Junior
Offensive lineman Zach Banner is one hulking figure, so much so that he enjoys the nickname “The Hulk.” Standing at 6-foot-9 and weighing in at more than 330 pounds, Banner creates shadows you could live in. While Damien Mama remains the biggest player on the roster at more than 350 pounds, no one stands as tall as Banner.
There have been only two things bigger than Banner at USC — basketball center Omar Oraby, who was listed at 7-foot-2 and 270 pounds, and Banner’s own personality. Banner is constantly chattering on the practice field during summer workouts, whether it is teaching up a younger offensive lineman or chirping at the defense, making fun of freshman linebacker Porter Gustin’s muscles or going back and forth with linebacker Su’a Cravens.
The Lakewood, Wash. native wears his emotions on his sleeve. He likes to joke around and have a good time with his teammates, but he cares about the outcome of the games. It’s hard not to find him with a smile on his face unless the Trojans have just lost a game. Then there are no smiles whatsoever.
Listed at 360 pounds last season, Banner had slimmed down to 350 pounds in the spring and recently said he felt like he was in the best shape of his life after he had lost 23 pounds during the offseason. He has said previously he was trying to get down to 330 pounds, but that he was hoping to find a happy medium between 330-350 pounds.
The son of former NFL All-Pro offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy, Banner was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. He redshirted his freshman year and was a member of the basketball team, showing off his athletic ability in practice. Basketball was out of the picture his sophomore year after he made brief backup appearances in the first two football games and then was injured. Banner was sidelined the rest of the year and eventually had surgery on both of his hips to help with his mobility.
Banner came back last year and was a starter in all 13 games at right tackle. He hopes to improve on his performance with a dominant junior year that could propel him up draft boards. After graduating during the spring, an exit after this year could be a possibility for Banner if he shows he can be nimble enough to handle speed rushers on the outside while also being strong enough, despite his lighter frame, to handle the bull rush of a stunting defensive tackle.
“I want to be the most dominant lineman in college football. I am the starting tackle for USC. So when USC is No. 1, ZB is No. 1. Team first. Me second.” — Zach Banner
“After his summer internship at Fox Sports, it's probably not a stretch to think that Zach has as good a shot at making the big time in sports as a sports talk show host -- like his father -- as an offensive tackle -- also like his father. And that's not a knock on his playing prospects. What it all comes down to is his ability to flex those surgically repaired hips,get down low and maintain contact with the speed guys trying to beat him -- mostly to the outside.
"The other challenge is getting down and getting after guys right in his face and driving them. His basketball feet help. Now if he can just put it all together. No one wants it any more than Zach. He's as big a team guy as you'll ever see." — Dan Weber, USCfootball.com
Here's Zach Banner talking about summer workouts with USCfootball.com's Shannon Reiffen:
|19||Zach Banner||72 pts||12 (Shotgun Sprating)||Not listed (Austin Geller)|
|20||John Plattenburg||68 pts||15 (Keely Eure)||29 (Austin Geller)|
|21||Damien Mama||49 pts||18 (Gerard Martinez)||27 (DanWeber)|
|22||Connor Spears||44 pts||13 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|
|23||Max Browne||43 pts||19 (Twice)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|24||Leon McQuay III||40 pts||17 (Ryan Abraham)||Not listed (Twice)|
|25||Osa Masina||39 pts||15 (Gerard Martinez)||Not listed (Keely Eure)|
|26||Darreus Rogers||36 pts||19 (Shotgun Spratling)||Not listed (Dan Weber)|
|27||Matt Boermeester||35 pts||18 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Twice)|
|28||Chris Hawkins||34 pts||21 (Twice)||Not listed (Twice)|
|29||Viane Talamaivao||23 pts||22 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Three times)|
|30||Ykili Ross||21 pts||22 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|