USC took one step closer to another huge recruiting class Friday with the commitment of Salt Lake City (Utah) five-star linebacker Osa Masina.
Next season, USC loses both its leading tackler in Hayes Pullard and
sack leader in J.R. Tavai. While the Trojans could potentially return
10 linebackers next season, it’s a defense clearly transitioning in
scheme and personnel.
Running a 3-4 front under Justin Wilcox, USC is still playing with
smaller inside linebackers and defensive end converted to play outside
Masina, rated the nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker at 6-feet-4,
240-pounds, has the size and strength to battle in the trenches, but
the speed and agility to make plays in coverage.
“One of the biggest reasons he’s a five star is because he can do it
all,” said Scout Mountain Region Recruiting Analyst, Doug Kimmel. “He
can play in the middle, outside or put his hand in the dirt.
“From what I saw from USC last year, outside the big guy in the middle
who’s going to get paid tons of money to go the the NFL, Su’a Cravens
off the edge was probably their best pass rusher. But I don’t think
that’s ideal having a safety as their second best pass rusher.
“Osa can pin his ears back and go get the quarterback on 3rd and 9. He
should have double digit sacks at some point in college. He can jam the
tight end or run with the running back out in the flat. People would
say his weakness is pass coverage, but it’s not really a weakness.
“At 6-foot-4, and more than 230-ponds, the guy can turn his hips and
go. He’s a smooth athlete. As a junior, he ran for 1,600 yards and 20
odd touchdowns. The kid does it all. ASU, for example, wanted him to
play running back and/or tight end. I think that speaks volumes to what
he can do.
“He has the speed to come off the edge, the strength and size to set
the edge and then the athletic ability to play against teams in the
Pac-12 that throw the ball 50 times a game. He’s what you want your
outside linebacker to look like in the Pac-12.
“The kid is a football player. Tell him to shut down the running back
and he’ll do it. Tell him to shut down the tight end and he’ll do it.
Tell him to knock the quarterback on his butt and that’s what he’s
going to do.”
Only three other linebackers in the class of 2015 carry the distinction
of being rated as a five-star by Scout. It’s a distinction that comes
with the dissection of specific game and camp performances.
Kimmel, having seen the Army All-American linebacker play multiple
times in pads and on the camp circuit, has a very educated opinion
about what makes Masina elite.
“At this point, he already had a five-star grade because Brandon
(Huffman) and Greg (Biggins) had already seen him on film and at The
Opening,” said Kimmel. “But I saw him play Bingham this season, which
is probably a top five program on the West Coast.
“They took Bishop Gorman to overtime and Booker T. Washington from
Florida to overtime, so it’s a good program. It’s third down and long,
so Osa is dropping back in coverage. The quarterback, whose thrown
about two picks in two years, threads the needle and Osa launches
himself in the air to bat the ball down.
“Next play, Bingham rolls the dice and goes for it. They run a draw
play and Osa Masina is in the offensive back field as the quarterback
is handing the ball off to the running back. He runs through both of
them and makes the tackle.
“One minute he’s dropping into pass coverage and the next he’s ripping
through blockers and making tackles. He’s just so freakin’ instinctive.
Five-stars have those things you cannot teach.
“Whether it’s a 10.3 100-meter time, or that 6-foot-7 left tackle
frame, Osa Masina has these instincts that are not teachable. You can
watch film and know tendencies, but this kid has the it factor where
he’s going to be a step or two ahead of the offense. It’s like he’s in
the offensive team’s huddle before every play. He’s fun the watch.”
What USC fans may question with Masina are the measurables. Although he
has imposing size for a linebacker, his 4.88 40-yard dash SPARQ time
leaves some to question whether he can play against the spread offenses
in the Pac-12.
“Straight line speed, when you’re talking about playing a team like
Oregon, ASU or UCLA, is something he could improve upon,” said Kimmel.
“He’s roughly a 4.8 guy, but I think with a good strength and
conditioning program, he could shave some time off that.
“He could stand to get stronger too, but he’s a football player. If you
were to get an inside look at what Sark’s board looks like, you’re not
going to find many guys above Osa Masina.”
One player USC is recruiting along side Masina is Salem (Utah)
four-star defensive end Porter Gustin. Gustin, who finished The Opening
as one of the nation’s top 10 overall SPARQ performers, has
similarities and differences in comparison with Masina.
“They’re both freaks,” said Kimmel. “You see those guys just warming up
and immediately think, ‘They could both be playing the game for a very
“There are similarities. You can get them both north of 260-pounds and
have them playing off the edge. They can both knock a quarterback out
of the game on any single play. They’re both good pass rushers now with
the potential to become elite pass rushers.
“In terms of distinctions, Osa is the more fluid football player. I’d
feel more comfortable with him dropping into coverage, whereas I’d
prefer to have Porter playing closer to the line of scrimmage. I think
Porter develops more into a true defensive end. I think he can pack on
another 25-30 pounds easily.
“I know schools are recruiting Porter as a middle backer, but I think
that’s schools telling him what he wants to hear. People have compared
him to Brian Cushing and Brian Urlacher, but both of those guys were
playing safety in high school.
“I played against Cushing in high school. He was a 4.5 guy that was
playing wide out and returning kicks. Porter is versatile, but he’s not
that guy. He could be a tight end and Osa could be a power running
back, so they are versatile, but with different strengths.”
Battling through injuries, Masina ended up with 97 tackles and 10 sacks
his senior year. His announcement Friday now puts USC at 21 commitments
But maybe more importantly, it gives USC a foothold in extending the
tradition of Polynesian football heroes wearing cardinal and gold.
“I’ve spoken with him about the Polynesian connection before, and I
know it’s a big deal for the family,” said Kimmel. “I don’t think it
was priority No. 1 in picking USC, but I think the legacy was a factor.
“Junior Seau, Troy Polamalu and to a lesser extent Rey Maualuga. And
then look at the guys USC has there now in Juju Smith, Damien Mama and
Viane Talamaivao. I think that class they got last year was huge for
“When those guys get together, it’s all family - whether they are
related or not. It’s something pretty special and I think USC wants to
tap into that. They have it with the players, but the coaching staff as
“I spoke to Coach Sarkisian at the All Poly Camp and he looked me in
the eyes and said, ‘I’m no dummy. I played with Poly guys in college
and I know how good they are. I know their passion for the game and how
loyal they are to each other.
“He said, ‘I want as many of these guys as I can possibly get. It just
“Coach Tui, Sark, Johnny Nansen… that sense of community that
Polynesians have is strong with USC. Outside Utah and BYU, when you
think of Polynesian players, you think about SC. It’s a major draw.
“And once that pipeline is opened up, the flood gates are next. That’s
why the 2014 class was huge. The names Damien Mama and Juju Smith
resonate with these young 14, 15-year-old kids.
“Outside of maybe Oregon, and that’s mostly with Hawaiian kids, USC is
the dream school for Polynesians. Thing is, USC can pick and choose.
They can wait on the cream of the crop. Osa has a younger brother who
is going to be a sophomore. He’s already a big boy, so if things
pan out for him, he could follow Osa to USC.
“Brighton has a few other four-star level juniors already going out to
USC for their Junior Day the 31st, so it’s already happening. It would
happen even without Osa, but the fact that he is going there just
strengthens the pipeline.”
Future Impact: Osa Masina
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