Center Nico Falah could get a move back outside to tackle in 2017 after a back injury has left him limited through USC football spring camp.
USC has spent much of spring camp in 2017 without starting center Nico Falah, who has been hampered by a back issue.
That problem, a herniated disc, prompted the redshirt senior to approach the coaching staff about a position change from center to tackle, per Joey Kaufman of the OC Register.
“The load of the tackle position is not as much as center,” head coach Clay Helton said on Tuesday, discussing the prospect of moving Falah for health reasons. “You’re playing center and you’re blocking Stevie Tu’ikolovatu every play. That’s a pretty good load on the back compared to a tackle.”
Falah originally played tackle for the Trojans. He redshirted at the position in 2013 then served as a back up in 2014.
A slew of injuries at center in 2015 prompted Falah’s move inside.
First Max Tuerk went down with a knee injury. Then his replacement, Toa Lobendahn, went down with his first ACL injury as well. Third-string center Khaliel Rodgers held down the fort until he too suffered an injury which forced Falah into the line up.
He’s been at center ever since — behind Lobendahn to start 2016, but back in the starting line up before long when the starter succumbed to another knee injury.
Lobendahn’s return has loomed over Falah’s place on USC’s offensive line this spring. He’s one of just two returning starters after the departure of Zach Banner, Chad Wheeler and Damien Mama, but questions lingered as two which of the two would retain the job at center.
Falah’s back concerns may be the answer to that problem.
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“Obviously he’s a guy that’s in our Top 5 offensive linemen as well as [Lobendahn],” Helton said. “You look at that and you’ve got to see what other positions they can play.”
Coming into spring, it might have made sense to move Lobendahn to the open right tackle position. It’s the only position he hasn’t played for the Trojans but he did start five games at left tackle as a freshman. He could also serve at left guard — a position he’s started eight games in his career.
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Now, incentive to shift Falah outside would open the door for Lobendahn to step back into his starting place at center. On paper, it’s an ideal solution.
Unfortunately, it’ll have to stay a theoretical discussion until the fall. There is no timetable for Falah’s return and Lobendahn is not expected back until the summer at the earliest.