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Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith is positioned for a big role

USC freshman linebacker Cameron Smith participates in a tackling drill during practice on Tuesday at Howard Jones Field.

USC freshman linebacker Cameron Smith participates in a tackling drill during practice on Tuesday at Howard Jones Field.

(Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

Linebacker Cameron Smith enrolled at USC in January to get a head start on learning the defense.

As the Trojans prepare for Saturday’s opener against Arkansas State, Smith is perfectly positioned.

With senior middle linebacker Lamar Dawson still limited because of a rib injury, Smith will play a lot and possibly start.

“I’m just trying to learn every day,” Smith said after practice Tuesday, adding, “and be prepared as possible and just be ready if that’s the case.”

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Smith, 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, came to USC from Granite Bay High, the same school that produced former Trojans linebacker Dallas Sartz. He is part of a recruiting class that includes linebackers Osa Masina, Porter Gustin and John Houston Jr.

Smith’s decision to graduate early and participate in spring practice at USC has paid off.

“I definitely feel more comfortable,” he said. “I thought that was a great move. I learned a lot.”

Coach Steve Sarkisian noted that Smith has been making plays since spring practice and has many of the same qualities as Hayes Pullard, who was a four-year starter.

“It takes smarts to play that position,” Sarkisian said. “You saw it with Hayes for how many years Hayes did it.

“And Cam definitely has that, a really good sense and a good feel in there.”


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