Cumming Comes at Opportune Time

Ross Cumming

Ross Cumming has made a lot of position moves, from linebacker to tight end to fullback. But with those transitions, he's also made unofficial university history.

He may have broken a USC record if such a statistic was collected.

Ross Cumming has presumably had the most coaches of any football player in university history.

His first two seasons as a linebacker, he was taught by then USC linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. He also played on special teams, under former coach Brian Schneider.

This season and part of 2010, Cumming has had the guidance of current linebackers coach Joe Barry, in addition to tight ends coach Justin Mesa, running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu and special teams coach John Baxter. And in case he tied the record with a former player, Cumming has also had two different head coaches.

Cumming figured he wouldn't see a ton of playing time at linebacker because of the incoming depth at the position, so he became open to any kind of playing opportunity. Reduced numbers due to injuries at tight end enabled the senior to make the move over to offense.

The eventual goal was fullback, the coaches told him. But it was a waiting game at tight end until he could prove that he was able to grasp the blocking schemes and adapt an offensive mindset.

"Bringing Ross over we didn't really think about it. We looked at the depth chart and he's a late kind of add," Coach Mesa said after Cumming first made the switch. "But I was real comfortable and confident in him just because he's a football player and he understands the game and the physicality."

At 6-1, 225, Cumming has spent four years hitting people, rather than taking them. Ironically, he finds fullback to be a seamless transition.

"The guy that turns the ball back on defense, that's perfect for fullback, just going down, putting your head in there," Cumming said.

"Ross is like a natural fullback, he's picking it up really fast," fellow tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison said.

Cumming said fullback is the mirror opposite of linebacker. But his first test at the spot was no easy assignment. Against ASU, Cumming had to focus on one of the best linebackers in the country in the Sun Devils' Vontaze Burfict.

"Here's a guy that had been [on offense] for a couple weeks, went in, did a really good job, matched up on [Vontaze] Burfict a couple times and played really well," head coach Lane Kiffin said.

Praise from the head coach is a good sign. But when asked what he would consider a good season, Cumming deflected from himself.

"Honestly 11-1, that's it. No joke," he said.

Protecting his teammates and putting the success of others ahead of himself, Cumming is even starting to think like a fullback, a position that tends to see the tailback get the majority of the glory.

So in comes Cumming to rescue a struggling tight end and fullbacks group. While Xavier Grimble has recorded two touchdowns on the season and Randall Telfer one, their pass protection is still a work in progress as is their consistency in the open field.

If the Santa Margarita High/Naval Academy Prep product continues to improve, Cumming could become more of a staple blocking for a player like Marc Tyler or D.J. Morgan, which would allow a veteran tight end like Ellison to go back to a more prominent role on the line.

To speed up the process, Cumming has taken to teammate Ellison for advice.

"He'll just ask questions here and there, so I'll just try to help him out. I'm learning the same stuff so we're trying to figure this out together. If I see something, I'll help him out," Ellison said.

With a brain full of knowledge from a slew of teammates, coaches and years being at USC, Cumming could do more than just make unofficial university history for having the most coaches ever. He can also help his team win.

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