USC Trojans football is just around the corner, and by now, everyone who cares has seen the Spring roster — but it doesn’t tell the full story just yet because some of the 2021 recruits are already on campus and some are still finishing up their senior year of high school.
That is the case for the defense, who won’t have the top recruit of the class until the Fall. But the defense is already so competitive during the Spring that it’s a challenge to talk about it without giving every position and player their justice.
The linebacker position — broken down in outside linebackers and inside linebackers — is incredibly competitive with last year’s starters coming back to dominate once again.
The five outside linebackers on the Spring roster are led by junior Drake Jackson, who was one of the most dominant pass rushers in the country last year.
The 15 inside linebackers on the roster are led by senior Kana’i Mauga and junior Ralen Goforth, both of last year’s starters.
The team is also getting senior Palaie Gaoteote IV and redshirt senior Jordan Iosefa back from injury. Gaoteote remains in the transfer portal waiting for some attention from schools and Iosefa is still doing his rehabilitation after missing the last two seasons with a knee injury that will hopefully be fully healed by the Trojans’ season opener.
There are a lot of players in the mix, so the recruits coming on campus this year are in for a treat.
The linebacker position has two recruits coming in — Julien Simon at inside linebacker and Raesjon Davis at outside linebacker.
Simon is on the Spring roster while Davis is joining the team in the summer.
Let’s break down the players.
Simon is a four-star recruit from Tacoma, Washington ranked in the top-10 among inside linebackers and top-5 in Washington for the 2021 class.
247Sports’ Brandon Huffman has evaluated Simon twice — once in 2018 and once in 2020. His 2020 evaluation compares him to Myles Jack and says he is versatile in positions, saying he “projects best at linebacker where he can play either inside or outside” but can also play safety, running back, or receiver. Huffman says he has “tremendous ball skills and has a high volume of interceptions from his linebacker spot” and is very good at getting into the backfield.
He made the 2020 PrepStar Dream Team and SoCal News Group Fab 15 second team as a senior linebacker, receiver, and running back.
USC has him listed at 6-feet-2-inches weighing in at about 220 pounds.
Raesjon Davis is a four-star recruit out of Mater Dei in Santa Ana ranked in the top-5 among outside linebackers and in the top-3 in California for the 2021 class.
247Sports’ Greg Biggins evaluated Davis twice — once in 2018 and once in 2020. The 2020 evaluation compares him to Darron Lee and says he is “one of the most versatile linebackers in the country.” Biggins says he “covers like a safety but hits like a linebacker” but that he “lacks ideal length” for the outside linebacker position.
247Sports has him listed at 6-feet-1-inch weighing in at about 215 pounds.
Davis is a part of one of the top football programs in the country, and he is still adding to his high school stats as his senior season continues. He is on the team with fellow incoming freshman receiver Kyron Ware-Hudson and 2022 USC defensive back commit Domani Jackson.
Aside from those already mentioned, the Spring roster’s inside linebacker bunch includes redshirt senior Micah Croom; redshirt juniors Eli’jah Winston, Solomon Tuliaupupu, Raymond Scott, Spencer Gilbert, and Tayler Katoa; redshirt sophomores Kaulana Makaula, Clyde Moore, and Tuasivi Nomura; and redshirt freshman Danny Lockhart Jr.
Aside from Drake Jackson, the roster’s outside linebacker bunch includes redshirt seniors Hunter Echols and Juliano Falaniko as well as redshirt juniors Peter Esparza and Bryce Matthews, with Davis joining them in the Fall.
The Trojans play their spring game on Saturday, April 17 at 1 p.m. on the American Airlines Field inside of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.