Hunter Echols committed to finishing career with USC football

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

Hunter Echols was rumored to be seeking a transfer earlier this year. Now he’s having more fun than ever and committed to staying with USC football.

Defense Wins Day 14. SPRING CAMP NOTES

Just before the start of USC football Spring Camp, three more Trojans were rumored to have tossed their names into the transfer portal. Receiver Velus Jones Jr. still appears to be on his way out. Cornerback Greg Johnson missed one day of camp before rescinding his name and returning to the team.

Outside linebacker Hunter Echols was the third potential departure.

TRENDING: Palaie Gaoteote wants to be best ever USC linebacker

“I was frustrated,” Echols said after USC’s 14th practice of Spring Camp, all of which he suited up for after opting not to go down the transfer route after all.

The frustration seemed to stem from the Trojans’ decision to do away with the Predator linebacker position, moving towards a bigger front with a more-traditional defensive end on the field. On the surface, that would have put the 240-pound redshirt sophomore out of a job.

In the end, Echols’ connection to USC won out.

CHECK OUT: Kevin Porter Jr. declares for NBA Draft

“This is my family. This is where I wanted to be from high school. It’s where I recruited people to come to and it’s always going to be my home,” he said.

So too did his desire to compete for his place.

“I’m a competitor. I like to compete. I want to be the best,” he said.

MORE: Hope in the Spring Showcase, but also uncertainty

So where does he stand now on the transfer question?

“I’m a Trojan and I’m going to be a Trojan for the rest of my time in college,” Echols confirmed.

Things have turned out alright for Echols, who does indeed have a place in the USC defense this year.

The Predator spot may be gone, but the strongside linebacker position is still a feature in the base defense. With Jordan Iosefa, Kana’i Mauga and Juliano Falaniko moved to inside linebacker roles, Echols and fellow outside linebackers Eli’Jah Winston and Abdul-Malik McClain have filled in the gaps at SAM.

SEE ALSO: Where does Connor Murphy fit in USC’s defense?

Echols and company also feature in the Trojan and Greyhound packages for third down passing situations.

Having spent this spring learning the new defense and his role in each different package, Echols now says he’s “having more fun” than he’s ever had at USC.

More from Reign of Troy

“It’s a new team this year. It’s a different energy,” Echols said. “Everybody believes in each other and it’s just a new year and time to prove ourselves. So we’re out here having fun.”

Echols’ describes pass rushing as his “specialty,” and that’s certainly where he has stood out in camp, putting pressure on the Trojan quarterbacks. However, his ability to play the run has been his greatest area of growth.

“This spring I think I showed I can play the run. I can set edges this year. I want to play the run,” Echols said. “I’m more physical this year. I’m coming down, I’m spilling, I’m trying to get physical. I’m trying to get under linemen’s shoulder pads and trying to bring that physicality to my game.”

Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast backed up Echols’ assessment.

“He’s done a nice job setting the edge in the running game and he’s explosive versus the pass,” Pendergast said.

MORE: Graham Harrell evaluates USC’s QB battle

It’s not just what Echols is doing physically. His attitude has been a plus this spring, despite the brief flirtation with a departure.

“I think he’s really kind of grown up, so to speak, on the practice field and in the weight room,” Pendergast said. “This summer’s going to be really important for him, but I’ve seen a real change in his demeanor and how he’s playing.”