Senior offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao enters 2017 going into his fourth season as the Trojans starting right guard. We caught up with the 6-foot-2, 315 pounder at the GiantSkillz linemen camp to get his thoughts on USC spring football.
After losing three key components to the Trojan offensive line, Talamaivao knows he will have to step into a leadership role.
“My mindset coming into spring ball is just a mindset of really being an example for the guys that we’ve got,” Talamaivao said. “We have a lot of dudes who haven’t played. Lots of guys new on the line now, so we’re going to have a lot of guys who don’t have experience playing. My job is just to act as a mentor and be the person to guide everybody and make sure everyone’s on the right track. We have some really ridiculously talented guys on offensive line right now. The talent’s there, the ability’s there. All I’m doing is really just being like that person to guide everyone, and to be a vocal leader and the guy that sets the tone for our offensive line.”
Talamaivao will certainly miss having veterans Zach Banner, Chad Wheeler and Damien Mama around, but he knows it will open up opportunities for some of the young offensive linemen.
“Oh for sure it’s bittersweet just because you’re going to miss those dudes obviously, those are like your brothers leaving. And you wish nothing but the best but it’s also sweet because now it’s a chance for us to grow closer in our room right now. So with the guys we’ve got right now and the young guys coming up who haven’t really played much, it’s a great opportunity for us to grow as a family unit, and it’s inspiring for the guys who came back.
“Definitely watching the combine and seeing our guys go through the combine, it’s inspiring because everyone’s trying to reach that level, and to see our guys going through that level it’s awesome. All I see is opportunity to build for our team and for our offensive line.”
At many of the spots those building blocks of USC’s offensive line are young and Talamaivao remembers some of the challenges young linemen face in college.
“It’s just one of those things that you really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “Get thrown into the fire and you play, and from there you learn on the job. It’s on the day, on the job training.
“I think our offensive line is young and we understand that, but I like the group of guys we have right now—it’s a bunch of guys that want to work, and it’s a bunch of guys that go out there and are competing for a spot who want to play and contribute to the team. Really I think my job is going to be easy because we have good guys in our room right now. That’s all I’m looking forward to in the spring, just getting better as a group and really trying to find an identity for ourselves as an offensive line.”
Neil Callaway returns as the offensive line coach for USC. Having the same position coach two years in a row should help Talamaivao and the rest of the offensive linemen.
“We know what to expect, we know how we’re going to be coached, we know what’s expected of us individually and as a group, so I think it makes the transition a little bit smoother going into spring because it’s not our first spring with a new coach,” Talamaivao said. “Obviously the continuity is going to be beneficial for us because we know what to expect and we know what’s expected of us, and that just allows us to really zone in on what we need to work on.”
USC has recruiting more linemen under Clay Helton, and while you won’t see all of them playing on Saturday, the extra big man depth is a boost for the scout team.
“Iron sharpens iron, man. If you go against quality talent in practice every day, it shows on game day when you line up with dudes in front of you. It’s all the little things that guys don’t really take into account. It’s the guys you go against in practice. So just building upon getting good defensive line guys, getting good offensive line guys, it works both ways. We can build up the trenches and as far as recruiting-wise, with getting guys to come in, all this pushes competition levels to new heights, and it makes us better as a team and it makes people individually better as players. But yeah man, it’s just exciting dude.”
The Trojans brought in the No. 5 ranked recruiting class in the country last month, and Talamaivao is excited for all of the new Polynesian blood coming into the program.
“I could not be more proud and excited for what’s to come. I feel like—no disrespect to Lane Kiffin—but that his time here the recruiting for Polynesians was really stagnant. Even like classes after me, you’d get one or two, but I felt like our class was the one that really made the splash—it was the ‘Uce Crew,’ or whatever you guys want to call it. But just seeing all this Polynesian talent that USC is recruiting is so awesome. It sucks too because I’m about to be done since this is my last year, and that’s another bittersweet experience because it’s so awesome to see the Polynesian talent coming in, and they’ve got to go get them right when we finish.”
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for updates from USC spring football.
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