Offensive line full of questions for Sarkisian, USC

Chad Wheeler started every game at left tackle for USC in 2013.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of things to like about the USC offensive line moving forward.

But for as many positives as there are up front, there are just as many, if not more, question marks.

The biggest one, in terms of position groups, for the Trojans entering the 2014 season will be the offensive line.

The amazing tale of Chad Wheeler continues as he stands as the only one to have solidified a spot along the line at left tackle.

Wheeler was a pleasant surprise for the Trojans in 2013 earning the starting nod in every game at left tackle last season. He was an early enrollee at USC in 2012, weighing just 230 pounds.

He’s added 90 and made himself a valuable asset.

"He’s still somewhat new, I mean, he has one year under his belt at the position, but he’s sure a very talented guy," USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said of Wheeler. "He’s competitive. He’s got unbelievable work ethic."

After Wheeler is where it gets shaky.

Max Tuerk will play, but where? Sarkisian calls him as "a tremendous football player" but may not be sold on him as a center where Tuerk lined up during spring.

When asked during the Pac-12 spring media teleconference Thursday, Sarkisian revealed incoming blue chippers Viane Talamaivao (Centennial) and Damien Mama (St. John Bosco) will be interior linemen and didn’t rule out either playing center.  

If that’s the case and assuming Tuerk ends up back at left guard, where he started 13 games last season, all of a sudden there is a tremendous strain at the right tackle position.

Redshirt sophomore Zach Banner saw significant time there during the spring. Tuerk, perhaps, becomes a possibility there as well with his ability to play anywhere on the offensive line. He started one game at right tackle last season. Also, there’s incoming freshman Chris Brown who will get a chance to prove himself.

Aundrey Walker, once upon a time, had a shot at left tackle before being moved inside. Walker along with Jordan Simmons didn’t see any time during the spring. In Simmons, the redshirt sophomore, the team has another player who spent time at guard and tackle last season although a knee injury cut his season short.

As just a true freshman, Toa Lobendahn, proved he’s capable of stepping in at guard where he played the majority of the spring or potentially as another option at center. Khaliel Rodgers lined up at right guard opposite Lobendahn during the spring.

What is boils down to is a head scratcher with Sarkisian having a picture that’s still a bit fuzzy going into fall camp and preparations for the Aug. 30 season opener against Fresno State.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do," Sarkisian said. "That’s why the challenge is so big for us of how we’re handling that first week (of fall camp) to give guys (an) opportunity to show what they’re about so that we can start developing some cohesiveness amongst that offensive front."