56 days to USC football: Jordan Iosefa part of a crowded ILB group

RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy) /

Dennis Johnson is USC Football’s greatest ever No. 56. Could Jordan Iosefa take his lead to have a banner senior season at linebacker?

BEST OF USC. Top 10 Trojan LBs

The 2019 USC Football season countdown has reached the eight-week mark. We’re just 56 days away from seeing the Trojans face Fresno State in the newly renovated LA Coliseum.

With that, the countdown moves to No. 56, a number owned by linebackers at USC. Let’s talk about a pair of them…

Who wore it best?

Dennis Johnson is USC’s only All-American to wear No. 56, having earned the honor in 1979. He made the All-Pac-10 team twice, joining fellow Dennises Thurman and Edwards on a six-year streak of the Trojans having an All-Conference Dennis.

Johnson started three seasons at linebacker, leading the team thrice in tackles. He hit the 100-tackle mark each year, including 1978, when Troy won their first title under head coach John Robinson.

A year later, Johnson was a senior team captain along with eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charles White.  The veteran-laden Trojans finished a heartbreaking tie away from back-to-back championships. USC blew a 21-0 halftime lead to John Elway and Stanford at home, before failing to convert a last-second game-winning field goal as Jeff Fisher —yes, that Jeff Fisher— botched the hold.

Johnson followed his career with trips to the Hula and Senior Bowls in 1980, before being picked by the Vikings in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.

Who wears it now?

Jordan Iosefa is the Trojans’ lone wearer of No. 56 following the graduation of longtime offensive line reserve Jordan Austin. Iosefa got to USC as a relatively unheralded three-star recruit in the 2016 class, but quickly became one of defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s favorite players.

The flexible linebacker has started 16 games, while being a prime example of Pendergast’s Best XI philosophy. He moved from inside to outside linebacker to replace an injured Porter Gustin in 2017, and is now back inside heading into his senior season.

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That makes things interesting for Iosefa, as USC is the mix of changing its base defense to a 4-2-5 despite being heavily stocked with linebackers.

The Hawaiian will be in a three-way battle inside with Palaie Gaoteote and John Houston, even though there’s only two spots are available.

Knowing Pendergast, there will be flexibility – especially in various packages– but Iosefa looks likely to platoon as a senior. He split reps with Houston during the spring.

Stats to know: 56

  • USC’s 56th All-American was defensive end Charles Weaver in 1970.
  • Ronald Jones II’s Hail Mary checkdown touchdown from Sam Darnold went for 56 yards against Texas in 2017.
  • The Trojans have scored exactly 56 points on eight different occasions, including a 56-7 win over Oregon State in 1990 for Giles Pellerin’s 700th-consecutive game attended.
  • There’s also some heartbreaks with No. 56. Rob Johnson’s back-breaking interception against UCLA in 1993 came with 56 seconds left, while USC lost 56 rushing yards (with a net of +57) against Ohio State in the 2017 Cotton Bowl.

Next. 57 Days to Kickoff