USC season preview: Linebackers

Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry preview USC’s linebackers for the 2015 season.


Outside linebacker

Starter: Junior Su’a Cravens

Backups: Sophomore Uchenna Nwosu, junior Quinton Powell or freshman John Houston Jr.

Outside linebacker

Starter: Fourth-year junior Scott Felix

Backups: Fourth-year junior Jabari Ruffin, freshman Porter Gustin and redshirt freshman Don Hill

Inside linebacker


Starter: Fifth-year senior Lamar Dawson

Backups: Freshman Cameron Smith, junior Michael Hutchings

Inside linebacker

Starter: Anthony Sarao

Backups: Sophomore Olajuwon Tucker, freshman Osa Masina or fifth-year senior Joel Foy

Who is gone: Hayes Pullard and J.R. Tavai

Who is new: Freshmen Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin, Osa Masina and John Houston

Outlook: USC returns an experienced group of linebackers, including several young players who are ready to play backup, and the Trojans added several impact freshmen.

Cravens, 6 feet 1 and 225 pounds, moved from safety to linebacker last season and became a first-team All-American. He made a team-best 17 tackles for losses, including five sacks.

Cravens was named a team captain this season, which could be his last as a Trojan if he plays to his potential.

This season is the first time Felix, 6 feet 2 and 240 pounds, goes into the opener as the starter. He played in all 13 games in 2014, starting five, and made five tackles for losses.

Dawson returns after he redshirted last season because of a knee injury; however, he will not be available in the opener because of a rib injury.


The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Dawson had a standout spring and brings a veteran presence to middle linebacker.

Smith enrolled at USC in January and gained valuable practice time during spring workouts. He intercepted several passes and continued the trend into training camp. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Smith is expected to start in the opener in place of Dawson.

Sarao, 6-foot and 235 pounds, was named a captain and will start for a third season. He intercepted two passes in 2014 and returned one for a touchdown.

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