USC football will be without Toa Lobendahn for the remainder of the 2016 season as the Trojan starting center tore his ACL once again.
Here we go again. For the second straight season, USC football has lost the starting center to an ACL injury.
Toa Lobendahn, who missed more than half of the 2015 season with an ACL tear, tore his ACL and MCL against Alabama and will miss the remainder of the year, head coach Clay Helton revealed Thursday after practice.
The player had sat out USC’s Tuesday and Wednesday practices with swelling in his knee. When doctors scoped the knee to confirm damage to the MCL, they also found that the ACL was torn.
Lobendahn has already undergone surgery to fix the problem, but will have to sit out presumably until next summer. He will use a redshirt year to preserve a year of eligibility.
Lobendahn’s injury leaves the Trojans with serious depth concerns at the center position.
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Back up center Nico Falah will take up the starting job as he did at the end of last season, however, last year’s other back up center, Khaliel Rodgers, was switched to the defensive line this offseason. He will not return to the offensive side of the ball.
Instead, the Trojans will move forward with redshirt freshman Cole Smith as Falah’s back up. In case of an emergency, left guard Chris Brown could also fill in at center.
Having an back up plan at the position is wise, considering the Trojans were forced to move Falah to center from tackle as cover initially. When Max Tuerk, Lobendahn and Rodgers each went down injured, the fourth-string option became a necessity.
In addition to Lobendahn, the Trojans are expected to be without defensive lineman Noah Jefferson, who has a shoulder injury, while Rodgers himself is doubtful with a hamstring.