The USC football season is one day sooner to arrival. The Trojan players met the press for the final time before Saturday’s season-opening matchup with Arkansas State yesterday and head coach Steve Sarkisian will say his final public words this morning.
This weekend the restraints are off as the Red Wolves come to town and face off with the Pac-12 South title seeking Trojans. We will soon have an idea of what is in store for USC this season, but until we get to gameday, we continue our countdown of the “30 Key Trojans” for the 2015 season. Which players’ success is key for the Trojans’ season to be a success? Who needs to perform for USC to have a great year?
This countdown features the 30 USC players 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.
4. Max Tuerk - Senior
Talk to any of Max Tuerk’s offensive line mates and they will shower him with compliments from his leadership and tutelage to his play on the field. They will effusively praise his effort, his ability and how much he has helped every other lineman in the unit get better.
But talk to Max Tuerk about Max Tuerk and well…even in downtown Los Angeles, you’re likely to hear crickets. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound center doesn’t want to talk to the media about himself and he really would prefer not having to talk at all. He’d much rather take on a 330-pound force-to-be-reckoned-with nose tackle than media questions.
Every team needs an offensive lineman that’s just a hard-nosed, blue-collar mauler type — someone that would rather lay a lick on an opponent to provide for the greater good of a teammate than have an accolade or acknowledgment bestowed upon himself. Tuerk, with his helmet perpetually scraped and the bridge of his nose forever scabbed over, is that guy for the Trojans. He’s a trench monster with a nasty streak that prefers his talking to be noted by helmet and shoulder pads rather than a reporter’s pen and recorder.
While he is a publicly quiet, he transforms into the most talkative Trojan on the field. While Tuerk may shy away from media opportunities, he is by necessity a talker when he steps between the lines. As the center, Tuerk is responsible for making all the offensive calls at the line. It’s his job to read the defense, determine the opposition’s method of attack and get the blocking assignments doled out before each snap. According to his teammates, that’s when he’s at his best.
But Tuerk wasn’t always the guy others were looking to. When he emerged as the first true freshman to ever start at left tackle during the last five regular season games, Tuerk leaned heavily on the veteran offensive linemen, including recently named starter for the Indianapolis Colts, Khaled Holmes. He earned Freshman All-American honors that season and was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
Tuerk finished the season playing left guard in the bowl game — a precursor of his sophomore season when he started 13 games at the position after getting beat out for the center job by current San Francisco 49ers lineman Marcus Martin. He also made one start at right tackle, showing he was capable of playing anywhere on the line. Sarkisian put that to the test when he took over last season, moving Tuerk to center. No problem. Tuerk was first team all conference and honored by the team as USC’s Offensive Lineman of the Year after starting all 13 games to give him 33 career starts at four different positions.
This season will be the first opportunity for Tuerk to remain at the same position since he was a four-star senior at Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic. But even the year before that saw him switch from tight end to the offensive line where he became a high school All-American and has been ever since.
A second year at the same position and a second year in the same offense should make this a year unlike any other for Tuerk. The Trojans are counting on it. With the idea of “platooning” players in and out throughout the season, the only constant on the offensive line this fall has been Tuerk. That makes him even more important during the season when it is expected offensive line coach Bob Connelly will be rotating in lineman. It’ll be up to Tuerk to get all those different faces on the same page with his calls at the line, which makes him one of the most important Trojans of all.
“This is his last go around, so he’s holding all of us accountable. He’s the only senior in the group, so he took that role even last year. You should see him in our meetings. He’ll call anything. He knows everything. The defense rotates, he’ll call it.” — USC offensive lineman Damien Mama
“To win a Pac-12 championship. That’s it.” — Max Tuerk
Max Tuerk is the kind of center and leader a young offensive line like USC's needs. Someone to look up to and listen to and follow. From the little things -- or maybe not so little -- like eating 12,000 calories a day to get his 6-foot-6 frame up to 295 pounds to his calling the signals or all the snapping work Max has done with roommate Cody Kessler, the preseason All-American in the middle is exactly what the doctor ordered for a team with no other seniors in their final season. -- Dan Weber, USCfootball.com
|4||Max Tuerk||155 pts||2 (Gerard Martinez)||9 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|5||JuJu Smith-Schuster||148 pts||4 (Four times)||15 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|6||Toa Lobendahn||132 pts||5 (Shotgun Spratling)||12 (Austin Geller)|
|7||Kevon Seymour||131 pts||5 (Gerard Martinez)||14 (Twice)|
|8||Antwaun Woods||125 pts||7 (Ryan Abraham)||17 (Dan Weber)|
|9||Justin Davis||124 pts||6 (Austin Geller)||16 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|10||Lamar Dawson||121 pts||2 (Shotgun Spratling)||17 (Keely Eure)|
|11||Steven Mitchell Jr.||120 pts||8 (Shotgun Spratling)||13 (Dan & Ryan)|
|12||Claude Pelon||109 pts||9 (Dan Weber)||17 (Austin Geller)|
|13||Tre Madden||98 pts||6 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|14||Chad Wheeler||92 pts||6 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|15||Iman Marshall||86 pts||11 (Ryan Abraham)||25 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|16||Delvon Simmons||84 pts||1 (Shotgun Spratling)||28 (Gerard Martinez)|
|17||Jabari Ruffin||79 pts||12 (Dan Weber)||25 (Ryan Abraham)|
|18||Anthony Sarao||77 pts||13 (Keely Eure)||26 (Austin Geller)|
|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)|