Last year, Porter Gustin was just a baby-faced freshman that came to USC during the summer and had to learn the nuances of a new playbook while also trying to get acclimated to a new school in a different state.
Maybe Gustin wasn’t quite baby-faced as he already had the physique of Ivan Drago, but he did have a helping hand to guide him through the transition from high school football to the rigors of the collegiate game. Redshirt junior Scott Felix took Gustin under his wing and helped tutor his backup at outside linebacker on the game both on and off the field.
Now it is Gustin’s turn.
Since fire-headed Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Prep freshman Connor Murphy arrived for summer school late in June, Gustin has been working with the 6-foot-7, 255-pound defensive end.
“I’m just trying to get him to have an idea of what the plays are before camp,” Gustin said. “It’s tough coming in not knowing anything. I had to do it last year. Then teaching him, it just helps you understand everything a little bit better. It helps me as well.”
It’s been a transitionary offseason as the USC defense adjusts to ‘new’ scheme from defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who returns after coaching the Trojans’ defenders in 2013. For Gustin, he is beginning to get a better grasp of what Pendergast envisions for him.
“I think so. Everything is feeling more comfortable. It’s just coming more naturally. I think that’s happening for the rest of the defense as well.
“We’re just getting ready for camp. Teaching the freshmen a little bit. Just polishing up on the plays.”
In less than a month, the Trojans will return to Howard Jones Field for the official start of the 2016 season with Alabama in their focus. To have success in 2016 after losing five senior defensive linemen last year and the invaluable Leonard Williams the previous season, the Trojans need Gustin to become the terror off the edge they believe he can be.
He wants to be a quarterback’s worst nightmare when an opponent drops back to pass. Gustin has spent his offseason working to hone his skill set to make him more of a weapon out of Pendergast’s hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker ’Predator’ position.
“I’ve been working a lot on pass rush,” Gustin said. “I think I need to become a better pass rusher as well as run [stopper]. I’ve been working on my techniques a lot more as well as trying to get stronger, faster, more agile, get more flexible. It’s been a grind. Just trying to be the best player I can be.”
The 6-foot-5 Salem (Utah) Hills native, who weighed in at 268 pounds on Monday, has been working on the techniques he can without pads, but the key will be when the Trojans put on the full regalia and go to battle with each other in August.
The defense spent some time earlier in the offseason watching film with Pendergast trying to decipher the Alabama offense run by former USC head coach Lane Kiffin and “getting a good idea in out head of what is coming.”
“[The summer workouts] have been great,” Gustin said. “Things are coming together.”