By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com
The Obvious: With just a little over two weeks remaining in spring ball, scrutiny remains focused on the reconstitution of the USC Trojans offensive line, as second-year offensive line coach Neil Callaway (photo above) continues to experiment and assess various combinations, hoping to adequately replace two first-team All-Pac-12 tackles (Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler) and a second-team All-Pac-12 guard (Damien Mama).
The Not So Obvious: Earlier this week, the O/NSO visited with Coach Callaway to get his spring practice thoughts and opinions regarding his returning offensive linemen. Below are the coach’s assessments of those players currently participating in spring ball.
The Obvious: Junior Jordan Austin (6-5, 300) can play either guard or tackle.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway says, “Jordan is making progress and we’re working him right now at left guard. He’s still has some work to do, but he’s a good guy and working hard.”
The Obvious: Junior Chris Brown (6-5, 300) saw some starting time last season and is a versatile performer who can play tackle or guard.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway says, “Chris has done well, he’s had a good spring. We’ve played him at left guard, and now we’ve moved him to right tackle right now kind of experimenting. Where he winds up I am not sure, but I am happy with what Chris has done.”
The Obvious: Junior Chuma Edoga (6-4, 290) saw starting time last season when Chad Wheeler was hurt and he is a strong candidate to start at one of the tackle positions.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway says, “Chuma has made some progress. Obviously, he’s very athletic; Chuma has to become more consistent. He’s working towards that, but he’s not where he needs to be by any means.”
The Obvious: Sophomore Roy Hemsley (6-5, 310) is a candidate for offensive tackle or guard, depending how he performs in the spring.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway says, “You know Roy worked at right tackle and now he’s at left guard. Roy still needs to improve and work on the little things and play harder.”
The Obvious: Sophomore Clayton Johnston (6-6, 285) is an offensive line candidate at tackle.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway says, “He needs to get better.”
The Obvious: Redshirt freshman Frank Martin ll (6-5, 310), once thought to be strictly a guard or tackle, is now seeing time at center.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway says, “He’s made some improvement. We’ve moved him to center. Obviously, it’s kind of foreign to him at first, but I’ll be honest with you, I think that under the conditions he’s done a nice job.”
The Obvious: Sophomore Cole Smith (6-4, 280) will contend for the backup center position.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway says, “He’s done a good job and he’s gotten a lot of reps. He’s a tough guy that really works hard.”
The Obvious: Senior Viane Talamaivao (6-2, 315) returns as the Trojans starting right guard.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway says, “Viane has had a good spring. Viane needs to learn and master the little things like the detail stuff to be an expert at everything he does. But he’s had a good spring.”
The Obvious: True freshman and early enrollee Andrew Vorhees (6-6, 305) will challenge for playing time at either guard or tackle.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway says, “I am really happy that he’s here, first of all. He’s gotten a lot better and, obviously, it’s a whole lot faster than what he’s used to (high school). But under the circumstances, I think he’s done a nice job.”
The Obvious: And finally, two names not spoken for by Neil Callaway, versatile senior Toa Lobendahn (knee) and returning senior center Nico Falah (back), are being held out of spring contact drills.
The Not So Obvious: Callaway knows that the return of Lobendahn and Falah could juggle whatever final spring depth chart combination is released. It figures that Nico will return as the Trojans starting center while Toa figures to start at either guard or tackle, which should bring out more summer competition, and Neil Callaway wouldn’t want it any other way.