With Christian Rector in doubt because of a hand injury, Jordan Iosefa could be key to USC Football’s defense against ASU.
How do you solve a problem like an injury to Christian Rector? If you’re USC’s defensive coaches, you might do it in an unexpected way.
The replacement outside linebacker left practice early on Wednesday with a hand injury, one which has the potential to keep him out this weekend.
Though the Trojans don’t know for sure what Rector’s status for the weekend is, they got a head start on filling his role on Wednesday, though the solution isn’t the immediately obvious one.
While redshirt freshman Connor Murphy and sophomore Oluwole Betiku technically serve as backups in Rector’s predator position, the two may be passed over in the starting lineup for the second time this year—the first being when Rector took over for Porter Gustin after he went down injured in the first place.
Now, USC is preparing to use inside linebacker Jordan Iosefa on the edge against ASU.
“We want to play the best 11 guys,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said, which says something about where Murphy and Betiku rank in the pecking order.
Iosefa does make sense as the Trojans prepare to face an attack like the Sun Devils. ASU will try to spread USC out. They can throw in some read option and boast a duo of running backs which could do damage on the ground. Iosefa offers a more versatile and experience option on the outside.
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For one, he’s quicker than Murphy and Betiku and more athletic. Size and strength will be less of a factor in Tempe than it was against Notre Dame’s powerful front.
“Being able to come off the edge with speed is going to be important,” head coach Clay Helton said.
Iosefa has spent time on the outside before. He trained there last year, giving coaches confidence in his ability to shift over again now.
“It’s nothing new for him from a preparation standpoint. He just has to wear two hats so to speak,” Pendergast said.
With Iosefa more likely to stand in for Rector against ASU’s normal personnel, the other two backups could be called upon if the Sun Devils break out a tight end or two, showing USC a bigger look more suited for the 260-pound Murphy or 250-pound Betiku.