Redshirt freshman Chad Wheeler started every game for USC in 2013 at left tackle, earning a freshman All-America honorable mention from College FootballNews.com. He was also named USC’s co-lifter of the year.
By the numbers: 1 blocked kick
What went right: As a redshirt freshman coming off of an injury which kept him out of spring practice, Wheeler surprised some by winning the left tackle position and then keeping it for the entirety of the season.
His consistent presence on the line was a boon when so many other injuries ravaged the Trojan ranks and he obviously performed well enough to be mentioned in the national conversation among freshmen linemen.
Wheeler also made an impact on special teams. In fact, his blocked field goal against Stanford was the difference between a winning and tying on Andre Heidari’s last minute field goal.
What went wrong: Like all inexperienced players, especially at left tackle, he had his fair share of struggles. His play on the line was indicative of the unit as a whole, with missed assignments and a lack of power and aggression often getting the better of all five linemen.
Specific to Wheeler, Trojan fans will remember his false start late against Notre Dame, turning an already tough fourth and 15 into an even more difficult fourth and 20. Probably more memorable was the way he let Stephon Tuitt through on that play for a seven yard sack.
What’s next: With a full year under his belt, Wheeler will be penciled in as the starting left tackle even though new head coach Steve Sarkisian says every position will be up for grabs heading into the 2014 season. That doesn’t mean Wheeler doesn’t have work to do in the offseason, as his frame needs bulking up.
Final Grade: B
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