When the Trojans got the commitment of Zach Banner back in January, he immediately became the most high-profile recruit in USC’s Class of 2012. He was a five-star by some publications, but after three days in camp, it’s evident already that Banner is a guy relying on his size, making him extremely raw.
At 6-foot-9, 335 pounds, Banner dwarfs everyone on the field, including sophomore left tackle Aundrey Walker, who stands in at a beefy 6-foot-6, 330 pounds himself. When you’re that big, you have to use your physical tools to achieve your maximum performance, and Banner does that. However, he isn’t exactly Jonathan Ogden with his play, as he’s been deemed a ‘project’ by multiple sources at USC’s fall camp.
With Walker ahead of him on the depth chart at left tackle and Max Tuerk giving Kevin Graf some heat at right tackle, there’s plenty of time to be had for the progression of Banner as he works under offensive line coach James Cregg. Despite the rather blunt ‘project’ tag that Banner has been given, it’s not exactly a remark that can’t be shaken.
Banner can essentially go in two directions as he improves. He can either follow in the footsteps of Matt Kalil, working on his technique to add sound to his game and blossom into one of the best tackles in the country, or he can follow in the mold of Winston Justice, who from the time he got to USC in 2002, used his talent as a crutch rather than a starting point.
Banner expects to play basketball this winter for Kevin O’Neill’s squad, where again, he’ll rely on his size to cover up the weaknesses in his game. But maybe, seeing action in two sports and needing to build up the fundamental skills in both can be a motivator for Banner, because if there’s one thing you can be sure of with him, it’s that regardless of his play right now, he has the physical tools and raw talent to be the next in line at Left Tackle U. It’s simply up to him.