The Trojans spent some time yesterday away from pumping iron and conditioning runs. Instead, the team was working with the USC community outreach program for the Trojan Games.
The players have a little more than a week remaining before fall camp begins on Aug. 8 and then they have less than a month before taking the field for the season opener against Arkansas State at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 5.
We did not take time away from the “30 Key Trojans” countdown, so we continue with No. 18 today. We are counting down the 30 USC players most important to the Trojans’ success this season. This list is not the 30 most talented players or the 30 players that will put up the best stats, but instead the guys that could propel USC to a successful season.
Which players’ success is key for the Trojans’ season to be a success?
18. Anthony Sarao - Redshirt Senior
When 6-foot, 235-pound Anthony Sarao talks, his teammates listen. They trust in his experience as he returns as a starting linebacker for the third year in a row. They have seen his production with 158 career tackles, including four sacks. He also has forced a fumble, recovered two more, deflected five passes and snagged two interceptions with one of those being his ‘pick-six’ touchdown return against UCLA last year.
But teammates also listen to Sarao because they enjoy his accent. The Absecon (N.J.) Holy Spirit four-star recruit continues to carry his distinct Jersey twang with him and feels like this year is the time for him to speak up.
Gone are Hayes Pullard and J.R. Tavai from the USC starting lineup. That leaves Sarao and Lamar Dawson, who missed all of last season, as the veterans of the linebacker corps. While Dawson is working his way back to 100 percent during the offseason, Sarao has been the vocal leader helping out the four superstar recruits USC brought in this season.
Sarao is coming off his first full season as a starter after starting the final seven games of his sophomore season. Last year, he had 74 tackles, one sack, three deflections and two interceptions. He also was named USC Co-Lifter of the Year. But Sarao did take some bad angles at times and doesn’t have the speed to keep up with skill players on the outsides, which made those bad angles stand out even more.
Some of that may have been related to a hairline fracture in his foot that Sarao had surgery on during the offseason that caused him to miss all of spring. Sarao said he is now 100 percent and ready to get going in fall camp. Sarao previously agreed with Phil Steele’s statement that the Trojans have the top linebacking group in the nation. For that to come true, he’s going to have to back that up with his play along with being a mentor for the young players.
Sarao, who carried a 4.0 GPA in high school and was committed to Stanford before Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL, has already graduated with a degree in policy, planning and development and is in the process of working on a master’s degree in sociology.
“First and foremost, just be able to provide for this team the best I can and my individual goal is just to prove everybody wrong and show everybody that I’m probably one of the better linebackers in the nation. This is the year to prove it.” — Anthony Sarao
“Last year, Anthony, like all the linebackers, didn't much benefit from a hang-back-and-hold-on defensive strategy that had the USC linebackers mostly waiting it seemed, to just catch running backs and receivers rather than going after them.
"But this year, at a solid, much-stronger 235 pounds, up from 220, Anthony looks like he could have some real success going after people in attack mode and becoming a disruptive element. He'd love that opportunity." — Dan Weber, USCfootball.com
|18||Anthony Sarao||77 pts||13 (Keely Eure)||26 (Austin Geller)|
|19||Zach Banner||72 pts||12 (Shotgun Sprating)||Not listed (Austin Geller)|
|20||John Plattenburg||68 pts||15 (Keely Eure)||29 (Austin Geller)|
|21||Damien Mama||49 pts||18 (Gerard Martinez)||27 (DanWeber)|
|22||Connor Spears||44 pts||13 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|
|23||Max Browne||43 pts||19 (Twice)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|24||Leon McQuay III||40 pts||17 (Ryan Abraham)||Not listed (Twice)|
|25||Osa Masina||39 pts||15 (Gerard Martinez)||Not listed (Keely Eure)|
|26||Darreus Rogers||36 pts||19 (Shotgun Spratling)||Not listed (Dan Weber)|
|27||Matt Boermeester||35 pts||18 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Twice)|
|28||Chris Hawkins||34 pts||21 (Twice)||Not listed (Twice)|
|29||Viane Talamaivao||23 pts||22 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Three times)|
|30||Ykili Ross||21 pts||22 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|