Zach Banner has always been a recognizable figure from the second he stepped foot on campus. Barreling in at 6'9", 350 pounds of pure physical specimen, the high school basketball state champion and prolific five-star rated offensive lineman stood out like a gigantic sore thumb walking down Trousdale.
Banner redshirted his freshman season on the football team back in 2012 and then quickly dashed over to basketball. Never quite in the best of shape to run up and down the floor in coach Kevin O'Neill's system, Banner did not see any action at the Galen Center.
Deciding to all-out quit basketball following the 2012-2013 season, Banner focused solely on playing offensive tackle for the USC Trojans and the results have been somewhat larger than life.
Here we are five days through USC's Fall Camp and the clean slate has given Banner a unique opportunity to not only earn his spot on the starting offensive line but also wow the likes of All-American defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
"He's very bright. He gets the game and the best thing for Zach Banner is to go against Leonard Williams every single day," said coach Sarkisian. "He's not gonna face a better player in the country than Leonard Williams."
Along with raving about his improvement from the second he stepped foot on Howard Jones Field, Williams now feels that Banner is one of the toughest lineman he's gone up against in college football. "His height is really a great tool for him, he's really hard to get under because his arms are so long," Williams says about battling Banner on the line.
After suffering a season-ending dual hip injury after only playing in two games in 2013, Banner went through traditional rehab but added an additional dimension that has ultimately helped fuel his comeback on the gridiron.
Doctors performed surgery on a hip impingement which had previously limited his mobility. Following multiple months of rehab and nearly six weeks locked in between the cast and those fancy cruisers that injured student-athletes use to get around, Banner returned healthy and much more flexible this offseason.
"I just gotta keep doing what I'm doing, just keep pushing," Banner told usctrojans.com during Spring Football. "People are showing me love because I'm with the ones but I'm thinking of bigger things, and that's domination."
Banner has certainly impressed the coaching staff, which heavily recruited him to attend Washington while he lived in Tacoma. Entering spring football as the second-string tackle, Banner emerged as the starting right tackle and has seemingly locked down the position (knock on wood for clean health) by performing better and better in practice.
"For him to go against Leonard every single day just pushes Zach every single day," coach Sarkisian said. "He doesn't whine, he doesn't complain about it, he comes to work. Its hard, it's hard to block 94 but the end result is that Zach's a better player."
Three years after committing to USC as the best offensive line recruit in the state of Washington, Banner hopes to take things day by day working to master "all the technical details" that make playing the right tackle position so complex.
Rest assured coach Tim Drevno and the entire offensive line will be barking up Banner's ear each and every practice to make sure the behemoth offensive lineman can finally fill out that gigantically sized potential.