Toa Lobendahn has practiced only 14 times at USC, but the freshman’s performance during spring workouts has put him on track for a possible starting role on the offensive line in the fall.
With senior Aundrey Walker and third-year sophomore Jordan Simmons sidelined while recovering from ankle and knee surgeries, respectively, Lobendahn took full advantage of the long look he received at guard.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Lobendahn has worked daily against veterans such as junior defensive tackle Antwaun Woods and senior linebacker Hayes Pullard.
“It’s not easy when you’re supposed to still be a senior in high school,” USC Coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday.
Lobendahn is one of four freshmen who graduated from high school in December and enrolled at USC for the spring semester. Quarterback Jalen Greene, offensive lineman Jordan Austin and defensive lineman Don Hill also have impressed, along with defensive lineman Claude Pelon, a junior college transfer.
Lobendahn was coached at Lakewood by his father, Vince Lobendahn. But when the school replaced his father after the 2012 season, Lobendahn transferred to La Habra for his senior year.
The move, Lobendahn said, enabled him to graduate early and start his college career.
When spring practice began last month, Lobendahn worked a few days as Max Tuerk’s backup at center before coaches moved him to guard.
“Center has a little more pressure, snapping the ball and making more calls,” Lobendahn said, “but I’m good with either one.”
Lobendahn is wearing jersey No. 55, which is also linebacker Lamar Dawson’s number. The number has been worn exclusively by defensive players since the late Junior Seau donned it in the late 1980s.
Lobendahn said he asked for No. 54. But he will wear 55 with pride.
“I knew if I was to get the number, I was going to have go out here and play,” he said.
Greene, who played at Gardena Serra High, signed with the Trojans after committing first to Boise State and then Washington. Chris Petersen moved from Boise State to Washington to replace Sarkisian as coach.
Greene said the Trojans’ new offensive system was similar to what he ran in high school. He also was happy to stay close to home.
“They really didn’t have to sell much,” he said of being offered a scholarship by the Trojans.
The Trojans conclude spring practice Saturday at the Coliseum at 3 p.m. Sarkisian said the Trojans would run about 100 plays “for guys to go out and compete and for the fans, to give them a taste of what the fall should look like.” Tickets for adults are $10. Children 12 and under are free…. Sarkisian closed Thursday’s one-hour practice to the media and the public. Coaches instructed players on how to conduct off-season workouts, when coaches are not allowed to be present, Sarkisian said.