Alabama Team News

USC could be without star LT Chad Wheeler against Alabama

USC OT Chad Wheeler, in 2014

USC has a glaring question mark ahead of its season-opener against defending national champion Alabama — and it’s in a dangerous place.

Less than a week before the opener, the Trojans still haven’t decided on their starting left tackle. It’s a hole that will leave Alabama pass rushers such as Tim Williams licking their chops.

USC coach Clay Helton is expected to make the decision Tuesday.

The top candidate for the position is fifth-year senior Chad Wheeler (6 feet 6, 310 pounds), considered an early-round NFL draft prospect. Wheeler is in line to be a four-year starter, but plantar fasciitis in his foot has slowed him during workouts. If Wheeler can't go, Helton will be left with an unenviable decision: How to replace the line's leader at the most important pass-protection post on the offensive front?

For now, the assignment looks as if it might go to sophomore Chuma Edoga, a former five-star recruit from the Atlanta area who made two starts at right tackle as a true freshman in 2015.

That's rough news for Trojans quarterback Max Browne, a junior who will be making his first start Saturday.

What does this mean for Alabama? It means there's a tempting target for defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and his unit to aim its considerable firepower in the season opener.

One of USC's strengths this season is supposed to be its offensive line, which returns all five starters from last season. Senior right tackle Zach Banner, the son of former NFL offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy, is massive (6-9, 360) and also seen as a potential early-round NFL pick. The other starters are juniors: guards Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivo and center Toa Lobendahn.

© 2016, Staff. All rights reserved.

© 2016, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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