USC Linebacker Brian Cushing—The Bergen Bulldog: 2009 NFL Draft Player Profile
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 255 | 40-Time: 4.70
The "Bergen Bulldog," as some like to call Cushing, is a high-speed, high-intensity captain and leader on the nation's top-rated defense.
Bergen Catholic High School coach Fred Stengel says his former star and current USC senior linebacker Brian Cushing has a bit of "wild dog" in him. Trojans coach Pete Carroll calls Cushing an "animal." All this about an athletic, but formerly scrawny kid from NJ...
Brian Cushing was born on January 24, 1987 in Park Ridge, a town in Bergen County, NJ.. He dominated the County sports scene, playing basketball, baseball and football. In high school, he decided to focus on football after his freshman year.
He hit the weight room hard and came back a much bigger player his sophomore year. The change was so dramatic, there have been many whispers of steroid use from those that don't know him. Speak to anyone close to him, and they will emphatically defend him as an honest and incredibly self-motivated kid that would never cheat.
He went on to an incredible High School career, playing multiple positions: Linebacker, wide receiver, tight end, running back, kick returner. Among his honors were Parade All-American, USA Today All-USA first team, Super Prep Elite 50, Prep Star Top 100 Dream Team, Student Sports Top 100, Rivals 100, Super Prep All-American, Prep Star All-American, Tom Lemming All-American, Scout.com All-American first team, EA Sports All-American second team, Super Prep All-Northeast Defensive Player of the Year, Prep Star All-East and All-State Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
He was also rated the No. 2 linebacker prospect in the country.
As it became evident in his childhood that he would have an athletic career, he always had one particular college in mind. Coming from a strong Irish-Catholic family, Notre Dame was his dream. As college recruiting time came around, he would receive offers from USC, Virginia, Boston College, Florida, Louisville, Miami, and of course, Notre Dame. There was no question for him. It was going to be Notre Dame.
Cushing was all but signed, sealed and delivered to join the Fighting Irish in South Bend, Ind. But when coach Tyrone Willingham and his staff were fired, the Irish-Catholic boy from New Jersey turned his attention west.
Too far west for his father’s liking. His father Frank pushed for Boston College, so he would be closer to home, his brother touted Miami. But USC apparently had something no other college in the country could boast: Carroll, who was in the process of leading the Trojans to a second consecutive national title. "I don’t know how anyone can say no to Pete," Frank Cushing says.
Cushing made quite an impact in 2005 as a first-year freshman linebacker, despite missing nearly half the season with a shoulder injury. He started USC's last 4 games and was a key special teams player.
Cushing started all of his 2006 sophomore season as a stand-up defensive end in USC's hybrid 3-4 "Elephant" defense. Overall in 2006 while appearing in all 13 games, he had 57 tackles, 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a blocked punt, and a 42-yard scoring kickoff return of an onside kick (against Notre Dame). He made the 2006 Collegefootballnews.com Sophomore All-American third team, All-Pac-10 second team and Scout.com All-Pac-10 second team. He won USC's John McKay Award (most competitive spirit).
As a junior, he moved back to his normal strong-side linebacker position. He had arthroscopic surgery on his knee before the season and then sprained an ankle in the first game, missing 3 full games and parts of others. His stats were nothing to get excited about his junior year, as injuries affected his play throughout the season.
He bounced back his senior year, managing to stay healthy. He started all 13 games for the Trojans and earning second-team AP All-American accolades while registering 73 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 3.0 sacks.
Some of the honors he garnered his last two seasons were:
2007 Rose Bowl Defensive MVP
2007 All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention
2008 Sports Illustrated First-Team All-American
2008 All-Pac-10 First-Team
2008 AP and Sporting News Second Team All-American
2008 Rivals.com Third-team All-American
2008 Pro Football Weekly All-American Honorable Mention
"He’s just an old-fashioned football player that loves to play the game with all the grit and dirt and savvy," USC Coach Pete Carroll said.
"There’s only one speed with him so you’re going to take the good with the bad," Trojans linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s going to knock you out and then he’s going to hurt himself trying to knock you out. That’s just kind of part of it."
Scouting report (nfldraftscout.com)
Physical prototype with a combination of excellent size and overall athleticism for the position. Versatile. Signed with USC as a potential strong safety candidate, but has played defensive end, strong-side linebacker and even middle linebacker. Physical and intense.
Big hitter who looks to intimidate opponents with his physicality in every phase of the game. Attacks blocks aggressively and flashes not only explosiveness but ferocity as a tackler. Good straight-line speed.
Good flexibility to turn and run with tight ends and backs in coverage. Reads the quarterback well and can break on the ball. Productive pass rusher who is equally effective as an end and blitzing linebacker. Immediate standout performer who started for USC as a freshman.
Has struggled with injuries throughout his career -- missing five games due to a shoulder separation in 2005 and three games in 2007 due to a high ankle sprain, as well as undergoing surgery after the 2006 (shoulder) and 2007 (knee) spring practices.
Relies on his athletic ability, rather than his upper body strength to defeat blocks too often. Can overrun the play and allow for cutback opportunities. Mistakes often covered up by the surrounding talent at USC.
NFL scouts don't admire Cushing for his statistics, but for his versatility. Athletic and instinctive enough to star at linebacker and yet big and strong enough to compete at defensive end—as he did in starting 13 games at the position in 2006 when injuries forced the Trojans to be creative—Cushing is arguably the draft's most versatile defender.
Cushing is certainly in consideration for a mid- to late-first round pick but his history of injuries may keep him in the late 1st or push him into the second. Teams will have trouble overlooking a guy that can play all three LB spots, play a little defensive end and could be perfect for an elephant LB/S kind of role.
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