Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jabari Ruffin went down with an ACL injury early in fall camp this year which prompted a change in the USC defense. The Trojans needed somebody to replace Ruffin at the SAM position, and they looked no further than Scott Felix, who was playing the RUSH position at the time.
“Yeah, I usually play SAM, but then I’ll rotate with RUSH,” Felix said. “It just depends on our game plan. Whatever Wilcox tells me to do, I’m doing it.”
Before Ruffin’s injury, Felix only had experience with the RUSH position. He was practicing at that position for the duration of fall camp up to that point, and had his mind set that he would be playing that position during the season. As he switched to SAM, he was diving head first into a new adventure, though he had some help from his teammates early on. He thought he may have been helping fellow sophomore Quinton Powell at first, but it actually ended up being the other way around.
“Yeah a little bit,” Felix said when asked if he’s been helping Quinton Powell. “He’s actually been helping me. Him and Nwosu, because they learned that stuff before I did. I was learning RUSH the entire time then once Jabari went down, we switched to that. They were helping me a lot when I first got in there and they’ve made it a smooth transition for me.”
Felix has found himself working with the defensive line a lot this season and he’s been very pleased with the rotation of the group.
“I feel like it works very well,” Felix said. “We obviously don’t have the same numbers as everybody else does, but this d-line is special. Nobody really focuses on that. We all know that we have to hold each other to a higher standard just because of the circumstances we’re faced with right now, but I think we have a real good rotation right now.”
Since he’s been working with the defensive linemen so much, Felix has grown close with some of the guys in the group. One guy he’s bonded with is Leonard Williams. The potential All-American was hobbled last week with an ankle injury heading into the Stanford game and Felix didn’t know if we has going to be good to play at the time. A little nervousness crept into Felix’s mind, but it was quickly erased.
“I was a little nervous,” Felix said. “I’m not going to lie. I was talking to him in pre-game and I just saw him limping. Me and Leonard are really close friends so I was just asking him, ‘You gonna be good man?’ Then he was like, ‘I don’t know man.’ Then he just kept going and just kept going, and we just kind of forgot about it throughout the game. I gave him a big hug after and told him I was real proud of him. I was happy for him.”
Hayes Pullard’s ejection surprised many on Saturday, not because of the actual play that happened, but because you wouldn’t have expected it from the senior leader. Though the defense could have hung their heads, they bonded because of the situation and became even stronger.
“Yeah, it did,” Felix said, “We were all on the field. We were all just talking to each other. Can't really say some of the things we said, but it really did bring us closer. It just kind of made us bond even tighter. Michael came in and really stepped up. We all went over to the sideline to him when Hayes did get ejected and told him that we trusted him. He led us with that and we got a good victory off of it.”
The USC defense hasn’t faced a truly mobile quarterback in their first two games this year. Sure, Kevin Hogan has the ability to run, but that’s not a big part of Stanford’s offense. Boston College quarterback Kyle Murphy is a big part of the Eagles’ offense because of how well he can run the ball. Scott Felix says the defense is ready to stop him though.
“I just think we have to do a good job of containing him,” Felix said. “He’s a real good runner. We can’t run behind the quarterback. We did that a couple of times with Fresno and he made us pay for it. We just have to really focus on our rush. Collapsing the pocket, just being able to get a real solid rush on this guy.”
For now though, Felix is just focused on trying to get his body prepared for another physical matchup. After all is said and done, the Stanford game might be the most physical game the Trojans play in this year and Felix is still trying to fend off the soreness.
“I was real sore,” Felix said. “It was a dog fight in there. I’m still kind of trying to get my body together right now so it was pretty physical.”
Marshall Cherrington will be attending USC and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism beginning in January of 2015. You can follow him on Twitter @MWCherrington.