USC's new linebacker

Over the past week USC safety Su'a Cravens moved position, stepping up to play linebacker and help this Trojan defense against Oregon State.

Don’t get used to seeing Su’a Cravens lining up at the same position from week to week. There’s a good chance you’ll see him up near the line of scrimmage one week, and then see him as the furthest player away from the ball the next week. The sophomore might be one of USC’s most versatile players and Justin Wilcox is taking advantage of it as Cravens has been learning the SAM linebacker position in recent weeks. In fact, that’s where you will see him line up this weekend against Oregon State, and that’s fine with Cravens.

“I just like being closer to the ball,” Cravens said. “It gives me a chance to make plays and make a lot of tackles and work on my craft on using my hands… This week they need me at SAM. Next week they’ll need me at Dollar so I just got to get used to it.”

Though the change from Cravens’ safety position to the SAM linebacker position might seem like a big change, it’s really not much of a change at all. In fact, Cravens hasn’t really been playing at ‘safety’. USC coaches and players call Cravens’ position the ‘Dollar’ against passing teams, and he moves up to the SAM linebacker against run heavy teams. So really, his position changes depending in whether the opponent is pass heavy, or run heavy. USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox thinks Cravens is up for the heavy workload.

“Love having Su’a on the team,” Wilcox said. “He’s a very talented guy, he’s a big body, he’s a strong kid, he’s a good tackler and he’s still getting better… He’s a very bright guy. If we felt like it was a concern (the heavy workload), we wouldn’t do it. It’s best for our team right now. I think it’s best for Su’a right now. He’s a better football player knowing what’s going on around him and I would expect him to continue to improve.”

It’s hard to ignore a tough loss like the defeat the team suffered two weeks ago against Boston College, but Cravens insists the team has moved on and is ready to go against Oregon State.

“I think we put the loss behind us,” Cravens said. “That’s most important. The bye week really helped us. We just got to get ready to play. It’s conference play so we have to come out firing… All of the mistakes we made were busted assignments. We had the right play call, we just didn’t execute and that’s all we really needed to work on.”

The bye week gave Cravens time to watch film on Oregon State and quarterback Sean Mannion. As many people know, Mannion has put up big numbers through the air over the course of his career. Cravens didn’t get a chance to face the Beavers and Mannion last year, but he has great respect for the Beavers’ quarterback nonetheless.

“He’s a great quarterback,” Cravens said. “He can sling that thing. I saw a play on film where he threw the ball about 70-yards down the field, so we got to be ready for him. He’s going to make the long throws that we got to try and force him to make. It’s going to be a good game.”

Coach Steve Sarkisian talked this week about how Oregon State stacks receivers in some of their offensive sets. One point of emphasis this week has been communication in the defensive backfield and Cravens believes this will help solve the potential threat.

“Yeah, just so they don’t try to run any pick routes or so we don’t have any miscommunications where we have two guys on one,” Cravens said. “Oregon State does a great job of just finding the matchup they want and taking advantage of it.”

It seemed like the Trojans had a tough time getting ‘up’, to a sense, for the Boston College game. Whether it be the change of time zones or the long day of travel, the team just didn’t bring their ‘A’ game against the Eagles. However, getting ‘up’ for a Pac-12 game against Oregon State won’t be a problem, especially when the team is playing under the lights of the Coliseum.

“The Coli is different at night,” Cravens said. “I feel like there is a different type of atmosphere that just betters us, or helps us, but it’s going to be fun. We haven’t played in the Coli at night yet so it’s going to be fun.”



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.


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