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Summer Position Preview: Offensive Line

USC brings back experience and continuity to a unit that had ups and downs in 2017.

Texas v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Projected Starters

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

USC brings back most of 2017’s offensive line, with Chris Brown, Toa Lobendahn, and Chuma Edoga all electing to return as seniors. They’ll be working with third year offensive line coach Neil Callaway, maintaining last year’s status quo. However, the offensive line will need to bounce back from last year’s Cotton Bowl, in which the Buckeyes talented defensive line held Ronald Jones to 64 yards on 19 carries and sacked Sam Darnold eight times.

Two of USC’s three losses last year were marked by unexceptional line play: the Cotton Bowl, and USC’s lone conference loss to Washington State, in which USC played most of the game down three offensive lineman. Without that loss to Washington State, last year’s College Football Playoff may have looked dramatically different.

The projected starters for the USC offensive front are all tested, and performed admirably last year. Though USC’s line gave up 30 sacks, around FBS average, the offensive line enabled USC’s elite run game. Another year under Callaway’s tutelage will hopefully maintain USC’s run game while improving the protection for whoever starts at quarterback.

Backups

Brett Neilon and Andrew Dedich are both highly touted center prospects projected to sit behind senior Lobendahn. Neilon’s high school tape shows an exceptional ability to pull and run, so expect Neilon to be a versatile backup swing guard and center. Dedich has made his name as a center, but he’s played tackle in high school as well, and shows good positional versatility. Remember these two names if anybody is to go down. These prospects look to be the future of the offensive line.

Player to Watch

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Lobendahn is a polished and versatile lineman capable of playing anywhere along the line. He has said himself that he will play center, his most natural position. Lobendahn will try to build from his 2017 All-PAC 12 Second Team season. Lobendahn and fellow senior guard Brown will be key to USC’s rushing offense, as well as keeping the pocket clean for the quarterback.