USC lost a key defensive piece as tackle Kenny Bigelow Jr. is out at least seven to nine months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Coach Clay Helton announced Saturday.
Helton called the injury that occurred during Thursday's practice "one of those freak deals" where Bigelow's leg buckled without contact.
"Our prayers go out to him. He's going to be back. He's got a good mind-set," Helton said. "He's going to be a captain on this football team. He's the rock for us. Now he goes to Coach Bigelow instead of Kenny."
With Bigelow out, Helton hinted at the Trojans playing more nickel defense by using two defensive linemen and four linebackers, with the two outside linebackers playing a hybrid role as stand-up defensive ends.
"You look at who we play next year, 10 of the 12 teams you know you're going to be in a lot of nickel, so that's advantageous to us. We'll be a little thin when we play an Alabama or a Stanford."
Bigelow is the only upperclassman among interior defensive lineman on the current roster after USC graduated five seniors, including all three starters. In his first season as a Trojan, Bigelow played in 13 games in 2015 as a backup, making 10 tackles, including three sacks.