How good a football team is can often be measured by how solid their offensive line is. To be sure, without a good line, running backs can’t run, quarterbacks can’t throw and therefore receivers never see the ball.
The offensive line for last year’s University of Southern California Trojans (USC) was solid if a bit sporadic. They were led by their senior center Khaled Holmes, who was first-team All-Pac-12 Conference and Rimington Trophy finalist (best center in the nation). He’s in the NFL now so the Trojans have a hole to fill up the middle. However, they return everyone else along the line and though there will be some shuffling, this unit should be potentially okay going into the 2013 season.
You may have noticed the insertion of ‘potentially’. This unit has the possibility of being an excellent line but position shifts and the need for some talented young men playing up to their potential will be key to the development of USC’s offensive line in 2013.
We’ll take a look at each position but note that this group may be one of the deeper units on the team. There’s invaluable experience on one side of the line, while the other side may potentially have more talent. Yeah, there’s that potential word again. Also, note that many of these players are capable of playing multiple positions so don’t be surprised if there’s more shuffling along the way. The talent is there and once this unit becomes cohesive, they will be the reason the offense does well this year … or not. Here’s the line starting on the right side and working left.
Source: University of Southern California
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6’6” 300 pound fifth-year senior tackle Kevin Graf will be the likely starter. He’s strong as an ox and will be anchoring the right side.
This will be Graf’s third year in-a-row starting but 6’7” 275 pound sophomore Chad Wheeler is pushing for playing time. Wheeler had a knee injury this past spring though, so expect Graf to remain the starter. Huge redshirt freshman Zach Banner (6’9” 345 pounds) will eventually find himself a position on the line but 2013 is not likely his year.
John Martinez (#59 pictured) will be starting at right guard for the third year in-a-row. The 6’2” 310 pound fifth-year senior was All-Pac-12 last year.
Martinez will be backed up by 6’4” 335 pound redshirt freshman Jordan Simmons and both of these players are capable of playing multiple positions on the line. Fifth-year senior David Garness, who’s 6’5” 265 pounds, is another player who can play multiple positions. He will back up Martinez and Simmons.
Marcus Martin (#66 pictured) is an excellent offensive lineman who will slide in from his left guard spot to take over at center. Martin was the first true freshman guard to ever start for the Trojans. The 6’3” 310 junior has started 20 games at guard but moved over to center this past spring and looks good so far.
Backing him up will be 6’3” 285 pound redshirt sophomore Cyrus Hobbi who started one game at center last year subbing for an injured Khaled Holmes. Abe Markowitz was given another year and would be a backup here but there’s no word on whether he will be on the team when fall camp starts in the next few days.
With Martin making the move to center, 6’6” 285 pound Max Tuerk (#75 pictured) moves over from left tackle where he started several games last year as a true freshman – the first true freshman to ever start at left tackle for USC. The versatile Tuerk can play any position on the line.
The sophomore will be backed up by another multi-purpose lineman in fourth-year junior Giovanni Di Poalo. The 6’4” 275 pound Di Poalo will backup Tuerk, but 6’3″ 310 pound incoming freshman Khaliel Rodgers also is a multi-talented player and may see some real game action although the team likely wants to redshirt him if possible. Reserve walk-on Erick Jepsen is a 6’2” 285 pound redshirt sophomore available to backup this spot.
The 6’6” 300 pound junior Aundrey Walker (#70 pictured) has potential to be a great player but hasn’t lived up to the hype yet. He had this spot to start 2012 but inconsistencies eventually led to Walker losing out to Max Tuerk. Although the loss of their center Holmes to the NFL is obvious, this is one spot on the line that may end up being the most critical. It’s also the thinnest position on the line.
Currently, Walker’s backup is fourth-year junior walk-on Nathan Guertler who is 6’5” 275 pounds. Incoming freshman Nicoh Falah may see action here if Walker doesn’t work out; otherwise, the team would rather redshirt the 6’6” 285 pound Falah.