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Chuma Edoga to start at left tackle for USC, with Chad Wheeler injured

Chuma Edoga to start at left tackle for USC, with Chad Wheeler injured
USC offensive lineman Chuma Edoga blocks during a defender during a summer workout on July 14. (Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

Chuma Edoga will start at left tackle for USC against Alabama on Saturday, Coach Clay Helton announced on Monday on the Trojans Live radio show.

The announcement means Chad Wheeler, the usual starter who has been hobbled by plantar fasciitis, is unlikely to play significant time against the Crimson Tide.

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It also means the blindside of USC's new starting quarterback, Max Browne, will be protected by a sophomore. Helton has expressed confidence in Edoga, but he has little experience compared to Wheeler. Edoga played as a reserve linemen last season and started two games at right tackle, against Utah and Wisconsin.

Wheeler, a senior, is USC's most experienced lineman, with 34 starts. He has missed the majority of the preseason with the foot injury.

"He hasn't really practiced in now 3 ½ weeks," Helton said. "So we're going to end up going with Chuma at the left tackle position to start off with. We're going to evaluate Chad throughout the week to see if he can progress into helping us with a couple series."

Edoga will be tested early. On a team loaded with talent, Alabama's best player could be defensive end Jonathan Allen, who recorded 12 sacks last season, all against power-conference teams.

USC has experimented with shifted right tackle Zach Banner, considered USC's most talented lineman, to the left side. Banner has dropped weight during the off-season, and says he weighs less than the 360 pounds he is listed at. Still, foot speed could be an issue were he to play left tackle.

Ultimately, Helton opted against it.

"We'd like to keep Zach in a stationary point," Helton said on Saturday.

Twitter: @zhelfand

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