In Matt Grootegoed, Lofa Tatupu and Dallas Sartz the Trojans have a trio of linebackers who know how to find the football. All three have tremendous instincts, if not great foot speed, and we could see them lining up as the starters this spring.
Grootegoed figures to get the nod at strongside backer if he is healthy enough to be on the field. Matt missed the last half of the 2003 after an unfortunate injury suffered against Stanford and the good news for Trojan fans was the way Sartz responded when he took over (5th on the team in tackles). Dallas is a tall, lanky guy with long arms and he even saw some playing time at safety because of the desire of the coaches to get him on the field. Don't be surprised to see Dallas move over to weakside backer during spring to see how that would work out. We know what Groots brings when he is in the line-up and the thought of he and Dallas on the field at the same time is a good one.
Lofa surprised the coaches last spring with his football savvy as he stepped into the vacant middle linebacker spot after expected starter Oscar Lua went down with an injury. All he did was lead the Trojans in tackles and finish 2nd with four interceptions (including one for a touchdown). Lofa returns as a leader of the defense and this spring should only see him secure that spot even more.
Thomas Williams is a player who really has an opportunity to shine this spring. Thomas came on toward the end of fall practices as he was healthy and showing what kind of hitter he can be. He will get a lot of reps this spring. Oscar Lua will continue to be sidelined this spring as he rehabs a knee injury. If depth becomes a concern at fullback it is possible either Williams or Lua could get a look on the offensive side of the ball.
Collin Ashton is a rare walk-on who started a pair of games for a national championship winning club and that had to be something special for the lifelong Trojan fan. Ashton has become a dependable player who will continue to see plenty of action on special teams as well. Salo Faraimo played last season as a true freshman and showed good athleticism and speed. There are a couple big time guys arriving in the fall so if Salo wants to earn more playing time he will need to take advantage of the spring to impress the coaches.
Keith Rivers and Ryan Powdrell will arrive in the fall and bring an added element of speed to this unit. Rivers has been compared to Derrick Brooks with his sideline to sideline pursuit while Powdrell will bring legit 4.6 speed to the middle.