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Grootegoed a Finalist for Top Linebacker

Times Staff Writer

USC’s Matt Grootegoed anxiously switched from safety to linebacker during training camp in 2001 at the behest of Coach Pete Carroll.

The move paid off for the Trojans during the last three-plus seasons, and Grootegoed was rewarded for his tenacity on Thursday when he was named one of three finalists for the Butkus Award, presented to the nation’s top linebacker.

Ahmad Brooks of Virginia and Derrick Johnson of Texas are other finalists. The winner will be announced on Dec. 10 in Orlando.

USC’s Chris Claiborne won the Butkus Award in 1998 and is the only previous Trojan finalist.

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“It’s unreal for me, as an undersized guy, and this is not his true position ... to get the recognition,” said Grootegoed, who is listed at 5 feet 11, 215 pounds.

Grootegoed, one of the Southland’s most storied prep players at Santa Ana Mater Dei, overcame numerous injuries during his USC career. He moved from strong-side to weak-side linebacker this season, and is second on the team with 47 tackles. He also has 9 1/2 tackles for losses and four interceptions.

“He’s been a great leader as a captain, and just as a playmaker in the program the whole time I’ve been here,” Carroll said. “The best football he’s playing is happening now and every game he’s been a factor. He warrants the recognition.”

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Running back Reggie Bush participated in all drills and said results of a CT scan on his left wrist were negative.

Bush hurt his wrist during practice on Tuesday. X-rays were negative but Bush requested the additional test because he had fractured the same wrist during high school.

“That’s why I got it, just to make sure everything was cool and to get the extra reassurance that everything was fine,” he said.

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Flanker Chris McFoy sat out most of practice and said he was questionable for Saturday’s game against Arizona because of knee pain.

McFoy sustained a sprained knee ligament against Washington State and was limited last week against Oregon State.

“I have to get a brace,” he said. “Depending on that, I might sit the game out.”

Senior Jason Mitchell will start if McFoy is unable to play.

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Quarterback Matt Leinart is one of 13 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, presented to the nation’s top quarterback. Finalists will be announced Nov. 23.... Defensive end Frostee Rucker, who is nursing a groin pull and toe and ankle injuries, returned to practice. If Rucker cannot play, Lawrence Jackson will start in his spot and Manuel Wright will start at tackle, moving Shaun Cody to end.


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