USC freshman Tuerk set to make history

LOS ANGELES — After his sophomore year at Santa Margarita High School, Max Tuerk had to switch his jersey number, making a move from tight end to tackle. He ditched No. 18 in favor of No. 77 because it was “a good tackle number.”

Ironically enough, Lane Kiffin ripped Tuerk of No. 67 during fall camp and gave him No. 75 because it was “more of a tackle number.” It also happens to be the number worn by Matt Kalil, who was taken by the Minnesota Vikings with the No. 4 pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Tuerk turned heads. He was projected to be a right tackle or maybe even a guard, but so far this season he’s stepped in at left tackle and played some tight end. He’s also a key contributor on special teams.

Saturday could be his biggest test yet. The true freshman from Santa Margarita could potentially make his first career start when No. 9 USC visits Arizona. In doing so, he’d make history by becoming he first true freshman to start at left tackle for USC.

Tuerk received extensive playing time in the second half last week against Colorado after starter Aundrey Walker was carted off of the field with an undisclosed injury. Prior to that, Walker and Tuerk were splitting reps during the game.

Following the loss at Stanford, head coach Lane Kiffin opened up the competition at left tackle between Walker and Tuerk and it’s been going ever since.

While Walker continues to beat out Tuerk for starts, the freshman has pushed for more and more playing time.

So, potentially on the eve of his first career start, the coaching staff has full confidence in him being able to protect Matt Barkley’s blind side.

“We’re really comfortable in this situation,” Kiffin said. “(We’re) halfway through the year and he’s played over there and he’s done really well for us. It’d be a little bit different if it was open or if we didn’t know outside of practice. If he plays, I think he’ll play really well just like he has.”

Kiffin continues to be encouraged by Tuerk’s play. The freshman graded out well during his extended playing time last week, especially in his pass blocking. He was back at left tackle after playing the Washington game as a tight end. It was commendable for Kiffin considering it’s “not an easy transition.”

“I felt good,” said Tuerk about his reps in the game against Colorado. “It was a great experience. It always helps when you’re in front of 90,000 at the Coliseum to get some good experience in, so I liked it a lot. It was really exciting for me.”

Last Saturday certainly helped, and if Tuerk is called on to start, he says he’s “definitely” ready to do so. If Walker can’t play, Tuerk knows it’s going to be a lot different being called on to play most if not all of the game.

“You got to work hard every snap,” he said. “You can’t come out in two series.”