USC spring football preview: Offensive line should be a strength
Coach: Neil Callaway
Key departure: Max Tuerk
Key returners: Fifth-year seniors Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner, fourth-year juniors Khaliel Rodgers and Nico Falah, juniors Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao, third-year sophomore Chris Brown and sophomore Chuma Edoga
Returners: Third-year sophomore Jordan Austin, redshirt freshmen Cole Smith, Clayton Johnston and Roy Hemsley
Newcomer: Freshman Nathan Smith
Joining in the fall: Freshmen Frank Martin II and E.J. Price
Outlook: The offensive line should hit its stride this season if players can adapt to a fifth position coach in five seasons. Bob Connelly is out after one season, and Neil Callaway joins the staff from Western Kentucky.
Right tackle Zach Banner returns for a fifth season after he opted to forgo early entry into the NFL draft. Banner will be a three-year starter.
Juniors Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao were part of a highly touted recruiting class in 2014, and each has started or played a consistent role since then.
However, Lobendahn, who can play all three positions on the line, suffered a season-ending knee injury last season against Utah and is continuing through the rehabilitation process. He should be available to participate when training camp opens in August.
Mama and Talamaivao started at left and right guard, respectively.
Khaliel Rodgers and Nico Falah gained valuable experience at center after senior Max Tuerk suffered a season-ending knee injury five games into the season.
It remains to be seen what left tackle Chad Wheeler’s role will be when spring practice begins. Wheeler, a fifth-year senior and three-year starter, did not attend the Holiday Bowl after he was involved in an incident with police.
Third-year sophomore Chris Brown and sophomore Chuma Edoga will challenge for a time at guard and tackle, respectively. Brown made two starts at guard last season, and Edoga started twice at right tackle.
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