2003 position preview: Offensive line

The o-line should be a strength of the Trojan team this season and how has long has it been since we've been able to say that? With a good combination of experienced veterans and talented youth we should see the line provide a solid foundation of stability while the backfield breaks in new starters at every position.

Returners

 

Jacob Rogers, Lenny Vandermade, Norm Katnik, Eric Torres, Winston Justice, Fred Matua, Kyle Williams, Nate Steinbacher, Travis Watkins, Kurt Katnik

 

Key losses

 

Zach Wilson, Derek Graf

 

Incoming

 

Drew Radovich, Sam Baker, Ryan Kalil, John Drake

 

Position outlook

 

The o-line should be a strength of the Trojan team this season and how has long has it been since we've been able to say that?  With a good combination of experienced veterans and talented youth we should see the line provide a solid foundation of stability while the backfield breaks in new starters at every position. 

 

Jacob Rogers headlines the group and he's a candidate for All-American honors in his third year as a starter.  Jake is as big as a house and he's got terrific athletic ability to protect the all-important left tackle spot.  He's also as strong as he's ever been so this could shape up to be a banner year for the former tight end.  Nate Steinbacher enters camp as the primary reserve behind Rogers and Nate is a fifth-year senior who has yet to establish himself during his Trojan career.  If Eric Torres is healthy, look for him as a possible option as well.

 

Lenny Vandermade returns for his fourth year as a starter on the line and he's coming off a bicep injury which caused him to miss the last several games of the season.  Lenny is healthy and he could be our most solid all-around lineman with a combination of technique and nastiness on the field.  A trio of players could be in the mix to back-up Vandermade with Travis Watkins, Torres and John Drake fighting for time.  Watkins has battled back problems while Torres is coming off a major leg injury suffered during the Orange Bowl.  The presence of Torres is key because he gives the Trojans a very versatile and experienced veteran to plug in at multiple spots along the line.  Drake is an interesting athlete, he's over 340 pounds which doesn't seem to fit the mold of a current Trojan lineman but he's got dancers feet and could be a factor right away.

 

Norm Katnik is the savvy technician at center and his leadership will be important to help the transition with a new quarterback taking snaps.  Behind Norm is his brother Kurt although Kurt could also end up getting a look at tight end.  Kurt is known as a good blocker but he hurt his hand during spring ball before he had a chance to show what he could do at tight end.  If we get in a pinch we could always use Vandermade or Fred Matua.

 

Matua is penciled in as the starter at right guard coming out of spring ball after he held off competition from Kyle Williams.  Fred is intense and he brings that passion and fire to every play.  Williams took a redshirt year last year and is now ready to see action after developing physically and spending a lot of time in the Chris Carlisle program.  Kyle also has the ability to play tackle if needed. At this point the Trojans are set with Winston Justice as the starter at right tackle and he's a future All-American.  There aren't too many players who can step in as a true freshman and perform as a starter on the offensive line but Winston did it and did it well.  He should only improve this season. 

 

In an ideal world we won't need to see any of the true freshmen offensive linemen play this year.  The line is at the point where it is deep enough to withstand the normal ups and downs of a season but if we get hit by injuries it's nice to know the youngsters coming in have a lot of talent.  A lot of the credit for the development of the line last season needs to go to Tim Davis and it's obvious to see the difference he has made with the overall performance of the line.  The USC football program takes a lot of pride in the history and tradition of our o-line play and this group will certainly play an important role in determining the overall success of the 2003 team. 

 

Projected two-deep

 

LT – Rogers, Torres

LG – Vandermade, Watkins/Drake

C – Katnik, Katnik

RG – Matua, Williams

RT – Justice, Williams


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