USC Football: How the Trojans Plan to Replace Top OL for Second Straight Year
First it was Tyron Smith, and then it was Matt Kalil. For the second straight year, the USC Trojans have the unwanted task of replacing a top offensive lineman.
Last season, the offensive line was one of the bright spots as the season progressed, and Matt Barkley was sacked just eight times throughout the entire year. Now, Kalil is in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, and the Trojans are without their star left tackle who was the main reason for many big runs from Curtis McNeal.
So, what will the Trojans do to replace Kalil?
Here are the options that USC will take into the 2012 season.
1. Kevin Graf
One of the first options the Trojans will look at is the starting right tackle from last year, Kevin Graf.
Graf is a 6'6", 295-pounder who started every game last season for the Trojans and could be moving over to the left side of the offensive line.
Graf had plenty of accolades in high school, but he redshirted as a freshman and then saw brief action in four games in 2010 at both tackle and guard.
He's got the size and the ability to move should he be named the starter at left tackle going into the season. He will be challenged, though, for the starting spot by some talented kids.
2. Aundrey Walker
Appearing in all but one game for the Trojans in 2011, Aundrey Walker is a big, young tackle.
He came into his freshman year at about 6'6", 360 pounds. During the offseason, he dropped down to 320 pounds in hopes of becoming more nimble and challenging for the left tackle position.
After the spring, Walker was listed as the starter at left tackle, but that is just a very early assessment, and the summer practices will determine the final starters.
Walker does have the size and ability to man the left tackle spot, but he isn't as experienced as Graf.
He served as a backup and special teams player as a freshman, and he will have to overcome Graf and some incoming freshmen to start at left tackle for USC this upcoming season.
3. Zach Banner
Zach Banner has no experience, as he is an incoming freshman, but the 6'9", 330-pound offensive tackle was a highly recruited player this past offseason.
For the Trojans, he has the potential to be a long-term answer at either tackle position. But coming in right away and surpassing both Kevin Graf and Aundrey Walker will be very difficult to do.
If Banner is to get his chance at a starting position, it will be because of his big frame, arm length and his strong ability in pass protection. His versatility could allow him to make an early impact, however, spelling whoever ends up as the starter if it isn't him.
4. Max Tuerk
Another incoming freshman, the 6'4", 290-pound Max Tuerk is probably the most versatile of all the recruits.
Tuerk has the ability to play all across the offensive line and has starting ability at all spots. He was listed as a 4-star offensive tackle by both Scout and Rivals, so he does have a chance to make a push early on.
Whether it's as a starter or depth, Tuerk is a powerful player who plays with aggressiveness, which will help him compete for playing time early.
In order for Tuerk to get a chance to start, however, he will need to come in the summer and put on a clinic right away. Other than that, it appears to be a long shot for Tuerk to be the starter early on.
5. Jordan Simmons
Jordan Simmons is the incoming freshman who seems to have the smallest chance in becoming a starter at left tackle.
The 6'5", 340-pound behemoth has surprisingly quick feet for a guy his size. His power and drive may give him a chance because of his ability to push forward the running game.
He is listed as offensive guard, though, and his size seems to signify that that will be his position in college, but never count out Simmons.
His best chance to make an early impact for the Trojans, however, will most likely be providing depth at offensive guard and hoping that he can prove he has the ability to play left tackle, if that's what he'd like to do.