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Jameson McCausland

Defensive Preview: USC

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Similar to the offense, the USC defense has underperformed the first two weeks of the 2018 season. Despite some struggles, the Trojans still boast plenty of talent across the board, especially at linebacker. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the USC defense:

Defensive Line

The 3-4 defense the Trojans will feature will be anchored by 325-pound nose tackle Brandon Phil. The Sophomore has good strength and moves reasonably well for his size. His presence in the middle will be a big test for Elijah Rodriguez, Patrick Vahe and Derek Kerstetter. DE Christian Rector was a Second Team All-Pac 12 member a season ago but has yet to make a huge impact in 2018.


OLB Porter Gustin is the best pass rusher for the Trojans. Gustin has 15.5 career sucks and will be over of the field on Saturday night. He played versus Texas in 2017 after having screws inserted into his toe. He lasted only a half before becoming re-injured, but he is the heart and sole of the defense. 

ILB Cameron Smith is a tackling machine, racking up 112 in 2017. Smith has been quiet through 2 games, but like most players on the Trojans, he is due for a breakout. 

Defensive Back

Iman Marshall is a 4-year starter and Texas would be very wise to not test him too much. Greg Johnson starts at the other corner spot, and the redshirt freshman is still an unknown at this point. 

Sophomore CJ Pollard and senior Marvell Tell III hold down the safety positions. Tell is a 3-year starter who has 136 tackles in his career.

The USC secondary as a whole is largely a question mark heading into Saturday’s matchup because of the nature of their first two games. UNLV caused some problems for the group, but Stanford physically manhandled USC at the point of attack last week, making the passing game irrelevant.

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