USC offensive tackle Chad Wheeler, who was involved in an incident with police before the Trojans started practice for the Holiday Bowl, did not travel with the team and will not play against Wisconsin, Coach Clay Helton said Sunday.
“Based on a lack of preparation, Chad is not going to be a part of this bowl game with us,” Helton said after practice at Southwestern College. “We look forward to getting him back in January and being a part of us and having a great spring.”
Junior Zach Banner will start in Wheeler’s place at left tackle. Freshman Chuma Edoga moves into Banner’s spot at right tackle.
The Trojans began practice for the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 19, but Wheeler, a three-year starter, was absent after the incident with police a few hours before the start of the workout.
Police and fire department units responded to an alert at a residence near USC regarding what an LAPD spokeswoman described as a “disorderly” person. A use of force was implemented and the police said the man was taken to the hospital for evaluation.
As of last Wednesday, Helton had said that he had not spoken to Wheeler, but he put off declaring the fourth-year junior out of the Holiday Bowl.
On Sunday, Helton said he had since spoken to Wheeler, but declined to elaborate.
“Just really a private matter,” Helton said. “Just wished him the best of best wishes from our team and looking forward to having him back in January.”
Wheeler started 12 of 13 games this season. He was sidelined for the Oct. 24 game against Utah because of a concussion. He also suffered a concussion during training camp in August when he was accidentally hit in the head with a medicine ball.
Banner moved from right tackle to left in Wheeler’s place against then No. 3-ranked Utah and Edoga started for the first time.
Edoga said Sunday that it was a learning experience.
Tight end Taylor McNamara played at San Diego Westview High before spending three seasons at Oklahoma and then joining the Trojans last August as a graduate transfer.
McNamara has 11 receptions, four for touchdowns. He said he has enjoyed being home for the holidays and is looking forward to playing in front of family and friends at Qualcomm Stadium.
“It’s been awesome,” he said.
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound McNamara caught one pass in 11 games at Oklahoma. He graduated with two years of eligibility remaining, so he will play again next season for the Trojans. McNamara said he completed 21 units last spring so that he could transfer without having to sit out a season.
McNamara said he did not regret leaving the Sooners to join the Trojans.
“I am playing a lot more than I did out there and I fit better out here,” he said. “I have a lot of great friends [at Oklahoma] and it’s awesome to see them doing well, but I have to say I like it out here.”
Cornerback Kevon Seymour, who suffered a high-ankle sprain last week, practiced and said his availability for the Holiday Bowl would probably be a game-time decision. “I want to play, and it definitely got better,” he said. … Linebacker Jabari Ruffin can play in the game after being cleared for a concussion, Helton said…. The Trojans were scheduled to visit the San Diego Zoo after practice. “I’m going straight to the lions,” Helton said.