2005 Linebacker preview

Dallas Sartz

The linebacker position for the Trojans this year can accurately be described as an embarrassment of riches as there is an impressive array of talent available for the coaches to choose from. There is a good mix of veteran leadership with guys like Dallas Sartz and Collin Ashton to go along with promising youngsters such as Keith Rivers and the Fab Four Freshmen.

It's a testament to the amount of quality available that we enter fall camp not really knowing how things will shake out in terms of depth because there are so many different guys who can step up and play a major role. At this point it appears that two starting positions are set with Sartz at SLB and Rivers at WLB but the MLB spot was a three way battle in spring that couldn't be settled and that competition will grow even more intense when you add Rey Maualuga and Luthur Brown into the mix.

2005 Linebackers

Sartz is an experienced senior who is a good athlete with terrific instincts for the position. His strength is in pass coverage and Dallas is also one of the fastest linebackers in the group. This will be the year for Dallas to step into more of a leadership role and we saw signs of that in spring as he was definitely more of a vocal presence.

The expectations are extremely high for Rivers (photo) and he seems more than ready to introduce himself to the college football world and show why he is worthy of wearing #55 for the Trojans. Keith is probably the best overall athlete of the group with tremendous flexibility and speed. He combines those physical gifts with a hard working attitude that fits in perfectly in our program. Pete Carroll said during his Trojan Club Speaking Tour that Rivers could get some looks at MLB in certain situations but he will make his mark as a WLB.

The story of Oscar Lua is one of resiliency as he has fought back from two knee injuries to put himself in the thick of the battle for the MLB spot. Anybody who saw Lua as a freshman was tempted by the glimpses of his speed and hitting ability and during the spring he showed signs of that old form. Oscar is a punishing defender and he enters fall camp as the starter with no intentions of giving up his job.

Oscar was pushed in spring by a pair of players looking for increased playing time. Thomas Williams has made his reputation as a big hitter on special teams and it is a role he embraces with great pride. Thomas looks to earn more time in the backer rotation at either MLB or SLB and he is versatile enough to play either spot. Ryan Powdrell may be the most physically gifted of the men in the middle and he showed an impressive run-stuffing ability at the Trojan Huddle. Ryan has appealed for a redshirt year, a decision that should be reached anytime, and that would give him two more years in a Trojan uniform.

One of the more unsung players on the roster has to be Ashton. A true Trojan who has never missed a home game in his life, a pretty impressive statement, Collin has gone from walk-on to dependable reserve at all three linebacker spots. He is considered a coach on the field and is known for his football intelligence.

There is tremendous excitement this summer surrounding the arrival of the four incoming freshmen as all are capable of accomplishing great things during their stay at USC. We've had a chance to see them in action during 7 on 7 drills and it's clear that they will fit right in with our defense in terms of physical and mental attitudes. Rey Maualuga (photo) has slimmed down from 258 to 235 pounds and looks fantastic. He's an extremely strong player who can run down speedy receivers and he also has great instincts. Rey will begin his career as a MLB. Brian Cushing is a rangy, all-around athlete who will be at the SLB spot. Carroll calls Cushing one of the most competitive players he has seen and few things are going to impress the Trojan head coach as much as a strong competitive drive. Luthur Brown is a high energy guy who plays with a lot of emotion and that style will blend perfectly under these coaches. Luthur will get a look at both MLB and WLB during fall camp. There hasn't been as much hype for Kaluka Maiava as there was for the other three LB recruits but that doesn't mean Kaluka is any less of a player. He's a blue collar guy who arrived at 225 pounds and he's got the makings of a good one. The SC coaches talk about his football instincts in glowing tones and Kaluka is versatile enough to end up at several different positions, for now he will begin his career at WLB.

Overview

The linebacker play was a strong point of the defense last year and it's hard to imagine that things would improve following the departure of Matt Grootegoed and Lofa Tatupu to the NFL yet that's precisely what could happen. It may take a little time for the current group to settle on a rotation but once that happens we should be looking at a golden age for the Trojan linebackers in the years to come. There is simply so much young talent at the position that it's hard to imagine anything less.

LB Roster

#59 Collin Ashton 6-1, 220 SR
#52 Luthur Brown 6-3, 235 FR
#10 Brian Cushing 6-4, 235 FR
#45 Oscar Lua 6-1, 240 JR
#43 Kaluka Maiava 6-0, 225 FR
#47 Clay Matthews 6-3, 225 FR (walk-on)
#58 Rey Maualuga 6-3, 235 FR
#56 Ryan Powdrell 6-0, 250 SR
#55 Keith Rivers 6-3, 220 SO
#42 Dallas Sartz 6-5, 240 SR
#41 Thomas Williams 6-3, 230 SO

Projected Depth Chart to start Fall Camp

WLB - Rivers, Ashton, Maiava
MLB - Lua, Powdrell, Williams, Maualuga, Brown
SLB - Sartz, Williams, Cushing

Returning Stat Leaders

Sartz 48 tackles (22 solo), 3.5 TFL, 1 INT
Rivers 25 tackles (13 solo), 2.5 sacks, 1 INT
Ashton 16 tackles (9 solo), 1 forced fumble
Williams 14 tackles (8 solo), 2 TFL
Lua 13 tackles (8 solo), 1 TFL
* Taputu and Groots were #1 and #2 leading tacklers on the 2004 team

2005 USC Position Previews

Thursday, July 7th - Linebacker
Monday, July 11th - Defensive Line
Thursday, July 14th - Defensive Back
Monday, July 18th - Special Teams
Thursday, July 21st - Offensive Line
Monday, July 25th - Wide Receiver
Thursday, July 28th - Tight End
Monday, August 1st - Running Back
Thursday, August 4th - Quarterback

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