Freshman Cameron Smith is coming out of Saturday’s victory against No. 3 Utah with two wins. The linebacker from Granite Bay, California, was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week after picking off Utah quarterback Travis Wilson three times, taking one back for a touchdown.
His three interceptions against the Utes were the most of any USC player in a single game since Jason Oliver accomplished the same feat in 1991 against Penn State. He also notched nine tackles in the game to lead the team.
“I kept feeling the people behind me and trying to pick up the routes as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “I got lucky a couple times, and the ball ended up in my lap.”
Though he is a true freshman, his talent has helped him break into the starting defensive rotation and make an immediate impact. Smith currently leads the team with 62 tackles for the season, and currently ranks second nationally amongst all true freshmen in the same category.
“[Smith] is one of the more football instinctive kids that we have on our team,” said interim head coach Clay Helton. “It was 14-7, and we needed a spark. He gave that to us.”
Smith enrolled at USC last spring after graduating from Granite Bay High School a semester early. He is majoring in communication and maintains a 3.43 GPA.
He is using that intelligence on the field with a talented defense that has struggled at times — especially stopping the run. Before playing against Utah, the defense was giving up 181.5 rushing yards in its last four games.
Smith credited the more physical week of practice, which helped the Trojans hold Utah to 99 rushing yards. The Utes came into the Coliseum averaging 192.5 yards on the ground per game. He feels that the team needs to get more physical as the season progresses in order to end the season positively.
When pressed further about his interceptions, an exasperated Smith just smiled.
“Enough with the picks,” Smith said. “I’m just really happy that our team played awesome.”