USC football's 25 best three-star recruits of the modern era

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23. J.R. Tavai

National: 699 | State: 69 | Position: 3 (FB)

J.R. Tavai played at fullback and on the defensive line for Mira Costa before going full-time on defense at USC. His career was marred throughout by nagging injuries, but he turned out to be a key defensive figure for the Trojans by the end.

After two years as a back up, Tavai got his chance to start as an outside linebacker in Clancy Pendergast’s 5-2 defensive in 2013 after Morgan Breslin went down with an injury. He started eight times and logged 56 tackles, including eight for a loss and 3.5 sacks.

In 2014, Tavai thrived once again at outside linebacker having taken over completely for the departed Breslin. He became USC’s primary pass rushing force, leading the team with seven sacks and trailing only Su’a Cravens with 13.5 tackles for loss.

Unfortunately, like his predecessor, Tavai suffered an injury which held him out late in the season, though he still earned an All-Pac-12 honorable mention in addition to USC Football’s Courage Award.