Spring Summary: Offensive Line

Kevin Graf (Kevin Carden Photo)

A summary of spring football as it concerns the offensive line.

We've summarized just about every position post-spring, except for the Trojans' big men.

USC's offensive line – the biggest point of concern in 2011 – went through a few hiccups this spring but looked good overall and much improved from a year prior.

A couple positions changes included Cyrus Hobbi moving from center to backup guard in the spring and Aundrey Walker transitioning from right to left tackle. Walker, a true freshman last season who played a backup role on the right behind Kevin Graf, appears to be have solidified his role on the left after the departure of Matt Kalil to the NFL.

Walker has some big shoes to fill; the 6-6, 320-pounder probably already wears Shaq-sized shoes, but those watching Barkley's blindside will look for little to no mistakes from the sophomore on the field. Luckily for Walker, he's intimidating. His size alone could make you scared. His agility has improved because of his major weight loss and his confidence was never a problem. It's just focusing on minor details at this point and getting more repetitions on the left.

Because of Kevin Graf's experience on the right – he started every game at the position last season – the coaching staff expects to keep him there, although Graf has said he feels more comfortable on the left, as its his natural position. I wouldn't expect either tackle spot to be completely closed to competition, as three offensive linemen will enroll in the fall. Still, I think the starters will end up Graf and Walker, because of their experience and size.

At center, Khaled Holmes didn't get into a consistent rhythm after being sidelined with a calf strain much of spring, but it was good for backup Abe Markowitz to get valuable time with the "ones." Markowitz did a fine job in Holmes' absence, and that was probably a huge factor in Hobbi's move to guard. But Holmes will be the mainstay on that line come fall, and the offensive line needs him to be. His veteran experience and leadership, his NFL bloodline and his high football IQ are important factors in gelling with Matt Barkley to get the offense going. More than anything, that trust between Holmes and Barkley will reap dividends as the season progresses and Barkley takes on a more autonomous role as a playcaller.

Earlier in spring, head coach Lane Kiffin said he wasn't too confident of the entire line, but his tone changed in the final week, saying he was positively impressed with the improvement of the guards. John Martinez and Marcus Martin stepped up their roles this spring, and Martinez could end up being a player to watch by the end of the season. He doesn't make too much noise, but sticks to his assignments and shows good poise even if he misses a block or makes a mistake, however rare.

Martin is still learning his role, sure, but his confidence has never wavered since he earned that starting spot last year as a true freshman. I think time will be the biggest factor for Martin, because he could end up as one of the country's best linemen in two years if he continues to get into the playbook and eats up his coaches' advice. He is a pure guard with the size and tools and good footwork. Now it's just about avoiding mental errors. He is no longer the weakest point on the line like he might have been as a rookie last year. He has a full fall and spring under his belt, and the will to improve.

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