March 11th marks the start of USC spring practice, a time when slates are swept clean and position battles begin anew. Steve Sarkisian and his new staff will get their first real look at the 2014 squad, which means Trojan fans also have a chance to start fresh evaluating the players who will make or break the new season.
This week at Reign Of Troy we’re taking a look at what to expect from each position group, now onto the linebackers:
Seniors – Lamar Dawson, Hayes Pullard (RS)
Juniors – Charles Burks (RS), Anthony Sarao (RS)
Sophomores - Michael Hutchings, Quinton Powell, Jabari Ruffin (RS), Scott Starr (RS)
Freshmen – N/A
Incoming - Malik Dorton, Olajuwon Tucker
Three of the four linebacker positions in Justin Wilcox’s defense are wide open this spring. That means there will be plenty of intrigue surrounding these players as we try to figure out who will win the starting positions and exactly how they will be deployed.
Hayes Pullard is your middle linebacker, no questions asked. From there things get much more muddled.
Beside Pullard, Lamar Dawson and Anthony Sarao both have starting experience in the weakside position. Nipping at their heels, Michael Hutchings and Quinton Powell earned playing time in their freshman seasons and will be looking to force themselves into the picture.
Unfortunately for Dawson, the knee injury which opened the door for Sarao in 2013 will limit his participation in spring at best. He will have to hope that no one does enough to secure the spot before he can jump back into it.
Jabari Ruffin started on the outside against Hawaii last year but J.R. Tavai secured that position when Morgan Breslin’s season ended for good. Tavai could be in play for the defensive end position opposite Leonard Williams but there’s also a chance he could complicate Ruffin’s aspirations by competing at linebacker again. Of course, with Devon Kennard’s departure, the two could both secure a starting position opposite each other, dependong on how Wilcox sets up his defense.
Scott Starr will also attempt to make himself a factor on the outside in his third season while Powell has the ability to push for time on the edge as well.
As noted by ESPN’s Johnny Curren in his early look at the Trojan depth chart, Wilcox may also experiment with Su’a Cravens at linebacker the same way he used Shaq Thomspon as a hybrid safety-linebacker-nickelback with the Huskies.
Most Likely To Keep Their Starting Job: Hayes Pullard
Most Likely To Lose Their Starting Job: Anthony Sarao
Battle To Watch: Weakside Linebacker
Most To Gain From Spring: Michael Hutchings
Most To Lose From Spring: Lamar Dawson
More position previews: