As the USC football team prepares to kick off its 2015 season, the Daily Trojan will be catching up with former USC players as the Trojans play week in and week out. In the first edition of our exclusive series, “Back to School,” the DT caught up with former USC All-American linebacker Willie McGinest.
Before Su’a Cravens, another USC linebacker used to terrorize opposing collegiate offenses game in and game out.
Three-time Super Bowl Champion and 2015 New England Patriots Hall of Fame inductee Willie McGinest anchored the Trojans’ defense in the early ‘90s, racking up All-American and all-conference honors before going on to have a successful 15-year career in the NFL with the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns.
Since officially retiring in 2008, McGinest has gone on to join the NFL Network as a football analyst and believes that fans of his alma mater have a lot to look forward to when watching this year’s team.
“We have a lot of young and exciting players that are either in just their first or second year like Adoree’ [Jackson] and JuJu [Smith-Schuster], and I expect USC to be a top-five team,” McGinest said.
McGinest believes that head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff solved the team’s biggest problem from last season on defense — depth.
“They had a great recruiting class, fortified their offensive and defensive lines, their linebacking core is very talented, and I’m excited to watch them play,” McGinest said.
The Trojans have a rich history of decorated linebackers from McGinest to the late Junior Seau and to Keith Rivers — all of whom wore the No. 55.
While Cravens doesn’t share the same number as the greats that came before him, he will look to carry on this tradition as he returns for his third year as a starter and newly appointed co-team captain while playing strong side outside linebacker.
“Su’a has done a great job as linebacker,” McGinest said. “He’s tough, he can play in the box and he’s due for a great season.”
As for the other side of the ball, McGinest believes that that offense is in good hands with redshirt senior quarterback and preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Cody Kessler under center.
“Cody’s grown up,” McGinest said. “He’s had more time and experience with Sark’s system and with more weapons on the outside and a balance between the rushing and passing game, he will definitely put up points on the board.”
In their last regular season game against UCLA in 2013, McGinest fired up the Trojans by leading them out of the tunnel — an honor that he shares with other USC legends like Matt Leinart and Keyshawn Johnson.
“I really enjoyed leading the team out of the tunnel and being an ambassador for the program, though next time we hopefully win the game,” McGinest said.
Another project McGinest is working on is a partnership with DirecTV to bring college football to more students. He recently teamed up with DirectTV’s “NFL Sunday Ticket.TV U” to give students the ability to live stream games and have full access to watch their favorite NFL teams on Sundays this fall.
“I went to ’SC, was a college student and lived in a dorm and know that you just can’t throw satellites up anywhere, so this is an affordable package that is great for students,” McGinest said.
Back on the field, as the Trojans prepare to kick off the season ranked the No. 8 team in the country, McGinest gave his advice for this year’s team.
“They just need to buy in and take things one play at a time,” McGinest said. “They’ve got a great system and players so if they can play hard for four quarters every week, everything will work itself out.”