A difficult weekend for the USC football program got even worse Sunday when head coach Steve Sarkisian announced to the team that they would be without offensive tackle Chad Wheeler for the remainder of the season. A day after the 24-21 loss to Utah, a USC twitter account quoted Sarkisian saying,
“What I’ve showed team today about Chad. He tore ACL and then played another 7-8 plays before he took himself out.”
Wheeler suffered the injury during the game’s third play, but reportedly toughed out several plays after before taking himself out of the game. Over the last two seasons, Wheeler has played in 22 games anchoring the Trojans’ offensive line and earned Freshman All-American Third Team honors a season ago. Wheeler used his massive frame (6’7) to keep defenders at arm’s length and emerged as a team leader this fall.
Despite the saddening news, the redshirt sophomore will be back in 2015 and likely one-year better as the Trojans once again aim for a Pac-12 and NCAA title. Losing Wheeler is yet another major hit to an offense that has at times struggled with consistency, especially within the run game.
In light of the injury, senior Aundrey Walker replaced Wheeler and will receive the start when USC visits Washington State. The Trojans stand at 5-3 and face two more ranked opponents before wrapping up their 2014 season. Still, USC hopes a late run can push them into a premier bowl game because reaching the playoffs seems to be an afterthought at this point.
*Section Photo credit to Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports.