Position Preview - Linebackers

A look at the linebacker spot for the 2001 Trojans

If one aspect of the defense causes the Trojan faithful concern, it is justifiably the linebacker unit. SC has a new coach in Nick Holt and he is a far cry from his country club predecessor.

Holt is excited about this unit although he had a disappointing, but not unexpected loss when Darryl Knight left the team for grades. Unfortunately for Darryl, he had struggled academically throughout his college career. Losing him, because of his athleticism and playing time will hurt the squad. Because of that the Trojans will field three new starters who, combined, have very little playing time. Both Zeke Moreno and Markus Steele have moved on to the NFL. The other starter, Kori Dickerson, has been moved to Tight End and is showing why former Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson begged his head coach for this position change throughout the 2000 season. Regardless, this means that as a whole, the unit is going to have to step up.

Many believe that replacing a linebacker is fairly simple because it requires more physical skill than intelligence. If this is true then SC has the horses. However, if one were to look back as recently as 2000 and the play of Steele, one could question that philosophy. Linebacker is similar to playing shortstop in baseball. It requires great physical skills, but also the ability to captain a defense. Aaron Graham will be the man in the middle and certainly he has shown the hunger for that position. He will be backed up by redshirt freshman Lee Webb. Webb played both linebacker and fullback in highschool. He was brought to SC as a fullback, but has shined on defense.

When interviewed about each player, the only comment from Holt regarding John Cousins was that he wished he'd have him around for one more year after this season. The player people are excited about is incoming freshman Marvin Simmons. Whether Marvin will be kept in the middle of moved to the outside remains to be seen but in either case he will bring an immediate impact to this unit. The question, of course, is whether Simmons will be academically eligible to enter SC and if so, for how long? He has been working out with the team this Summer and all appears solid, but it's a question that will continue to be asked until he graduates or moves on to the NFL. The other incoming freshmen are Bobby Otani and Austin Jackson. Otani is a former teammate of Jacob Rogers and Chad Pierson and both Trojans swear by this young man. Jackson, a USC legacy through his father ex-Trojan Melvin Jackson, was sought out by major programs throughout the country, but committed to SC and is ready to prove his worth.

It has been questioned as to whether or not the coaches will move either Troy Polamalu or Matt Grootegoed up from the SS position to shore up the linebacker corps. Having their excellent athleticism and big hitting ability on the field simultaneously is a strong enough desire that we may see this move before the end of the season. At present, however, they will make a fine rotation and SC is lucky to have them.

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