Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Early Looks: LB Brian Cushing (USC)

If you own a USC Trojans #10 jersey, you may want to think twice about retiring it to the closet come Fall. Despite losing starting #10 QB John David Booty in April's NFL Draft to the Minnesota Vikings, the Trojans have another top prospect who sports the #10 jersey that should have scouts buzzing throughout most of the upcoming 2008 college season. Senior LB Brian Cushing hopes to cap off his college career with a steller run as one of the leaders on a talented USC defense. The 6'4 240 pound linebacker is best known for returning an onside kick 42 yards for a TD against Notre Dame in 2006 and registering 7 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble while being named Defensive Player of the Game in the 2007 Rose Bowl against Michigan. Though, his biggest obstacles have been trying to beat the injury bug. He's battled strained hamstrings, dislocated shoulders and injuries to his ankles and knees that have required arthroscopic surgeries and forced him to miss significant playing time.

Cushing is a versatile defensive player, having played both the DE "Elephant" position in a base 3-4 defense playing the 5-techinique to his current position as a Strong side Linebacker. Physically he is "built like a bodybuilder and runs like a safety". After watching film against Oregon in 2007, he displayed a high motor, the ability to take on blockers, good flexibility, consistently chases after the ball in pursuit and pass coverage and uses good technique to make plays; finishing with 8 total tackles.

While overshadowed by fellow Top Draft Prospect LB Rey Maualuga (USC), if Cushing can stay healthy and continue to make plays, he should be a Top 20 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He is a high character athlete with the skills to be a typical 3-4 LB in the NFL. Expect him to be a candidate for the Butkus Award this year for the Nation's Top Linebacker.

Noteworthy games: Sept 13th vs. Ohio State; Oct 11th vs. Arizona St; Nov 29th vs. Notre Dame

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