USC Football Spring Camp Review: Strength at outside linebacker

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

The top of the depth chart at outside linebacker looks like a major strength for USC Football in 2018, but will newfound depth be utilized?

Despite losing the services of All-American Uchenna Nwosu, USC Football returns a promising outside linebacker corps for 2018.

Here’s what the Trojan OLBs accomplished this spring…

Roster Rundown

Returning (6):*Porter Gustin, Sr.Oluwole Betiku, Jr.*Jordan Iosefa, Jr.Juliano Falaniko, So.Hunter Echols, RS-Fr.Kana’i Mauga, Fr.

Fall Enrollees (2):Abdul-Malik McClain, Fr.Elijah Winston, Fr.

*Returning starter

Perhaps the biggest boost for USC’s defense this spring was the return of predator linebacker Porter Gustin, who stepped straight into a leadership position in the front seven to fill the void left by Nwosu.

Gustin had the look of an All-American, showing no signs that last year’s toe injury had any lingering effects.

Nwosu may be irreplaceable in a direct sense, but Jordan Iosefa stepped up to claim the open starting job opposite Gustin without any fuss. The junior backer is a favorite of USC’s coaching staff and his spring performance didn’t put their faith in him to shame.

With Gustin and Iosefa settled in as starters, the major questions lie behind them. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is perfectly comfortable with not rotating his players, and he could do that at outside linebacker this year as he did last.

At the same time, there are signs of life with the likes of Juliano Falaniko and Hunter Echols progressing in Year 2. Most encouragingly, spring enrollee Kana’i Mauga put on a show and may now be a legitimate rotational option.

Mauga’s rise could also raise concerns over the viability of Falaniko and Echols, but for now it seems the freshman’s performances were more a reflection of his attributes than a result of their deficiencies. Echols in particularly showed signs of real pass rushing ability.

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Unfortunately, Oluwole Betiku didn’t participate this spring due to injury.

Biggest Winner

Mauga was the biggest riser in his first spring as a Trojan. He arrived larger than expected, retained his quickness from high school and showed the necessary athleticism to thrive behind Iosefa. He even took first team reps when Iosefa went down with a knee injury.

The quick start was important for Mauga, who needed to get a head start on the talented group of other linebackers USC nabbed in the class of 2018.

Biggest Disappointment

Betiku was a five-star prospect coming out of high school but he has yet to deliver on that potential. This spring could have been his chance to rise into a contributing place, perhaps even pushing Iosefa for a situational role. Hip surgery keeping him out of Spring Camp didn’t help him get off the best start though.

TRENDING: Five Unanswered Questions from Spring Camp

Now, it’ll all come down to Fall Camp, when it may be a make-or-break moment for Betiku. He could quickly be passed over by the new generation of linebackers on the way.