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USC depth chart: Breaking down the Trojan linebacker unit

The USC depth chart at linebacker is looking for a resurgence. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
The USC depth chart at linebacker is looking for a resurgence. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
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The USC depth chart at linebacker could be shaken up by the arrival of Todd Orlando.

Linebacker should be among the most intriguing positions to track on the USC depth chart in 2020.

After all, the Trojans just got done reconfiguring their linebacker corps in the final year of Clancy Pendergast’s reign. Now Todd Orlando is in town and will bring his own ideas for the best way to utilize the personnel in those key spots.

Spring Camp’s cancellation has interfered with our understanding of the exact lineup for the Trojan linebackers, but educated guesses still bring it all together…

USC depth chart at linebacker:

Orlando’s hybrid 3-4/3-3-5 system will typically deploy three linebackers along with a nickelback or a hybrid safety/linebacker. When it comes to the linebackers, the designations may sound different, but they’re not all that unfamiliar.

The B-Backer is an outside linebacker whose primary role is to rush off the edge, though they may be called upon to drop into coverage.

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The Mic linebacker is the middle linebacker who is responsible for calling the defense and plugging gaps in the run game.

The rover linebacker is more or less the weakside linebacker with demands in coverage. However, Orlando is a fan of blitzing his rover up the interior, creating plenty of pass-rushing opportunities for the position.

B-Backer:Drake JacksonHunter EcholsAbdul-Malik McClainTuasivi Nomura

As said in Reign of Troy’s defensive line depth chart deep dive, Drake Jackson will be on the field at all opportunities. Some or most of those may come at outside linebacker. Working off the edge is already his forte, but his athleticism should allow him to fulfill the coverage requirements of the B-backer.

USC’s former Predator linebackers seem even more suited to the B-backer role. Hunter Echols and Abdul-Malik McClain each have a shot at rising into a starting role if Jackson sticks at defensive end.

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Tuasivi Nomura took his redshirt last year and will undoubtedly be trying to get into the conversation as well.

Mic Linebacker:Jordan IosefaSolomon TuliaupupuRalen GoforthManinoa Tufono

Until someone unseats Jordan Iosefa from a starting role, he has to be penciled in as the most veteran member of the linebacker lineup. Having said that, there are more dynamic players behind him in the pecking order and it’s unclear if Orlando will hold him in the same high regard as Clancy Pendergast. If there’s anyone you’d trust to handle organizing the defense from the middle, it’s Iosefa.

Solomon Tuliaupupu is finally healthy after two years on the sidelines with a nagging foot injury. Fall Camp should tell the tale as to how serious a contender he is for a starting role. Based on his high school performance, winning National Defensive Player of the Year from USA Today at Mater Dei, he should look to make an impact at long last.

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Ralen Goforth had his own excellent high school exploits and was able to pay them off a bit more recently with promising practice outings through the 2019 season. His instinctual and reliable play would be ideal for the Mic, or middle, linebacker job where tackling and run support are key.

Maninoa Tufono redshirted in 2019 and could be on tap for a breakout campaign but he’ll have to prove it first.

Rover Linebacker:Palaie GaoteoteKana’i MaugaEli’Jah WinstonJuliano Falaniko

Some think Palaie Gaoteote would be more suited to an outside linebacker role, but Orlando’s 3-4 offers the best of both worlds for the former five-star in the rover spot. He can retain his spot on the inside while also getting plenty of pass-rushing opportunities.

The skills required of the rover would also suit Kana’i Mauga, who started his career on the USC depth chart as an outside linebacker but transitioned to the interior last year. He saw starting time in that role a performed admirably.

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Eli’Jah Winston is a bit of a wildcard. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the versatile athlete lineup at any of the linebacker spots. For now the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder seems like a decent fit at rover.

Juliano Falaniko has seen most of his action to date on special teams and its tough to see where he could break into the lineup. Like the others, he’s a former outside linebacker whose experience moving to an inside role last year could help him.

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