The history of USC linebackers features a slew of All-Americans, national champions and hard hitters. But who’s the greatest of them all?
The mythical establishment of Linebacker U often gets thrown around college football. Schools like Penn State and Miami have historically had valid claims to the throne, but why not USC?
The Trojans have fielded a host of decorated and heralded linebackers over the years, including 16 All-Americans.
Add in the pageantry of the Club 55 and the iconic No. 35 and 58, USC has a strong history that makes it nearly impossible to try and sort out who’s the best of the best.
First, let’s start with the players who were worthy of making the list, but lost out to there being simply too many legendary linebackers to choose from.
- Keith Rivers (2004-2007): A three-year starter and an All-American in 2007, Rivers is one of the vaunted banner carriers of Club 55. Despite the national accolades coming in his senior season, Rivers was at his best in 2006, when he recorded a team-high 85 tackles, along with 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
- Willie McGinest (1990-1993): If you were putting together a list of the best NFL linebackers to come out of USC, McGinest is easily in the Top 3. But in college, the two-time All-Pac-10 first-teamer was a lethal defensive end. He won the school’s Sid Cherniss Award in 1992 given to USC’s best defensive player.
- Duane Bickett (1981-1984): Like McGinest, Bickett moved around a fair amount at USC, from both inside and outside linebacker, and even defensive tackle. He claimed the Cherniss award and All-American status at linebacker in 1984, when he amassed an ungodly 151 tackles and 16 tackles for loss as a senior.
- Chip Banks (1978-1981): Nearly making the Top 10 list, Banks was a bonafide star on USC’s defense. As a junior in 1980, he recorded 15 tackles for loss. But it was his 137-tackle, four-interception senior campaign that ultimately saw him named an All-American.
- Clay Matthews II (1974-1977): Most known for a his long NFL career, Matthews was a force for Trojans, earning All-American honors in 1977 and recording 195 tackles over his final two seasons.
- Adrian Young (1965-1967): A team captain and All-American in 1967, Young was a huge part of John McKay’s second national championship team. His four interceptions against Notre Dame still stand as a single-game record both at USC and within the Pac-12.
- Damon Bame (1962-1963): In just two seasons at USC, Bame produced a pair of All-American seasons at linebacker, including being a pivotal leader on the Trojans’ 1962 title team.