Sports

Who has what it takes to start at left tackle for USC?

 

USC will release an official depth chart after Wednesday night’s practice, offering a long-awaited glimpse into Lincoln Riley’s position-by-position plans for his first season as Trojans coach.

But one important battle remains undecided — and could stay that way through Saturday’s opener against Rice.

USC offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Josh Henson wouldn’t commit to naming a left tackle Tuesday, and while Wednesday’s depth chart reveal might list one name above the other, Henson made it clear that Bobby Haskins and Courtland Ford would be competing through the end of the week.

“I’m not sure that it won’t play out until through the game, and that may be something we do,” Henson said. “Maybe both guys will play, I don’t know, but that’s kind of where I’m at right now. No one has really separated himself at that spot, and no one’s really got themselves behind. We’re just kind of one day one guy’s a little better, one day the next guy’s a little better, which is a good thing. We’re in a heck of a battle, so that may get decided through game play also.”

Haskins started 20 games over four seasons at Virginia before transferring to USC, but he missed all of spring practice after foot surgery. Ford, a redshirt sophomore, was the Trojans’ left tackle for the first eight games last season before he missed most of the final month dealing with illness.

For much of fall camp, Ford appeared to have the advantage over Haskins, as he was most often seen with the first-team offensive line during the open portion of practice. Whether that balance has shifted remains to be seen. But as a decision looms, Henson said he’s looking for “consistency” from both tackles.

Henson isn’t worried about any lingering questions at left tackle affecting chemistry elsewhere.

“Oh, it’s fine,” Henson said. “Both guys are in there working. Both do a really good job, they’re good communicators, they know what they’re doing, they work well. [Left guard Andrew] Vorhees beside them is a very veteran guy, so it’s not been an issue.”

New captains

Quarterback Caleb Williams, offensive guard Justin Dedich, linebacker Shane Lee and defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu were named team captains, Riley announced Tuesday.

None of the four came as a surprise to the Trojans coach. Captains are voted on by the team.

“It was by a pretty significant margin,” Riley said. “The team pretty clearly looks at those four as guys they want to represent them.”

For Dedich, who waited four years to earn a starting spot on USC’s offensive line, it was an especially meaningful honor.

“Trusting the process … I really bought into that,” Dedich said. “Now I’m just grateful to earn the job.”

Max capabilities

USC defensive back Max Williams has been working at safety and nickel in recent practices and could bounce between both positions this season. His versatility could open the door for another young defensive back, Jaylin Smith.

“Having the luxury of Max moving around does create opportunities for Jaylin to play,” Riley said. “It shows Jaylin we’re intent on giving him an opportunity.”

Smith appeared in nine games last season as a freshman, earning one start against Notre Dame, while Williams sat out all of the 2021 season because of a knee injury.

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