Quinton Powell definitely stands out from the crop amongst the Trojans’ highly-touted 13 freshman recruits. He came to Southern California from Florida and was one of the lesser known commits to the class, as he was not one of the names we heard often in the months leading up to National Signing Day. Now that he is in Troy, Powell–who stands 6’2′ with many accolades and expectations lined across his broad shoulders–is learning his role in USC’s new-look 5-2 scheme, and how to fit into it going forward.
The first few days on the gridiron were filled with plenty of teaching moments in the young man’s football career. “I remember the first practice that I had was really tough, ’cause I had to remember the plays, and there were a lot of plays,” Powell said, adding that, “I went from high school to college and the speed is totally different.”
Arriving on campus following an outstanding career at Mainland High in Daytona Beach (Fla.), including Prep Star All-American, ESPN 150 and Dayton Beach News-Journal All-Area first team honors, Powell faced a major learning curve early in Fall Camp. “If you don’t know what you are doing you better play fast play aggressive or get beat,” Powell said. “That’s all we did back in high school, just play fast.”
Not only did Powell adjust from life on the east coast, but he also fell into a rather unique position change from his days on the football field. ”I have never played middle linebacker before in my life,” said Powell, the sixth-ranked outside linebacking prospect out of high school last season. “At first I was skeptical about it, just taking in everything the coaches were preaching by just playing fast. But from now to end of the camp, I am doing really good.”
Weighing in at 205 pounds, Powell has put on ten pounds since summer practice, aspiring to reach the 212 threshold to best preserve his speed and elusiveness on the football field. “I was somewhat surprised, like, ‘Wow this is totally different from high school,’” Powell said about scanning the Trojans’ practice during his first few days on campus. “Everyone plays the same or even better in college,” he said.
Powell continues to adjust to life in a new position by turning heads in camp.”I am adjusting real good,” Powell says. ”I am taking my abilities and actually putting it inti the defense here and that is speed, I am doing whatever I can to utilize my speed.”
Working under coach Mike Ekeler,–of whom Powell says the two are similar in that they are very passionate about the game–the young linebacker is spinning heads with his aggressive and quick play, even garnering lofty praise from Lane Kiffin.
“If you’re a true freshman and you’re functioning, you’re probably going to be a really good player someday,” Kiffin said last week. ”Most true freshman come in and they can barely function in their first, second week of training camp… and not just function but [he's doing] it at the mike linebacker.”
While the days wind down until the start of the regular season, Powell feels honored of the praise his fantastic play on defense is getting. This, after just barely two weeks of experience at his position. “It means the world to me,” Powell said. “We go out here working and we expect something from the coaches, we want to know what they think and stuff like that, so just hearing that makes me want to hurt harder and let’s me know I have a chance.”
Patience and a good deal of flexibility are beginning to pay dividends for the freshman, who has the luxury of working with three-year starter Lamar Dawson on the Trojan’s vaunted defense. “Lamar has gotten me better physical, mentally and just getting the plays,” Powell said about his personal improvement. “I am being able to run faster, and work faster because I know and have knowledge, all on the other side of me.”
Talk about an impressive first two weeks of practice: Powell has already gained the trust of his coaching staff by assuming the responsibility of play-caller, the heart of the second-string defense. The true freshman will continue to wreak havoc during Fall Camp and beyond, showcasing bursts of blazing quick speed all over the gridiron.