Su’a Cravens: Best Suited as a Safety or Linebacker?


Su’a Cravens is one of the most talented USC football players of the last ten years, but there are endless questions about what position could truly get the most out of the junior hybrid.

RELATED: 6 USC Football Players That Could Win Awards in 2015

The root of the problem begins with one question: What can’t Cravens do?

He can cover deep. He can cover in the flats. He is both a strong tackler and a great pass rusher. He has soft hands, allowing him to make some grabs that great wide receivers may not be able to.

More from Reign of Troy

In his first two seasons at USC, has played two positions: strong safety and outside linebacker. Cravens has done great things at both.

As a freshman safety, he logged 52 tackles, four interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

As a sophomore linebacker he had 68 tackles, including 17 that went for a loss, with five sacks and three interceptions.

No matter where the coaches put him, it appears that Cravens is going to be a playmaker in the Trojans’ defense.

But should he play next season and where does he project to play in the NFL? Lets do pros and cons at each position and make a determination.

Su’a Cravens as a Safety:


  • Cravens is the best defensive back prospect on the team. He is able to cover, as well as come downhill and take on running backs who make it past the second level.
  • His experience playing wide receiver in high school helps him as he takes on wide receivers one-on-one, and he has soft hands to make interceptions.
  • Also, Cravens’s aggressive style is very complementary to Leon McQuay III, who is more coverage-oriented.


  • Being so far away from the line of scrimmage limits him as a player. Production like 17 tackles for loss is not possible as a safety; nor are five sacks.
  • Tackles for loss are the types of plays that prevent an offense from starting to get going, and keep the defense fresh and off the field. Staying on the field for long drives often results in burning out in the fourth quarter, which happened too many times for the Trojans last season.
  • Since McQuay and John Platttenburg played well enough and grew throughout the year, there is potential in the secondary even if Cravens is not a part of it. True freshmen Ykili Ross and Mavell Tell should also make their presence felt this season.

Su’a Cravens as a Linebacker:


  • As noted, in every major category besides interceptions, Cravens’ numbers went up dramatically as a linebacker.
  • He has a nose for the ball and is always around a play even if he is not the one making it. He is able to cover and tackle the shifty running backs of the Pac-12, which is no easy task –just ask Anthony Sarao in the Arizona game.
  • Cravens is a three down linebacker able to stay in on passing downs.
  • What is more, he is versatile. He was able to play WILL linebacker in the UCLA game to stop Brett Hundley from beating the Trojans for the most part with his feet, Though the same cannot be said of McQuay and stopping Hundley’s right arm.


  • In a 4-3 defense, Cravens would be the perfect SAM linebacker at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds. However, he is playing in 3-4 defense at USC, thus needing to play at a bigger size.
  • In many games Cravens would be a force in the beginning, but opposing coaches would make adjustments and take him out of the game due to his small stature in the current system. If he wants to continue to play at SAM in a 3-4, he needs to bulk up to about 235 or 240 pounds, to help him shed blocks and be a more dominant pass rusher. If not, he will continue to be taken out of games, something the Trojans cannot afford if they want to win a Pac-12 title and more.
  • Now that Jabari Ruffin is healthy –not to mention John Houston coming in– there is not the same need for Cravens to play at linebacker as there was last season, when there was no other option.

The Su’a Cravens Verdict

It appears that it may be best for Cravens both now and in the future is to be a safety and a nickel linebacker, if need be. He is projected as a first round safety in the NFL Draft, and is a natural fit there.

Also, given USC’s incoming freshman class of linebackers, there is no longer as much of a need for him to play linebacker as there was last season.

If Cravens were moved back to safety and paired with McQuay –or anyone else– it would give the Trojans the added knowledge that plays will stay in front of them, letting the secondary allow defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to be more creative with his blitzing schemes.

What say you, Trojan fans? Where do you see All-Pac-12 player fitting in the best? Vote in our poll and sound off below in the comments.

What position should Su'a Cravens play?

View Results

More from Reign of Troy