O-line review

It is no secret that the Trojans are not the deepest team when it comes to the offensive line. But what the Trojans may lack in quantity, they make up for in quality. The loss of all-everything center Ryan Kalil and Kyle Williams left a lot of questions to be answered on the line, and spring practice gave us an opportunity to find some answers.

The offensive line has been able to replace many key players over the last few years, seemingly maintaining a level of play without skipping a beat. This spring allowed us to witness the competition first hand, and it did not disappoint.

Here is a rundown of the Trojans depth on the offensive line, excluding all incoming freshmen.

Sam Baker - Sr. - Baker earned All-American honors last year, and for good reason. Baker is the Trojans' best offensive linemen, and really showed how much he is enjoying his time at SC by returning for a fifth year at SC, and we are surely glad to have him back. Not much needed here on Sam, as every one knows how reliable he has been.

Jeff Byers - Jr. - Byers was listed on the End-of-Spring depth chart as the starter at left guard, but this spot is far from secured. Byers has been a name that most recruiting fans are waiting on, as he came in the #1 offensive linemen in his entire class. Byers saw time at a variety of spots during the Spring, but it looks as if left guard may be where he stays. Byers will battle with "Tiny" Malu and Zack Heberer to maintain his starting spot.

Matt Spanos - Sr. - One thing is obvious from Spring practices, the center position is still up in the air. Muffed snaps and fumbled exchanges seemed commonplace throughout the Spring, but I am still very confident heading into the Fall with the players who are battling for this spot. Spanos has proven his worth and versatility, managing to play all five different spots on the line. Spanos, who will have to overcome some academic hurdles to be qualified for the Fall, is listed at the starter at center on the End-of-Spring depth chart. If you attended Spring practices regularly or have read the multiple practice reports, you would think that Nick Howell would be the starter come Idaho. Carroll has been quoted as saying if the season were to start today, Spanos would start in the middle.

Chilo Rachal - Jr. - Chilo Rachal has become the personality of the line, in a role that we thought abandoned since the loss of Fred Matua. Rachal was another player who continued to impress with his solid play over Spring. Rachal made a lot of great strides of the past year, and he is a player that I look for to have a breakout year. Rachal will provide valuable experience as a starter to a line looking to replace some valuable pieces.

Drew Radovich - Sr. - Radovich is another player who has bounced around spots during his tenure in the Cardinal & Gold. Radovich, who started at guard last year, will open up his senior season starting opposite Sam Baker. Radovich, who is new to the tackle spot, had a very solid Spring.

Butch Lewis - Fr. - Lewis is a player that has me excited at the potential this young group has. One look at Lewis and it is obvious that Camp Carlisle has done wonders. Lewis showed flashes of dominance over the Spring, really excelling in the one-on-one portions of practice. Lewis really seems to be comfortable on the offensive line, and his increased confidence has really started to show. And given one more year under All-American Sam Baker, will look to make his name known amongst the Trojan faithful. Having a veteran like Baker ahead of him can only help him in his overall growth as a player.

Alatini "Tiny" Malu - Sr. - When it comes to value, Malu has been worth his weight in gold. Malu, who was not heavily recruited out of the junior college ranks, has provided the Trojan line with valuable depth and versatility. Malu looked good out there this Spring, and will push for a starting position at left guard with Byers and Heberer. Malu has been waiting, and we will continue to track his progression throughout the year.

Zack Heberer - Fr. - Heberer is definitely a player who has benefited from a red shirt season. Heberer has transformed from an impressive freshman to a serious player in the left guard sweepstakes. Heberer had a very solid Spring practice, and looks to play a role in the final say of who will earn the left guard spot come opening day.

Nick Howell - So. - For those of you who attended Spring practices, you would be lead to believe that Howell was the favorite for the vacant center position. And although Howell did see plenty of action over the Spring, he is still listed behind Spanos on the depth chart. Howell really seemed to come into his own this Spring at the center spot. Although there were a fair share of fumbled exchanges, Howell really let people see his athleticism and quickness this Spring. This position battle is far from over, in fact it is one of the position battles I am most intrigued with heading into the Fall.

Thomas Herring - So. - My biggest surprise on the offensive line over the Spring has to be Herring. It was very nice to see Herring out there seemingly comfortable for the first time in a Trojan uniform. Herring has battled his share of off-the-field issues, but he really seems to be focused and ready to make a push for some serious playing time. Herring's switch from tackle to guard has worked at best for all parties, and if Herring continues progressing, all I can say is "watch out."

Charles Brown - So. - Brown is one of the most physically impressive players on the entire Trojan roster, and I expect big things from this former high school tight end in the future. Often checking over on the one-on-one portions of the line, it was great to see Charles Brown shutting down most defenders coming his way. Brown will surely see his minutes increase during the upcoming season.

Martin Coleman - Fr. - Coleman graduated Edison HS (CA.) a semester early to join forces with his teammates. And from the look of Coleman, you would never know that he would still be in high school barring his early entrance due to his 330 lb. build. Coleman showed this Spring why he was such a highly recruited prospect in the 2007 class. It is obvious that Coleman will need to adjust to the overall speed and strength of the game before he makes a significant impact, but I am encouraged at what I have seen so far. Coleman, who was listed as a left tackle on the Spring depth chart, is a student of the game, often staying after practice receiving pointers from offensive line coach Pat Ruel. I am really going to be interested by the thought of writing this review a year from now, seeing as Coleman may have the highest ceiling in terms of potential.

The offensive line will go through its growing pains, but I do not see this unit really skipping a beat.

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