30 Key Trojans: #4 Max Tuerk

The 30 Key Trojans countdown continues with Max Tuerk, a mauler that isn't having to learn a new position for the first time at USC.

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.

SOUNDING OFF:

“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

SEASON GOALS:

“To win a Pac-12 championship. That’s it.” — Max Tuerk

EXPERTS TAKE:

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

RankPlayerTotal PointsHighLow
1
2
3
4Max Tuerk155 pts2 (Gerard Martinez)9 (Shotgun Spratling)
5JuJu Smith-Schuster148 pts4 (Four times)15 (Shotgun Spratling)
6Toa Lobendahn132 pts5 (Shotgun Spratling)12 (Austin Geller)
7Kevon Seymour131 pts5 (Gerard Martinez)14 (Twice)
8Antwaun Woods125 pts7 (Ryan Abraham)17 (Dan Weber)
9Justin Davis124 pts6 (Austin Geller)16 (Shotgun Spratling)
10Lamar Dawson121 pts2 (Shotgun Spratling)17 (Keely Eure)
11Steven Mitchell Jr.120 pts8 (Shotgun Spratling)13 (Dan & Ryan)
12Claude Pelon109 pts9 (Dan Weber)17 (Austin Geller)
13Tre Madden98 pts6 (Dan Weber)Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)
14Chad Wheeler92 pts6 (Keely Eure)Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)
15Iman Marshall86 pts11 (Ryan Abraham)25 (Shotgun Spratling)
16Delvon Simmons84 pts1 (Shotgun Spratling)28 (Gerard Martinez)
17Jabari Ruffin79 pts12 (Dan Weber)25 (Ryan Abraham)
18Anthony Sarao77 pts13 (Keely Eure)26 (Austin Geller)
19Zach Banner72 pts12 (Shotgun Sprating)Not listed (Austin Geller)
20John Plattenburg68 pts15 (Keely Eure)29 (Austin Geller)
21Damien Mama49 pts18 (Gerard Martinez)27 (DanWeber)
22Connor Spears44 pts13 (Austin Geller)Not listed (Twice)
23Max Browne43 pts19 (Twice)Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)
24Leon McQuay III40 pts17 (Ryan Abraham)Not listed (Twice)
25Osa Masina39 pts15 (Gerard Martinez)Not listed (Keely Eure)
26Darreus Rogers36 pts19 (Shotgun Spratling)Not listed (Dan Weber)
27Matt Boermeester35 pts18 (Dan Weber)Not listed (Twice)
28Chris Hawkins34 pts21 (Twice)Not listed (Twice)
29Viane Talamaivao23 pts22 (Keely Eure)Not listed (Three times)
30Ykili Ross21 pts22 (Austin Geller)Not listed (Twice)

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