USC Football Spring Camp Review: Offensive Line


USC football closed out spring camp with a growing and improving offense line which appears more or less settled heading into the fall.

With just about every starter and contributor from last season returned this spring, the line’s biggest adjustment was the arrival of new position coach Bob Connelly, who replaced Tim Drevno after his departure to Michigan.

Left tackle Zach Banner raved about the his newest line coach, calling him the best he has had at USC. That kind of praise should help ease concerns about Connelly’s lengthy, but accolade-light resume.

In terms of the actual football, Connelly’s featured the kind of progress you would hope to see from such a young unit as well as some surprise standouts.

Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama used the spring to lock down starting jobs at right and left guard respectively.

At right tackle Zach Banner also appears unchallenged as a returning starter.

Mar 3, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans offensive line coach Bob Connelly at spring practice at Cromwell Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Talamaivao’s solidity is unsurprising as he started 11 games for USC in 2014 at that position.

Mama shed close to 40 pounds in preparation for this spring and his improved mobility has allowed him to thrive at guard, where he started the final two games of the season.

The injury to Chad Wheeler which opened the door for Mama’s starting job also provided the most intrigue for the Trojans on the offensive line this spring.

Last season Toa Lobendahn shifted from left guard to left tackle to replace the injured Wheeler.

With Wheeler still rehabbing his torn ACL, Lobendahn remained at left tackle this spring and is now listed as a co-starter alongside Wheeler at the position.

That has not been Lobendahn’s only involvement. The versatile lineman has also subbed in at center.

Though Max Tuerk is the clear No. 1 in the position and Khaliel Rogers appears settled at No. 2, the latter missed time near the end of camp with a shoulder injury. His absence prompted yet another move for Lobendahn, who many believe is a natural center.

With Lobendahn taking increased reps at center with the second team, Nico Falah emerged as a surprise standout at left tackle.

The redshirt sophomore is unlikely to break into the starting line up once Wheeler returns to health, but his emergence puts the embarrassment of riches that USC has to offer on the offensive line in focus.

Nowhere is that more apparent than with early enrollee Chuma Edoga, who was projected to follow in Lobendahn’s footsteps as a potential early starter.

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Instead, Edoga sits fourth on the depth chart at left tackle with a starting job unlikely. Of course that has much more to do with the personnel available than Edoga himself.

Another early enrollee on the line, Roy Hemsley, finds himself behind Banner and Jordan Austin at right tackle.

Despite ending the spring with an identical starting five as the Trojans fielded against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, camp has clarified a great deal about the potential composition of the line this season.

Of course there is also a domino effect to take into account going forward.

The question remains about what will happen once Wheeler’s knee is fully healed. More aptly, what will happen to Lobendahn once Wheeler is ready to reclaim his starting position? If Lobendahn moves, who will he replace and what other dominoes could fall along the line?

What say you, Trojan fans? How would you set up the offensive line in 2015? Sound off in the comments below.