Galippo gives way to understudy

Reading between the lines, coaches are clearly looking to the future by naming Lamar Dawson the nominal starter at middle linebacker over Chris Galippo.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

Even if USC middle linebacker Chris Galippo has never seen the 1967 classic "Cool Hand Luke," he can certainly relate to that legendary line uttered by Paul Newman after being unceremoniously removed from the starting lineup at Colorado.

Linebackers coach Joe Barry really had no good answer for the change, which will result in a second consecutive start for true freshman Lamar Dawson against Washington on Saturday.

"It was ultimately Coach Kiffin's decision, but I think … We just wanted to get another guy in there," Barry said.

Galippo had no better reply.

"According to them, I guess … I mean, obviously I haven't played perfect," he said.

But head coach Lane Kiffin was more revealing when discussing why Dawson, unlike most first-year defenders, had found the transition from high school to college so natural.

"Lamar's a great student," Kiffin said. "His approach to the game is very, very sharp. Obviously, between my dad and Joe (Barry), they've had a lot of great linebackers over the years, a lot of high-first-round-pick rookies. They say Lamar has picked things up as well as, if not better than, anybody they've had. I think really his ability to pick things up and how serious he is about being great have enabled Lamar to do so well, like he was in camp.

"He would have played a lot more by now if he wouldn't have had the setback (spraining his ankle against Syracuse)."

Translation: Galippo has three games left in his career, Dawson three years.

Galippo is the present, for a little while longer anyway, Dawson the future.

At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Dawson provides a more physical presence than Galippo, who had been worn down by a workload that was far too heavy and a series of back injuries.

Having Dawson flanked by redshirt freshmen Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard, the Trojans are now presented with the intriguing prospect of incredible continuity, potentially starting the same three players there for the next three seasons.

It is an audition.

That's the only reason to pull Galippo so late in his final season, even with coaches admitting they plan to split reps evenly between the two.

"We rotated Chris (against Colorado), but the plan is and will still be this week that he will play as close to 50-50 as is possible," Barry said. "We just wanted to see what Lamar had and what he could do."

That first look started poorly, as Dawson struggled to line up the defense in timely fashion. The Buffaloes drove 69 yards down the field on their opening possession for a touchdown, but USC responded, allowing just 111 yards on the next seven possessions in the first half.

While Colorado has a handful of offensive standouts, the degree of difficulty for Dawson goes way up against Washington and Oregon.

Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian will dial up the crossing routes that gave Dawson trouble early in Boulder, and can also rely on running back Chris Polk, equally adept as a rusher and receiver.

The Ducks are simply the most challenging offense in college football with their tempo and precision. Dawson will have to be quicker and more effective in lining up teammates and making calls because Oregon can capitalize on any mistake at any moment.

If Dawson struggles, Barry said he would have no qualms about making a change back to Galippo.

"You don't come out and play, we're going to give another guy a shot," Barry said.

For his part, Galippo is ready for what comes next.

"It's not the first time I have been in this situation," he said. "I have confidence in myself. It's really just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities I get on Saturday and ending these last few games with a bang."

Even if he doesn't know why.


USCFootball.com Top Stories