In the midst on an entire transformation around the new-look 5-2 defense, Anthony Sarao is suddenly getting his fair share of repetitions with the first team.
A member of the Trojan squad since 2010, Sarao understands the grind of putting in the proper time and effort towards earning positive results on the field. “I don’t really think about playing time,” Sarao, the hard-working redshirt sophomore said. “I am focused upon coming out and playing strong, and the playing time will come my way.”
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His performance earned him the starting linebacker spot during the opening game against Hawaii last season. Playing in 11 games overall with 40 tackles, Sarao’s best game of the season came in a nine-tackle effort against Colorado.
Now competing for starting time on the USC defense following some outstanding reps in practice, Sarao places his performance in a proper perspective. “We want to keep working on technique and being sound on defense,” Sarao said about keys to success in the second level.
Playing alongside the dynamic duo of Hayes Pullard and Lamar Dawson, a long list of injuries and setbacks have granted Sarao a unique opportunity to fly around with the first-team unit.
“Its nice to be able to compete on a daily basis, but at the end of the day we are all looking to get better,” Saro said, adding “We all help each other out there.”
His contributions to the program date back to a redshirt freshman season back in 2011, earning USC’s Defensive Service Team Player of the Year Award as voted by his peers. Garnering respect on and off the field comes rather easy for Sarao, who brings a goal-oriented approach and humble mindset into everything he accomplishes.
“Collectively as a group we have been competing, and thats what its all about,” the spark plug linebacker summated. “Working hard on defense and going out there to compete.”
Working alongside the likes of Dawson, Pullard and even the young pups Quinton Powell and Michael Hutchings, Sarao praises the leadership qualities of his position coach. “Coach Ekeler is a great coach,” according to Sarao. “He comes out with the same energy every day which is highly commendable. On this type of defense you have to be aggressive.”
Whether popping–and eventually breaking–sleds, chasing down teammates in tackling drills or working on reading the offensive line for running schemes, the Trojan linebacking corps will be all over the football field this fall. “You should expect a lot of aggressive plays, and we are the ones that have to come and fill that gap,”Sarao predicts, moving forward.
As the Trojans prepare for their second scrimmage of Fall Camp on Friday, expect the soft-spoken yet highly-respect contributor to have his name called on the gridiron this year.