Several offensive linemen rarely seen among the first group to take the field played with the first unit Monday. That included true freshman offensive tackle Chuma Edoga.
“He’s an exceptionally good athlete and a smart young man,” said USC offensive line coach Bob Connelly. “He progressed well in the spring being an early graduate and those 15 practice has put him further along.
“He’s got a bright, brought future. He’s a long levered kid with good feet, so I can see him helping us this year. We have to put him in some tough situations out here and throw a lot at him early on to get him ready.
“We’ve got heavy install going on right now going into our fourth day, so we have to see how he adapts. He’s getting a little more tired, a little more fatigued now, so that’s a good opportunity for me as a coach to evaluate how he responds.”
Edoga started at right tackle over junior Zach Banner in several practice periods Monday. Putting to much weight into what that really means after the third day of camp is dangerous.
“It’s an opportunity for us to evaluate him with the ones,” said Connelly. “We want to see him going against the ones and not just the twos or threes.
“If Chuma can block our defensive linemen on the No. 1 defense, it shows us as a staff he can block against UCLA’s No. 1 defense or Oregon’s No. 1 defense.
“All it is for us is an opportunity to see him compete. Chuma isn't the only one getting those first team reps. Chris Brown is in there with the ones and so is Nico Falah. I’m trying to develop some competition and I’m trying to give these guys a feel as to how it is being with the ones.
“The offensive line is a chemistry deal, but right now it’s a platoon situation where we’re finding numbers. We want to develop some quality depth and heighten their awareness. One snap and you could be playing. Plus, you don’t want those guys in the first or second row too comfortable. We want our guys striving to be the best they can be.”
Returning starter at right offensive tackle Zach Banner sees Edoga’s development as being sourced to one main factor.
“Chuma listens,” said Banner. “He’s humble, and when you get someone who was as good as he was in high school, you don’t see that.
“He sits behind me in the meeting room and soaks everything in. He knows he’s not perfect and he knows I’m not perfect. But he knows I’m older and so he listens.
“When we throw him to the wolves at right tackle or left tackle, he doesn’t know what he’s going to get. Some times it’s the ones versus the ones, sometimes it’s the twos versus the ones. It’s building his confidence and this is what builds depth.
“This is the first time going into my fourth year that we have this many guys. It feels so good. We’re trying to keep them all healthy, but it feels good.”
The newly minted offensive line also has the additions of left tackle Roy Hemsley, who joined Edoga at USC in January, as well as center Cole Smith and right tackle Clayton Johnson.
“Like with Chuma, I think it’s a group that listens and they’re humble,” said Banner. “I come out here with the mind set that I am the best offensive tackle out here and the best offensive tackle in college football.
“I have to work to be that, but is saying that, I want those young guys to be able to say the same thing. If we had everybody playing on the same level of football, how good do you think USC would be? All 14 guys playing at their best?
“We’re a long ways from doing that. Guys have to get bigger, or stronger or just learn the playbook. This is Clayton Johnston’s third practice with us. It’s tough, but my job is to hold guys accountable.
“There are rankings to the offensive line. Max Tuerk is the leader of this offensive line. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. It’s Max then me and Chad Wheeler, but Max leads us. You have to have accountability among the leadership. You have to tell guys to shut up and work.
“The thing is, these young guys are doing that. They listen and we don’t even have to tell them that.”
News and Notes from Practice: