Chad Wheeler will not start at left tackle for USC in their opener against top-ranked Alabama, Clay Helton confirmed Monday night.
Instead, the head coach announced during a radio appearance, Chuma Edoga will be charged with protecting the blindside of the first-year starter at quarterback, Max Browne, against one of the top defensive lines in the country. Wheeler has been dealing with a lingering foot injury — plantar fasciitis, to be specific — that’s kept him sidelined for most of summer camp.
Helton allowed that Wheeler could play “a couple of series” against the Tide, although that would, outside of an extreme emergency, seem unlikely.
Wheeler, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection last season, has started 34 games the past three seasons. As a true freshman last season, the 6-4, 290-pound Edoga started two games at right tackle and played in 13 games total.
Helton also announced that linebacker Osa Masina has been suspended for the opener and will not travel to Arlington for the neutral-field game. Masina played in 12 games as a true freshman last season, and was credited with 25 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. The highlight of his first season as a Trojan was a fumble return for a touchdown in the season-opening win over Arkansas State.
On the preseason depth chart released a week ago, Masina was listed as a backup to starting inside linebacker Michael Hutchings.