Tape It Up: USC: Linebacker Losses

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USC: Linebacker Losses

Junior linebacker Brian Cushing is not happy. He knew he had a sprained ankle, but until this week, he didn't know how badly sprained it was. Turns out, the junior's sprain is serious enough to keep him out of the lineup for nearly a month. Officially, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebacker is listed as doubtful for Saturday's game against Washington, but in reality, Cushing is looking at three weeks of hard sideline time, where he may be joined by several of his linebacking friends.

Cushing, who was a standout defensive end in 2006 before moving back to the strongside linebacker spot for his junior season, re-sprained an already hurting ankle last Saturday. Medical personnel thought he had cracked a bone in the ankle, but an MRI showed only a sprain. Through three games this season, Cushing has recorded just one tackle, as the ankle has been a bother since USC's season opener.

USC's seemingly endless depth would soften the blow of losing Cushing if the Trojans were not also in danger of losing his backup. Junior linebacker Clay Matthews sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder in the game against Washington State, and adding that pain to the cast he's wearing around a broken thumb on his left hand, he has become one bruised backup. His status for Saturday has not yet been revealed.

Freshman linebacker Malcolm Smith is also hurting, bothered by a strained hip that may keep him off the field this weekend as well. All together, the nation's No. 1 team has had some fancy footwork to do in the compensation department.

With a mobile quarterback stepping in on the other side of the ball this week (Washington's Jake Locker), USC put together some smooth moves to fill the growing number of holes on defense. Senior Keith Rivers will move from weakside to stringside linebacker and junior Kaluka Maiava will step into the weakside spot, and everyone is going to have to play tougher (and safer) than normal.

Junior cornerback Cary Harris is doubtful for this weekend's game due to a dislocated shoulder, but senior center Matt Spanos and sophomore cornerback Vincent Joseph both returned to practice this week. Spanos has been fighting a triceps injury while Joseph is recovering from that freak bruised larynx he suffered two weeks ago. Vincent will back up C.J. Gable in the kick return spot on Saturday.

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