NFL Draft Preview: USC LB Chris Galippo


November 12, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans linebacker Chris Galippo (54) scans the Washington Huskies offensive line during the second half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Name: Chris GalippoHeight: 6″1′Weight: 250Projection: Undrafted Free Agent

Chris Galippo is not meant to play football at the professional level. A harsh statement, it would appear, on the surface, but this is a classic example of a talented young man that things just haven’t gone right for. After coming to USC out of Servite High School as the No. 1 linebacker prospect in his class, Galippo was caught in the middle of the regime change between Lane Kiffin and Pete Carroll, one that required him to adjust to an entirely new defensive scheme while fending off younger, more athletic middle linebackers more suited to play in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa-2 scheme. In addition to that, Galippo’s body, specifically his back, has not withstood his time at USC well. A herniated disk kept him out a year, and nagging injuries have kept him from reaching anything near his full potential.

In terms of the product on the field, Galippo is a classic middle linebacker. His lateral quickness is solid, he’s a sure tackler, and his ability to follow assignments put him in the position to make big plays, especially in the passing game. Watching film, its clear that he’s willing to step in and learn any role that he’s asked to play, and will perform to the best of his abilities no matter the circumstances. The problem for Galippo is the fact that while he’s stellar at the middle linebacker position as it was originally intended, he’s simply entering into the league in the wrong era. Against teams such as Oregon, Galippo showed the world that while his lateral movement is great, he’s prone to breaking down in space and takes bad angles on tackles. In a league that targets a team’s greatest weakness, having a linebacker that often gets lost and breaks down in space could prove to be an Achilles’ heel, and something that teams would be wary of. Chris’ instincts aren’t in question here: it’s his ability to react. He simply doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to compensate for his lack of the ability to adapt mid-play, though some might attribute this to having to learn an entirely new defensive scheme, different from any that he’d studied up on in his preparation for advancement to college (not to mention that his body had been trained for an entirely different scheme).

Additionally, he’s shown that he doesn’t have the strength to fight through guards consistently on running plays, something that’ll be a problem going forward as linemen of the NFL continue to become faster and more athletic.

In terms of what he is as a moldable athlete, Galippo’s ceiling is pretty low. He’s not remarkably fast, or strong for that matter, something that hurts him in terms of draft stock due to the fact that there are freakish middle linebackers available to take, even in a relatively weak class. Considering the speed at which the game is played, the fluidity of today’s offenses, and the continued emergence of specialty situational players that do one thing really well, Galippo’s completeness actually hurts him. Much like when Steelers drafted Hines Ward, the question is not whether you’re getting a good player for the cost, it becomes a question of what exactly you’ll be putting on the field. The fact that Chris is good at a lot of things, but not great at any particular thing, is going to hurt him when it comes time for Roger Goodell to start calling names.

Taking all of that into account, however, it’s hard to imagine that Galippo won’t make an NFL roster. At 6’2 and 250 lbs, Chris has the prototypical size of a middle linebacker, the pedigree of a winner, and a certain degree of resilience that will make for a positive locker room force that’ll make him attractive to a few clubs. As Tim Tebow has shown us, a positive attitude and leadership ability go a long way in securing employment in a league that’s become increasingly concerned with its public image. Galippo will be on an NFL roster come opening day playing special teams, and if his health stabilizes he could even see some rotational play for a team that employs a 4-3 defense, or in nickel and dime package situations as a coverage linebacker. ‘SC fans should rest assured though, there won’t be any keeping this man off the field, whether he’s meant to be there or not.