(Photo by Jeff Golden/Gett
With the Trojans losing a quartet of senior linebackers to the NFL Draft later this month, three of which are projected to be taken in the first round (Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, and Clay Matthews), there are some considerable holes to fill behind the defensive line—along with nervous anxiety from SC faithful. There’s an unprecedented void in the Trojan’s defense after losing all three starting LBs. To add insult to injury, backup and frequent starter Kaluka Maieva graduated as well.
But, as with every other position, USC reloads, not rebuilds. Waiting in the wings are Luther Brown, Malcolm Smith, and Chris Galippo—all of whom were highly-touted high school prospects. Junior Mike Morgan and sophomore Uona Kavienga, along with redshirt freshman Marquis Simmons, will also challenge for the trio of opened LB spots.
Brown has struggled with injuries throughout his Trojans career and will try to vilify his high-prospect grade and hype with his performance this season.
Galippo, the biggest and most promising prospect of the bunch, was forced to redshirt last season due to back surgery for a herniated disc. He was the top rated prospect by ESPN in the Class of 2006 and the third highest graded prospect overall (behind teammates Joe McKnight and Marc Tyler).
These young linebackers are out to prove that they are indeed capable of the task of replacing these Trojans stars, as they began their conquest last Saturday on the first day of spring ball.
Also, keep an eye out for true sophomore Nick Perry to make an impact as he recently converted from DE to OLB. He set the Michigan high school record for sacks in a single season during his senior year in 2008.