Linebacking corps thins with injuries

Add one more to the injury list.

Linebacker Hayes Pullard, who had been playing with a hurt knee during the past few practices, will have it scoped after an MRI revealed damage Wednesday. USC coach Lane Kiffin said Pullard will likely use his redshirt year this season.

Need more pursuit · While starting linebackers Michael Morgan (center) and Malcolm Smith (right) are healthy, the already-thin depth chart below them just got thinner with the loss of freshman Hayes Pullard to a knee injury. - Eric Wolfe | Daily Trojan

“Unfortunately [linebacker]’s not a postion very deep with us,” Kiffin said. “We were looking for him to be a backup linebacker and play on our special teams.”

Kiffin said Pullard, a freshman from Inglewood, Calif., would be out for at least four to six weeks and that the chances of him returning to play this season before the  redshirt deadline would be slim.

“It’d be tough to get him back, physically and mentally prepared,” Kiffin said. “It was already going to be tough [with] him being a true freshman.”

The Trojans are thin at just about every position and linebacker is no exception.

The starting linebacking corps seems to be set with sophomore Devon Kennard, senior Malcolm Smith and redshirt senior Michael Morgan. Redshirt junior Chris Galippo, who started last season at middle linebacker, will also see significant time backing up Kennard.

But beyond the starters it’s a little hazy. Redshirt junior Shane Horton started three games last season, recording 30 tackles. Redshirt freshman Marquis Simmons could also contribute but is recovering from an appendectomy. Walk-on junior Ross Cumming, who received a full scholarship Tuesday, could also contribute.

Defections have also hurt the linebacker unit. Uona Kavenga transferred last December. Glen Stanley, a junior college transfer, asked out of his letter of intent after USC was punished by the NCAA.

Of course, Kiffin and the Trojans must go ahead with what they have. But as the injuries pile up, so does the aggravation.

“It’s frustrating, it’s part of it,” Kiffin said. “We can’t change what happens. We can just continue to find ways to manage it.”

Kiffin has limited full contact practice with his squad in hopes of preventing injuries, but the injury bug continues to infect the Trojans.

“It’s gonna happen,” Kiffin said. “But hopefully the majority of the guys get back before the games count eight days from now.”

Other key Trojans slowed by injuries are redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Matt Kalil (hamstring), redshirt sophomore defensive end Nick Perry (ankle) and senior cornerback Shareece Wright (hip).


Senior running back Allen Bradford, who many thought would take over as the starting running back after being eclipsed by other running backs last season, is still not counting himself out of the race after redshirt junior Marc Tyler was named the starter earlier in the week.

Bradford is suffering from a knee bruise and said although he is only at about 90 percent strength, he expects to be good to go by Saturday.

“The only thing I can do is just respect the decision and continue to play,” Bradford said.

Although Bradford’s injuries have set him back, his coaches are also looking for more consistency out of the tailback.

Bradford said he was told “it’s nothing that [Tyler’s] gonna be the starter for the whole year, it’s just that this game they feel more comfortable [starting Tyler].”

“I wasn’t as consistent in fall camp,” he said.

Kiffin made it clear he never said Bradford was the starter at the beginning of fall camp. In Kiffin’s eyes, Bradford has acted appropriately.

“I think he responded really well,” Kiffin said.

Bradford has struggled to assert himself in the crowded USC backfield in seasons past, and only got limited opportunities last season.

This season has the potential to be his breakout year if he can stay healthy. The same could be said for Tyler, who has battled injuries throughout his career as well. As of now, Tyler has the upper leg.

“Basically I just looked at myself in the mirror because I know I’ve been through a lot and it’s just another challenge that I have to embrace,” Bradford said.