USC didn’t earn the nickname “Tailback U” without a little help.
All-American and NFL linebackers from Junior Seau to Lofa Tatupu have pummeled, pestered and pushed Trojan ball carriers to greatness through countless bone-wrenching practices and scrimmages. But so far this spring, it has become clear that running backs Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable are going to need a little more help from the other side of the ball.
“We’ve got nine linebackers on our roster,” USC assistant coach Joe Barry said. “And we have three returning starters.”
However, none of the returning players has more than a year of significant game experience for Barry to hang his hat on. Redshirt junior Chris Galippo, sophomore Devron Kennard, senior Malcolm Smith, senior Michael Morgan and redshirt junior Shane Horton all shared time last season on a defense whose leading tackler was the safety, Taylor Mays.
Worse yet, junior-college transfer Glen Stanley, one of the most seasoned of the group, won’t arrive until the fall. Redshirt junior Jordan Campbell, who recorded eight tackles against Washington State last year before spraining his ankle, has been suspended from practice for missing classes and/or tutoring sessions.
Fortunately for the Trojans, Pac-10 offenses are going to have to fight through some immense obstacles to expose any lack of depth in the second level. Returning defensive tackles senior Christian Tupou and junior Jurrell Casey, and returning defensive ends redshirt sophomore Nick Perry and junior Armond Armstead, average nearly 300 pounds as a unit.
And they’re fast, too.
USC coach Lane Kiffin and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron can’t get enough of Armstead, who weighs 295 pounds but is quick enough to play on the exterior.
“You don’t see guys 300 pounds playing that position,” Orgeron marveled.