USC: Are There Any Linebackers Left?
Whoever decided to put an injury hex on USC one position at a time has access to some seriously dark magic. Just as USC entered the season with a laundry list of high-powered running backs, only to see the pool quickly drain down to a puddle, the nation's best crop of linebackers has taken quite a weeding in the past few days. After the news of junior Brian Cushing's re-sprained ankle hit the team, true freshman Chris Galippo one-upped him on Wednesday.
Galippo earned a spot on the special teams squads as a true freshman, earning eight tackles in the 35-or-so plays he's participated in over three games this season. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker has been bothered by lower back pain since August, but the pain has elevated in the past few days. This week, Galippo was hurting so badly he could not sleep at night, and underwent an MRI and X-rays on Wednesday to figure out exactly what is wrong. Among the possibilities are an injury to his sciatic nerve and a herniated disc, but doctors will not know anything for sure utnil the test results come back.
Galippo will stay home on Saturday when the Trojans travel to Washington to take on the Huskies, and if the pain does not dull down, he may take a medical redshirt for the season. Surgery is also a possibility for the freshman, whose back troubles began in high school, but only flared up intensely this week.
Galippo joins a growing list of bruised and battered linebackers on the USC roster: Brian Cushing is fighting that sprained ankle, freshman Malcolm Smith has a hip injury that has kept him out of practice all week; Clay Matthews has a broken thumb and a hurt shoulder, but may have to play anyway.
Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is healthy and will be expected to direct the defense as personnel shifts continue in preparation for Washington quarterback Jake Locker, a known dual threat behind center.
"Basically, everyone is moving around," Maualuga said.
Just as the Trojans' healthy tailbacks delivered performances good enough to keep USC at No. 1, expect the remaining linebackers to step up until the battered can heal.