USC Football News: Offensive Line Ranked High Nationally


The 2014 offensive line was the youngest in USC football history, featuring four different freshman starters. But this year, Phil Steele sees the unit as both young and elite.

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College football’s famed expert and prognosticator has the Trojans’ ranked among the top seven offensive lines in the country, a list that notably omits the likes of Alabama and Stanford.

That’s quite the ranking for a position group that was 99th in sacks allowed a year ago, with their fourth coach in four seasons.

Bob Connelly is now at the helm after replacing new Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno.

As far as players go, USC returns everyone relevant on the offensive line. All-Pac-12 first teamer Max Tuerk is the most notable, as he is who head coach Steve Sarkisian believes to be “the best center the nation”.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

All in all, there’s 99 career starts up front.

That gives the Trojans an experienced unit despite expected starters Toa Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama being just true sophomores and still on the bowed portion of the learning curve.

Lobendahn started the first eight games of 2014 at left guard before moving to left tackle after two-year starter Chad Wheeler tore his ACL in a loss against Utah.

While he performed admirably in his time at left tackle, Lobendahn saw action at center along with Tuerk in spring camp.

Whether that was foreshadowing of a position change has yet to be seen, though he’s widely considered the most natural center on the roster.

Wheeler, who missed all of spring camp, is expected to return to contact drills at some point this fall.

At the guard positions, both Talamaivao and Mama sit in a good place to retain their starting jobs, though Khaliel Rodgers and Jordan Simmons will get their opportunities.

Overall, the Trojans’ offensive line is still green but has a bright future. There’s no question that if they continue to progress, they’ll be a unit that ranks among the nation’s best, given their talent.

But a top 10 ranking going into 2015 might be a bit premature. They need to prove they can be consistent in both run and pass blocking.

Last season, USC averaged just 3.99 yards per carry, good for 88th in FBS. That must improve if Sarkisian’s offense wants to pride itself in being a run-first attack with bullies up front.

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