USC already has a loaded linebacker class in the 2018 recruiting cycle. The Trojans have commitments from three of the top four outside linebackers in the country. All three are ranked within the top 103 overall prospects in the 2018 class.
The class already would have a significant haul, if USC were to sign the three players committed, but the Trojans could also still add to the group, taking four or possibly even five linebackers total.
One of the other linebackers USC is in contention for is Gardena (Calif.) Serra four-star linebacker Merlin Robertson, ranked No. 123 overall and the No. 4 inside linebacker. The Trojans have generally been in consideration for every top Serra Cavalier they have desired over the last half decade, but Robertson has not been feeling the love from the USC staff.
Offensive coordinator Tee Martin has stopped by Serra High to check out the latest crop of Cavalier prospects, but Robertson hasn’t felt like a primary target.
“There hasn't been any conversation. Coach Tee Martin, he comes up to the school once in a while to check up on me, but that's basically it.”
“I'm waiting for USC, man. I'm waiting for them to see if they're interested still,” Robertson said. “I want them to keep in contact with me, if they are still interested, but if they're not, then I understand. It's all good.”
Though he is listed as an inside linebacker, Robertson has the versatility to also play outside. The Trojans are recruiting Robertson more on the outside as well. He switches between the spots at Serra and said he feels equally comfortable at each position. It’s that ability to mold to whatever needs emanate that Robertson thinks makes him think he would fit in well with USC’s current 2018 linebacking class. Commits Palaie Gaoteote and Raymond Scott are currently listed as outside linebackers but could also line up inside, so the coaching staff will have the ability to mix and match combinations to find who plays best together.
Along with the experience he’s getting from his linebacker reps, Robertson is also learning each of the linebacker spots from different angles this spring. He’s playing tight end for the Cavaliers this offseason and seeing the defense from a new perspective.
“I love it, but I know how the linebacker is thinking. How if you come up that middle, be prepared to get hit,” Robertson said. “It helps me get a better read on what a tight end wants to do and how he wants to get past me and everything.”
He’s also learning the refined details better as a teacher rather than being a student. Robertson is passing on his knowledge to the underclassmen, particularly 2020 linebacker Justin Houston.
The long and lanky to-be sophomore is stepping into a more prominent role at Serra and Robertson has taken Houston under his wing, helping guide the younger brother of USC redshirt sophomore linebacker John Houston Jr. It has in turn paid dividends for Robertson.
“My freshman and sophomore year and my junior year I didn't really get the coverage down, but I started really looking to the playbook and doing plays in my head. It helped me with my coveraging and it helped me understand what the other linebackers need to do along with the safety and the whole defense.”
Teaching others is improving Robertson’s game and if his game takes another step forward this fall, he could become a more essential recruit for the Trojans. He believes if USC gives him an opportunity, he can prove he is just as valuable as any of the players currently in the Trojan class.
“I feel like I can go in as a freshman and compete and work for that No. 1 spot.”
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