The Trojans got a big win in Pullman on Saturday afternoon, beating the Washington State Cougars 44-17 in the fog and rain. But it could all be for naught, as star defensive player Su’a Cravens left the game with a knee sprain.
Cravens was on crutches during the second half of the game, according to Marshall Cherrington of USCFootball.com. That is always a worrisome sign for the Trojans.
For now the true severity is unknown. It comes down to the ligaments affected, in addition to the grade of the sprain.
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Should it be an MCL sprain, which was likely the injury suffered by J.R. Tavai last week at Utah given his timetable, Cravens could miss a few weeks if the grade is high. MCL sprains have an average return time of 3 for 4 weeks, putting the rest of the regular season in jeopardy, especially games against Cal and UCLA.
If it’s the ACL, well, you know how that goes. An ACL tear is a nine month rehabilitation, which would force Cravens to miss the remainder of the season and all of spring ball.
It’s worth mentioning that ACL sprains typically go unnoticed by players, and ACL tears can be played on. Cravens went down immediately, similarly to Tavai last week, and Marqise Lee last season.
But of course, we’ll have to wait for official word, as no one knows the severity of Cravens’ particular injury thus far.
According to Ryan Abraham, Hayes Pullard indicated that Cravens was walking around in the locker room after the game and seemed confident that it wasn’t serious. Head coach Steve Sarkisian echoed those sentiments.
That said, if he does misses time, USC is thoroughly behind the eight ball at both outside linebacker positions.
The Trojans are already without Tavai at rush end, and Cravens is only playing strongside linebacker because Jabari Ruffin tore his ACL in training camp. Plus, linebacker Lamar Dawson is out for the year as he still tries to recover from an ACL tear suffered last year.
Next men up on the totem pole?
Per USC’s depth chart, it’s true freshman Uchenna Nwosu and sophomore Quinton Powell. Other reserve linebackers include true freshman Olajuwon Tucker and walk-on Joel Foy.
The other option could be re-positioning Michael Hutchings from inside linebacker to the strongside.
Similarly to Cravens, Hutchings played both safety and linebacker in high school and has the skill set to handle the position. He’s also the most advanced of the players mentioned.
Though, a midseason move could prove difficult, as it was only recently that Cravens was able to learn the full defensive playbook since moving over back in late August.
With low numbers and previous injuries, the Trojans will be hoping that the severity of the Cravens injury is as minor as their gut instincts have them believe.
So far this season, the sophomore has 42 tackles, four sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions on his way to what should be All-Pac-12 honors.
Luckily for USC, the bye week comes at the right time, as they’ll have 12 days off before playing Cal at the Coliseum on November 13th.