Breslin to benefit most from Pro Day

Former USC outside linebacker and defensive end Morgan Breslin isn’t the type to do much talking. In my first time covering the USC Trojans spring camp last season, I was excited about the opportunity to meet and interview the players. I was tasked with doing a preview of the Trojans’ new defensive schemes under then-defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, so I kept an eye on the front seven, which had been a point of emphasis in Pendergast’s spread-stopping schemes at Cal.

A couple of the players stood out. One, of course, was 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman Leonard Williams. The then-sophomore was swallowing up entire sections of the Trojans’ hapless offensive line, breaking through blocks and exhibiting the sound technique that would end with him earning First Team All-American honors at the end of last season.

The other player was a little bit quieter, but similarly lethal. He attacked from the outside and put immense pressure on the quarterback, oftentimes changing the direction of the offense and forcing a check down or a throwaway. So at the end of practice, when USC Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone came by with his pen and notepad to ask the media which players they’d like to interview, one number stuck out in my mind.

“Defense, 91,” I said. The request drew a couple funny looks from the group I was standing with, and I regretted it immediately after I said it. The reason?

“Breslin doesn’t do interviews,” Tessalone said, who gave me the look of someone explaining an ages-old office policy.

It was something I knew — but I forgot. But really, 13 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and 32.5 stuffs in his first year starting as a junior and no one gets to talk to him? Then the 2013 season came, and Breslin battled injuries all season. But Breslin, the consummate teammate, fought on — until he sustained a sports hernia, partially as a result of playing on the injury.

Breslin missed all but five games in the 2013 season, and was on pace for another season with double-digit sacks, despite playing with excruciating pain. Then came hip surgery for the sports hernia, which effectively ended his season — and with it, his USC career.

Last month was the NFL Combine, a chance for the nation to see that Breslin had fully recovered from surgery and was ready to become a pass-rushing asset at the professional level. Out of 20 outside linebackers who were invited to participate in Indianapolis, Breslin wasn’t one of them. He was considered one of the biggest snubs at the combine — and the infamously reticent Trojan finally spoke up, in a phone interview with FoxSports.

“I honestly think I should’ve got an invite to the combine,” Breslin said. “I was pretty pissed about that.”

If you ask any of Breslin’s teammates or his coaches, the former junior college transfer is the last person to feel a sense of entitlement about anything. His silence is, as advertised, a product of his humility. No single player embodied former head coach Lane Kiffin’s mantra of “Don’t talk about it, be about it” quite like Breslin. But after he had turned in one of the most statistically impressive defensive seasons for the Trojans in over a decade, Breslin’s injury-riddled 2013 campaign had pushed him out of the national spotlight. Here was the player who had terrorized Pac-12 offenses in his first year as a starter, and then one year later, no one was talking to him.

Eight Trojans will take Loker Field today at 10 a.m. for USC’s Pro Day. None stands to gain more than Breslin, who has been projected by some scouts as a fifth-round pick and a top-15 player at his position by NFLDraftScout and CBS Sports — all without a combine appearance.

What NFL scouts should expect to see is Breslin’s uncanny precision and skill in getting past linemen. Breslin isn’t the most athletic outside linebacker, but his defensive instincts and intangibles are exceptional. During the Trojans’ 2012 season, Breslin routinely drew double coverage from offensive linemen, and his reaction times and ball-awareness more than compensated for his lack of explosive athleticism. His unrelenting play and stand-up instincts have led to countless instances where Breslin will overcome an offensive lineman by misdirection.

Another asset which may go unnoticed is Breslin’s strong center of gravity: At a relatively compact 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, Breslin often presents a challenge to opposing linemen who rely on leverage and sheer strength to secure blocks.

Of course, scouts and members of the media will have to actually see Breslin in action and draw their own conclusions, and they will finally get that chance today. But those who want to hear how impressive Breslin is might have to hear it from someone else — something tells me Breslin’s going to let his play do all the talking.

Euno Lee is a senior majoring in English literature. He is also the Managing Editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Euno What Time it is,” runs Wednesdays.