Clay Helton won't say it, but USC's starters on offensive line appear to be set

Ryan Kartje
·2 min read
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 17: Guard Alijah Vera-Tucker #75 of the USC Trojans adjusts his helmet.
USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker, shown in a game against UCLA in 2018, will be one of the starting offensive tackles this season. (Katherine Lotze / Getty Images)

Just a month ago, USC’s offensive line was its biggest question mark.

Now, the Trojans appear to have found their answers up front.

USC coach Clay Helton won’t name an official starting offensive line until just before the Trojans’ opener against Arizona State on Nov. 7. But on Thursday, he stopped just short of confirming the five who will comprise the team’s previously uncertain front.

Offensive tackles Alijah Vera-Tucker and Jalen McKenzie, as well as center Brett Neilon, were all but guaranteed to be a part of that final line. The three have a combined 39 starts and were entrenched on the Trojans' line at this time last year as well.

But over the first two weeks of camp, Liam Jimmons and Andrew Vorhees have established themselves as the other two presumed starters. Helton singled out Jimmons for taking advantage of his opportunity.

“You can see that athleticism of a former tight end/defensive lineman that's now 315 pounds and can move really well helping out,” Helton said of Jimmons.

USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno said last month, before Vera-Tucker announced his return, that he wouldn’t let a lack of experience deter him from playing a lineman with higher upside.

“Sometimes you bring great players in, and if the kid is young, he might make mistakes,” Drevno said. “But is he better than the older guy? If he is, it’s worth your time to live with the mistakes. I think all coaches get caught up in, ‘Well, I put this guy out there, and he knows what to do, knows his assignments.’ You keep wasting your time and spinning your wheels, when you got a younger guy who is going to be an unbelievable player.”

But as the line currently stands, USC looks like it’ll use the more experienced combination up front.

“Those vets are playing at an extremely high level, so I would anticipate seeing them out there,” Helton said.

That doesn’t mean USC will ignore its freshmen. Helton again singled out tackles Jonah Monheim, Courtland Ford and Casey Collier for their performance in camp.

Etc.

Freshman wideout Gary Bryant Jr. is dealing with a mild ankle sprain, but Helton said he expects Bryant will be available to play in USC’s opener. … Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Trevor Trout won’t be with the team this season as he deals with a lingering back injury. Helton said that Trout “could be a medical situation” moving forward. … USC will practice at the Coliseum on Friday night, before returning on Saturday morning for a scrimmage.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.