Sorting out left tackle
Beyond the quarterback battle, there are other starting positions to sort out before the season starters. Chief among those, is the left tackle spot.
USC technically returns last year’s starter, Toa Lobendahn, but the redshirt senior will be shifting back inside to take over at center. That leaves a gap which will be filled by one of two players: Clayton Johnston or Austin Jackson.
Johnston was a four-star recruit in 2015 and now enters his redshirt junior season with the chance to take on a full-time role after spending all of last year as an active backup and spare starter.
Jackson came to USC in 2017 as a heralded offensive line recruit, ranking 35th nationally in his class. He got one year of backup experience under his belt and is now looking to ascend to a starting job.
It’s fair to say Jackson has the higher ceiling, with NFL measurables and skillset, but Johnston has had more time to develop, has spent more time in the system and performed well filling in for starters last year.
It stands to reason that both will see playing time in 2018, regardless of who wins the battle. Still, left tackle is one of the most important positions on the field and installing a reliable and capable figure there will be paramount to USC’s offense, especially with a first-year starter at quarterback.
The outcome of the quarterback battle will be headline news, but the outcome of the left tackle battle will be just as important.