USC’s O-Line Remains a Huge Work In Progress

Does USC stick with its youth on the offensive line, or turn back to the portal?

As spring ball draws to a close, USC’s most uncertain position group is its offensive line, a group of largely-untested youngsters who’ll be relied upon

USC offensive lineman Tobias Raymond practices at Howard Jones Field on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)
Trojan OL Tobias Raymond warms up at Howard Jones Field on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Luca Evans (OC Register)  —  LOS ANGELES — When USC first began recruiting offensive tackle Tobias Raymond in the dawn of Lincoln Riley’s regime, he weighed all of 250 pounds. New offensive line coach Josh Henson saw clear potential in a 6-foot-7 frame and plucked the kid out of Ventura.

Raymond was a project, a tall kid who hadn’t garnered overwhelming buzz out of high school. But USC needed projects. When Riley and Henson first entered, the coffers of the Trojans’ O-line were close to empty. Three years later, just three linemen on the roster they inherited are still with the program.

The staff knew, Riley said, that Raymond would need at least a year of reps to seriously compete, a fairly underweight lineman entering the program.

As measured this spring, Raymond now weighs 315 pounds.

“It was just, a lot of eating,” Raymond said a couple weeks ago, with a shy grin.

Two years later, the frame is ready. But USC needs everything else ready, too. They need Raymond to provide genuine depth, and need fellow 2023 class-mates Elijah Paige and Alani Noa and Amos Talalele, and USC might even need true freshman Justin Tauanuu. After two years of attempting to develop offensive-line classes and plug temporary holes with transfers, USC is in a precarious position this spring with its offensive line, forced to either toss a life vest into the portal for another instant starter or entrust Miller Moss’ protection to a handful of largely-untested underclassmen.

In simple terms — there is not one single point of returning, tested strength at any point on USC’s offensive line, the program’s most glaring problem area as spring football winds to a close. The brightest spot comes at center, where former left tackle Jonah Monheim has taken up the mantle from Justin Dedich and Brett Neilon before him; Monheim has drawn glowing reviews from coaches and players alike this spring, after spending some time in the offseason training with Neilon.

“We’ve got young guys for our depth, so,” Henson said in late March, with the slight air of a man resigned to his hand. “It is what it is.”

ocregister.com

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John Weld
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Noble Genius
John Weld
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April 17, 2024 2:11 pm

The NCAA just announced a new transfer rule following a recent court ruling: all transferees will be immediately eligible to play, no matter how many times they transfer, as long as they are academically eligible. The Board will meet next week to formally approve the rule. This will take effect right away.
Transfer windows remain in place and require undergraduate athletes to enter their names in the portal at certain times (different for each sport) to be eligible to play immediately.

Jamaica
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Jamaica
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April 17, 2024 2:10 pm

TCU Damonic Williams might be the NT LR is looking for in the Portal? Keep hoping Georgia lineman Mykel Williams wants out but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

RialtoTrojan
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RialtoTrojan
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April 17, 2024 9:32 am

After two years the projects the coaches have been working on should be ready. Riley’s offense was a different animal when he arrived. Helton had a plodding drag foot offensive scheme and Riley had a jet fuel move it offensive scheme. Helton’s projects were not ready for the change from terminology to assignments, they had to play catch up. Add to that, uncharacteristically bad conditioning at USC and we had a mess. The line finally showed some familiarity with the new coaches last season. If the unit gels this season, it will be the work of project players, which could… Read more »

Trojanfanatic
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Trojanfanatic
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April 17, 2024 6:41 am

Coach Riley has made impressive changes in all position coaches including a very promising D coordinator, but Riley stayed with Henson ( Nua too ) on the Oline.  Of course it isnt like staying with Grinch, but it’s also slowly becoming problematic in USC’s upward trajectory, both in recruiting and player development. Will Riley be a slow learner again, like he was for Grinch? I’m thinking not, since he’s been getting very positive feedback on his recent coaching changes. Hopefully Henson can course correct this season, since the B10 is so trench oriented and Moss will be new.

Golden Trojan
Major Genius
Golden Trojan
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April 17, 2024 8:18 am
Reply to  Trojanfanatic

And they couldn’t keep their best prospect, Jason Zandemela, for more than 3 months. He was projected a 2 year project but is now the 7th ranked player in the portal. I wonder the story is with him? After 2 years Riley better have some linemen ready to shine. The Big10 is not a 7 on 7 camp!

Trojanfanatic
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Trojanfanatic
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April 17, 2024 7:22 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Based upon Riley’s impressive hires recently and his improved focus on strength and nutrition, he does deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Jamaica
Noble Genius
Jamaica
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April 17, 2024 11:05 am
Reply to  Trojanfanatic

Fanatic, we all hope Henson knows what he is doing and in shaping the players abilities to what LR needs to run his high powered offense. Only, it is what it is with the players he has to work with. In the beginning, LR was not going to recruit the best O-line players due to the state of what USC football was in thanks to Helton. Top HS players were not interested in a dying quail. PC built from scratch and Coaches Tom Davis & Golden Rule had to develop and did. It it took two years to do it.… Read more »

ATL D.D.S.
Noble Genius
ATL D.D.S.
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April 17, 2024 5:44 am

Hopefully, with our entry into the B1G, we will be able to attract more of the flyover country beasts in the future. Fingers crossed for this season, unfortunately

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