Ken Norton's Linebackers at the Top Once Again
In the classic Boris Karloff movie, "Frankenstein," the memorable line goes, "Look! It's moving. It's alive. It's alive... It's alive, it's moving, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE!" So too are the linebackers who are mentored by Ken Norton Jr.
Norton prods, directs, encourages and teaches his pupils to become great linebackers. He is very intense and probably the most vocal coach on staff. Norton is constantly pushing his group to work harder, and the linebackers respond well to his direction. Every practice Norton's voice can be heard above the hustle and bustle to direct the linebackers at every phase of workouts.
To illustrate Norton's creative works one just has to look at Clay Matthews, the former walk-on who has become an integral part of the Trojan machine. Another project is Luther Brown who is putting on a full head of steam at Spring Camp. Still another, his latest creation, Jordan Campbell is about to break into the rotation.
Linebackers Coach Ken Norton Jr. will be entering his fifth year with the USC staff. 2008 will be his fourth year working with the linebackers. Each year Coach Norton has had All-American candidates in the linebacker group and 2008 will be no different.
Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga decided to return for their senior season and Kaluka Maiava will be in his senior season as well. Add to the mix, super-stud Clay Matthews and Norton will have another stellar linebacker corps.
After Sunday's Scrimmage, SCPlaybook caught up with Coach Norton to get his thoughts on the current roster of linebackers.
How are your linebackers doing so far this Spring?
"The linebackers are doing fantastic, I think today was a real big day for them to come out and show themselves with the scrimmage. I'm very happy with the way they approached the game, they played well, they tackled well and they knocked some balls out. They had a lot of fun today."
Luther Brown has been playing well, comment on his play.
"Yes, Luther Brown has really stepped-up, he's really matured and he really feels like he's going to be a guy that can really help us this year. Anytime a player thinks like what they do matters, they start taking things really seriously. He's a guy that's going to step up and be a key player for us this year."
You have Clay Matthews, moving around on the field playing linebacker and defensive end, what is your philosophy with that?
"Clay is a guy that has been really versatile for us and he raises his level of play on the field that we really have to find a place for him to play on the field. So he's playing linebacker, defensive end and special teams. He's a guy that's going to have a big impact for us this year."
Who do you have as first team on the linebacker spots?
"Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Kaluka Maiava. Maiava just had a surgery on his hand and wrist, so he's a little banged-up right now. That's when Luther steps up and that's when Jordan Campbell steps up, we have a really deep group."
Talk about Jordan Campbell's play.
"I like him, he's really stepped up, coming off a red-shirt year. He's a guy that thought early on he would be an impact player, so far he hasn't let anybody down."
Brian Cushing talked about his rehabilitation, "I had my ankle scoped during the off-season, just gotta take care of it and let it heal."
Jordan Campbell said, "I'm happy with the switch. I'm playing linebacker. I get a lot of one-on-one with Coach Norton."
Kaluka Maiava commented on his surgery on his wrist/hand, "I had surgery and am doing therapy on it. I broke it during Oregon game, and just recently had the surgery. I'll be back in the Fall. I am running, (to keep in shape)."
Clay Matthews commented on his newfound role (defensive end) on the team, "They (coaches) are testing the idea out right now, this is very similar to when Cushing played the ‘elephant' two years ago. Right now they have me working in at ‘nickel' sort of the elephant position at nickel."