March 25, 2008

Practice Insider: Linebacker Battles

Spring Practice is officially here and one of the more interesting position battles will be between the young linebackers. Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Kaluka Maiava are almost guaranteed to be the opening day starters, but with injuries to Cushing and Maiava, there will be plenty of reps for the less seasoned guys. So over the course of the next few weeks the young linebackers will be vying for playing time in 2008 and planting the seeds to start in 2009.

If someone has a chance of unseating Maiava it would be junior linebacker Luther Brown. Injuries have derailed Brown's career somewhat, but ironically he has always been one of the most physically impressive and imposing linebackers at USC. Heading in to spring ball he is a veteran of the program, but relatively inexperienced to significant playing time. These practices will mean as much to his future as any other player on the defense.

"It's all about competition which is what Coach Carroll preaches every day," Brown said from Howard Jones Field Tuesday night. "Compete, compete, compete. As long as I'm out here doing my job, getting my film study in, learning my playbook, I think I'll be able to go out and show what I can do on a football field."

The coaching staff is asking Brown to work on his versatility this spring.

"I'm trying to learn all three positions," Brown, once exclusively an inside linebacker, said. "Towards the end of last season I started to learn the Sam (strong-side), while still going through the Mike (middle), and then when we had the run-through with the coaches I put in time at the Will (weak-side).

"I'm trying to attack the situation with an open mind. Just being out here is an opportunity, but with Kaluka out I'm going to get those extra reps, I'm going to be on that first team."

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