Any time somebody proclaims something as the best, generally there is a lot of bias and strong opinion involved.
Who was the greatest heavyweight champion boxer of all time? A lot of people would say
Muhammad Ali was the greatest. Some people might say it was the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis. Others, would say it was Rocky Marciano because he retired undefeated. Still, others might say it was Mike Tyson who was no doubt one of the more interesting sports characters of all time and fun to watch.
I can’t answer who was the greatest. All I know is you can’t compare different champions from different time periods and know for sure without a doubt just who was the greatest.
So, which college football team had the greatest set of Linebackers of all time?
I can’t answer that, either, but the USC Trojans of 2008 had maybe the best group I have ever seen.
Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga, Kaluka Maiava, and Brian Cushing were the starting LB’s for USC that season and about as good as it gets.
Clay Matthews of Green Bay Packers fame was a walk on at USC. While playing for his father at Agoura Hills High in California he was way too small. Nobody recruited him at all.
Clay’s father played at USC and then 19 years in the NFL, so Clay decided to follow in dad’s footsteps to USC. Of course, USC football coaches would never have let him near the field if he wasn’t Clay Matthews III.
Matthews worked hard in the weight room and I know what some readers will be thinking while reading this and that may all be true. But, for whatever reason, Clay Matthews worked his way into a football player’s body.
Trojan coach, Pete Carroll and his DC Nick Holt, plus Linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr, changed the USC defense to accommodate Clay Matthews and installed a 3-4 with Matthews in the new OLB position.
What happened was USC just formed maybe the best set of LBs ever in college football.
Rey Maualuga led the team in tackles with 79, closely followed by Brian Cushing with 73. Kaluka Maiava was 3rd with 66 and Clay Matthews had 57 total tackles. Cushing was drafted in the 1st round by the Texans at 15. Matthews was drafted later in the 1st round by the Packers. Maualuga was drafted in the 2nd round by the Bengals and Maiava was taken by the Browns in the 4th round.
Rey Maualuga may have been the highest touted of them all coming out of high school. He was a Parade All-American and on everyone’s recruiting list out of Eureka, California.
He was a freshman All-American, and earned 1st team All Pac 10 in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2008, he was a consensus All-American.
Projected as a 1st round draft pick, he did slip to the 2nd round and was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals who got a steal.
Kaluka Maiava was another highly recruited LB out of Wailuku, Hawaii. He first committed to UCLA, but decided to look around a bit and switched to USC.
Maiava backed up All-American and top draft pick Keith Rivers at LB for a few years and stepped into the starting role and shined.
He was drafted by the Browns and currently plays for the Oakland Raiders.
Brian Cushing was one of the top LB recruits in the country out of New Jersey. He was recruited by practically everybody nationwide, but decided on USC where he was a 4 year starter.
He was a 2nd team All American in 2008 and then picked by the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2009 draft.
Cushing was the defensive rookie of the year in the NFL in 2009.
Definitely one of the best sets of LB’s of all time, if not the very best.
Currently at USC, they have returning All American candidate Hayes Pullard returning at LB.
But, in 2013, they had a rather impressive group of freshmen LB’s.
Jabari Ruffin (6-3, 225) an Outside Linebacker from Downey, California 22 total tackles, 1 sack in 2013.
Quinton Powell (6-2,220) an Inside backer from Deltona, Florida had 20 total tackles and 1 sack.
Michael Hutchings (6-2,215) an inside backer from Antioch, California countered with 19 tackles.
Then, there was Mr Scott Starr (6-2,220) an outside backer from Norco, California that had 9 tackles in 2013.
Could they become like the LB group of 2008?
Time will tell.
I named this post after Scott Starr because of his resemblance to Brian Cushing of the original group of USC Linebackers.
My own personal favorite thing about this post is that I finally learned how to spell Rey Maualuga.