Where does USC rank for returning OL?

Much has been made this off-season about the moving parts along the Trojan offensive line being a key component to come together for the 2017 season, primarily because of the need to replace three starters who have moved on to the NFL.

While I certainly agree that this is the biggest USC issue heading into fall camp, there was an interesting article today from Phil Steele that indicates the Trojans actually fall into the middle of the pack when it comes to returning offensive line experience. Steele is a respected college football writer who specializes in pre-season breakdowns and analysis, and today he looked at career starts along the projected 2017 offensive line with the Trojans ranked at #46 in the nation (6th in conference) with 73 career starts. Washington is the most experienced line in the conference with 91, followed by Arizona (89), UCLA (85), Colorado (83) and Oregon (77). For what it’s worth, San Jose State is the most experienced in the country with 125 returning starts.

The starts for the Trojans break down as follows (per the usctrojans.com website):

Viane Talamaivao (32)

Toa Lobendahn (21)

Nico Falah (13)

Chuma Edoga (4)

Chris Brown (2)

That total comes to 72, so there is a one-game discrepancy with Steele’s numbers, but the overall breakdown is still relatively the same. One of the issues for the Trojans is that they are top-heavy with experience for three players in Talamaivao, Lobendahn and Falah, and all three of those players missed time in spring ball due to injury. The forecast is optimistic for all three to be back for fall camp but it will certainly be a situation worth watching when so much of your veteran core is represented in those three guys.

Viane is the most established guy in terms of starts by a wide margin and you can’t understate how important that is to have someone with that kind of experience coming back. He had bicep surgery in spring and is expected back right around the start of camp.

Toa has also started a lot, especially when you consider how much time he’s missed due to knee injuries. And as much as anyone on the line Toa is viewed as the leader of the group, it will be nice to have him back in the line-up. During the first PRP of the summer last week we saw Toa lining up at right tackle which, ironically, is the only spot along the line where he hasn’t started a game yet for the Trojans.

Even though Nico has basically only been the starter for one year I look at him as an established veteran because he’s been so solid. It also says something that Nico was playing well enough that the coaches (at least so far) are looking at moving Toa to another spot. Toa opened the 2016 season as the starting center and many thought that would ultimately be his best spot. The nagging injury issue for Nico is with his back but he was able to go at the end of spring.

Chuma Edoga takes over at the all-important left tackle spot with four starts under his belt, two each at left and right tackle. This seems like a natural time for Chuma to assume a full-time starting role after paying his dues, especially with the reports coming from inside the program about his dedication and maturity.

The final spot will likely come down to Chris Brown or Roy Hemsley, with Brown lining up as the left guard starter last week in the PRP. Brown does bring one edge when it comes to a couple games experience as a starter.

Chuma Edoga



Garry Paskwietz

Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

8 Replies to "Where does USC rank for returning OL?"

  • Kalven June 13, 2017 (9:17 pm)

    We need OL recruits this upcoming cycle

  • RickS June 13, 2017 (9:37 pm)

    Yes Defense “wins” Championships, but/also, Offensive Lines get you there and Passing games and Running games lead the way !

    Remember that the opponents “can’t” score when their Offense is sitting on the sidelines playing bench warming !!

    The Trojans have been stacked on the Offensive Line for years and 4 and 5 Stars lead that charge so excuses run dry (Though serious problems are occurring just to the West-Side ???) !!!

    This/Current USC 2017 Offensive Line is Leaner and Meaner which will aid the Running game and provide aid to the Quarterback on the Outside Lanes !

    The Trojans will be fine 2017, with “Greatness” looming…


  • Christian June 13, 2017 (11:54 pm)

    I find it odd that nobody can provide any real clarity on the EJ Price situation? Is he still at SC and on scholarship?

    We certainly could use depth on the OL.

  • Armando June 15, 2017 (5:13 am)

    I think we’ll be better this season , but not till we learn to play as a unit. Hopefully Sam can help plus nico has plenty of experience, and center is pivotal.

    • reggie June 15, 2017 (2:51 pm)

      I think the Coach Helton has been very transparent as it relates to E.J Price. As fans, we want to know details, however, there is such a thing as privacy and an athletes right to it. So, if you feel you’re not getting the answers you want, meaning the details and all of E.J’s personal business. Remember that he has a right to privacy and just because he’s an athlete doesn’t mean you should know everything about him. The team has said all they should regarding E.J. and if he is eventually allowed back on the team, USC fans will be notified.

  • Armando June 15, 2017 (5:15 am)

    Haven’t heard from Price. Any news ?

  • Armando June 16, 2017 (10:44 pm)

    Chuma may not have many starts, but plenty of playing time.

  • Jon June 20, 2017 (4:28 am)

    If Trojans have only 2 of those 3 most experienced, returning o-linemen, miss any significant time in ’17, due to injury, kiss any CFP hopes, good-bye.
    Previous 2 seasons, the Trojans had 2, or more, significant o-line injuries.
    Khaliel Rogers’s huge contribution last year was overlooked and way too underpublicized.

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