Zach Banner Eager to be USC Football’s Dominator

Oct 11, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans offensive tackle Zach Banner (73) against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans offensive tackle Zach Banner (73) against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

There’s a been a laundry list of Trojans who have fit the bill of prototypical NFL offensive tackle to go through USC. Zach Banner is the first in a while to come back for a senior season, and he’s eager to leave an impact.

Unlike former Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler, who boldly said at last year’s Pac-12 Media Days that he didn’t want to be labeled an 8-4 quarterback for the rest of his life, Banner’s goals are just bigger.

It’s fitting, because at 6-foot-9, 360 pounds, he is quite literally the biggest guy on the football field, every time he gets out there.

But as a senior in 2016, he’s the alpha dog and appointed leader on an offensive line with heaps of experience, to go with their chipped shoulders.

Banner’s goals are just bigger.

“It’s not just given because I’m a top player or I’m the best on the field,” Banner said. “It’s given because of the leadership role I’ve earned from my teammates.”

That’s key, because throughout Banner’s tenure at USC, all Hell has broken loose multiple times.

Naturally, that gives the opinion in the locker room a great deal of clout, as the players have only had each other for much of their collegiate careers.

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Since being a five-star and signing with the Trojans as part of a sanction-affected 12-man recruiting class in 2012, Banner has seen two head coaches fired midseason, multiple highly ranked USC teams falter amid high expectations, and is now playing for his fifth offensive line coach in five seasons.

But don’t tell pity him too much.

The setbacks are battle scars with a purpose.

They’re life lessons that Banner is determined to prove as blessings in disguise, whether it comes from being a leader based on the successes or failures of his predecessors, or wading through external noise and false confidence.

And the vast number of coaches?

Those are what Banner suggested were vocational benefits. He says they give him the opportunity to fall back on a wide array of techniques and mindsets, in preparation for the NFL, because “he .

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Put that whole backstory together, and it helps shape Banner’s ideas on leadership.

“My biggest focus is focusing on us working,” Banner said. “Focusing on us working hard and shutting our mouths, letting Coach Helton talk for us, or letting leaders like me represent the team and what we need to say.”

Given Banner’s penchant for being an All-American quote, that should go without saying, anyways.

But the trust in Helton, along with the under-the-breath idea that USC needs to be about doing than saying, all speaks to the psychological aspect of the game that the Trojans have frankly been lacking.

For years, you could sit back and critique the team’s mental make up. While that’s partly understandable after the roller coaster ride they had been though, it’s always a weakness that has been there of late, which has affected the on-field product.

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It all lends the hope that trust, accountability and overall confidence in the process of players like Banner being a leader pans it.

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“He is the definition of a Trojan and what we want to be as a Trojan,” head coach Clay Helton said. “[He] has been the rock of our offensive line for a number of years, and is really the leader of our group up front, on both sides of the ball.”

So how does Banner plan on making good as a leader and not just talking about it?

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It comes from both from an internal drive –partly by way of a self-defined fetish for waking up at 4am in the offseason to train– and selflessness, learned from his heroes. One being a legend from USC lore, and one who has been crowned king of his hometown.

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But Banner just explains it better.

“There’s three different types of people,” Banner said. “There’s the survivors, who are just happy to be here and survive. There’s the competitors –the guys who choose on which play to [give their all].

“Then there’s the dominators. You’ve got Troy Polamalu and Russell Wilson, who bring guys with them. [They] live that lifestyle day by day, every day.”

That’s the kind of leader USC needs.

Not just a dominant player that hopes inspires others. But one to grab the team by the scruff of the neck, and will everyone around him to get better in all aspects of the program.

That’s what Banner says he is. A dominator.