Starr, Ruffin eager to join LB tradition


LOS ANGELES -- USC has never had much of a problem finding elite linebacker talent. From Richard Wood to Junior Seau to Chris Claiborne, the personnel the Trojans have fielded at LB rivals that of any program in the country. That might never have been more evident than from 2002 to 2008, when Lofa Tatupu and Matt Grootegoed preceded arguably the best linebacker quartet in college football history in Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga, Kaluka Maiava and Clay Matthews III.

But recent history at the position has not been kind to the Trojans. Beginning with the 2007 recruiting class -- players who would now be fifth-year seniors -- USC is missing the services of five linebackers who signed with the Trojans. Jordan Campbell (transfer), Maurice Simmons (arrest), Uona Kaveinga (transfer), Frankie Telfort (health) and Jarvis Jones (transfer due to health) would have likely contributed in some fashion during the past two seasons, when USC lost a combined nine games.

In an effort to regain the advantage at the linebacker spot, head coach Lane Kiffin has turned to youth. Barring injury, he'll likely start three freshman linebackers during the final month of the season. And next season, the infusion of even more youth at the position could put the unit on the track back to prosperity.