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USC’s Korey Foreman says he has learned to adapt after frustrating freshman season

USC defensive lineman Korey Foreman lines up for a play during the second half  against Washington State.
Under a new coaching staff, USC defensive lineman Korey Foreman says he must learn a new playbook that has been “tricky”.
(Young Kwak / Associated Press)
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There were fleeting moments throughout his frustrating freshman campaign when it felt to the most touted USC recruit in recent memory like the world might be conspiring against him. For Korey Foreman, it sometimes felt like the only explanation.

Months before, USC’s staff had sold him as the Trojans’ next star, welcoming him onto campus with a billboard bearing his name and taking victory laps for reeling in the nation’s top overall recruit. But by the fall, Foreman had barely cracked USC’s defensive line rotation. Injuries nagged. Progress slowed. Assistant coaches grew more and more pointed in their public critiques. Foreman sometimes stewed in the frustration, playing just 113 snaps in his debut season.

“It was probably just being a freshman in college, not seeing how everything is,” the sophomore defensive end said Thursday.

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He sees things differently now, though, Foreman assures. He’s learning how to be more patient. To turn more negatives into positives, to see the good in bad situations.

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“The world doesn’t move for anybody,” Foreman said, “so you just gotta learn to adapt to any little situation.”

Foreman seems to be adapting just fine to the new circumstances at USC. He described his situation as “a blessing” on seven different occasions Thursday. The new staff, he said, is “amazing.”

It’s not difficult to understand the reasons for his adulation. Arguably no player on the roster needed a fresh start more when Lincoln Riley arrived.

“I told [the coaches] it was kinda like a whole new freshman year again,” Foreman said.

And like his actual freshman year, he’s already dealt with an injury. Foreman missed the start of spring with what he called “a little minor-like dislocation” of his left knee that he suffered during player-run-practices in the summer. He’s logged just five practices since returning under new rush linebackers coach Roy Manning, putting him on a different track, behind his fellow rush linebackers.

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But the talent, Manning explains, has quickly become clear.

“Man, he’s got some tools,” Manning said. “The biggest thing I see out of him, he plays football the right way. He plays with this urgency and a recklessness. Now I gotta temper it and get it in the right direction, which is my job. But it’s exciting to see him move around and fly around and make some big-time plays even today.”

Those extraordinary plays never quite materialized as a freshman, as Foreman was used almost exclusively on third and obvious passing downs to rush the quarterback. He played just 28 snaps against the run all season.

Like the last staff, Manning agreed that’s where Foreman will be tested most ahead of fall.

“That’s the hardest thing for him because he’s such a natural pass rusher,” Manning said. “The run fits, reading tackles and guards, pulls, ‘do I shuffle?’, ‘do I go up the field?’, ‘do I fold?’ – all these different things, that’s where the work is for him.”

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He’s also had to learn a new playbook, which he said has been “tricky”, and get the hang of a new position. After spending last season lining up in various roles, often with his hand in the dirt, Foreman is being used exclusively as a stand-up rush linebacker in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s new scheme.

“It’s hard to get the most of somebody when you’re switching and moving them around a lot,” Manning said. “I get it. He’s a highly touted guy. You try to find a place for him, to get him on the field any way you can. But he’s got tools and skills. You put him somewhere and let him go.”

That’s the new plan for the one-time top prospect. After a fresh start, it’s up to Foreman now to follow through.

“I’m blessed to now see that I can now take everything that happened last year and just put it in the past, and I can work for it and just use that every single day,” Foreman said. “I don’t ever want to be in a position where I’m on the sidelines or where I’m doing something like that. So I’m just doing the best I can every single day to use that motivation to keep going.”

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