Trojans senior outside linebacker Porter Gustin will miss two to five weeks of fall practice, according to USC head coach Clay Helton. Gustin suffered a torn meniscus during a collision at last Tuesday’s practice and had to be carted off the field.
Helton announced the prognosis the next day, following an MRI.
“Sometimes, the good Lord watches after you,” a relieved Helton said.
According to Helton, Gustin underwent surgery on Thursday. The head coach said there was no ligament damage to his knee, despite initial concerns. On Tuesday, Helton said that linebacker “was not in a lot of pain,” but did say his knee “felt funny.”
“Knowing Porter, I know he’ll rehab the heck out of it,” Helton said after Wednesday’s practice. “If you remember [former USC defensive end] Rasheem Green had this, played in about two weeks. [Senior cornerback] Ajene [Harris] had it over the spring, took him about three and half weeks to get back.”
According to the Orange County Register, Gustin walked uninhibited at Wednesday’s practice session. His status for the season opener against UNLV on Sept. 1 is currently unknown, though Helton isn’t planning on holding him back, if healthy.
“When he’s 100 percent, he’ll go,” Helton said. “I know Porter. He’ll give it everything he has to be back as soon as possible.”
Gustin elected to return for his senior season after an injury-riddled junior campaign. He suffered a broken toe during Week 2 against Stanford, and re-injured it in the Texas game, still managing a two-sack first half performance. Gustin played in just four games total, nursing toe and bicep ailments throughout the year.
The Utah-born pass-rusher returns as a cornerstone of USC’s defense. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s unit led the nation in sacks last year, but it lost the likes of Uchenna Nwosu, Rasheem Green and Josh Fatu on the front-seven.
Over his career, Gustin has recorded 14 sacks and 23 tackles for loss. He tallied three sacks in three starts during his shortened 2017 season.
In addition to Gustin’s injury, senior linebacker Cam Smith was held out of practice with a hamstring injury on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, it is not believed to be serious.
Even with two star linebackers sidelined, Helton is still optimistic about the situation. Freshman outside linebacker Kana’i Mauga and junior inside linebacker Jordan Iosefa have stepped up in their teammates’ absences. Helton stressed the importance of depth heading into this season.
“It’s also allowed us to be able to work guys like [sophomore linebacker] Hunter Echols, who’s doing a great job for us,” Helton said. “And [sophomore linebacker] Juliano Falaniko. I think about those edge guys, right now … and they’re really coming on and we need them to.”
USC meets UNLV at the Coliseum on Sept. 1 to kick off the 2018 season.