CARSON >> USC again lost some of its depth at linebacker this week when junior Olajuwon Tucker was determined academically ineligible for the Rose Bowl game against Penn State.
Tucker marked the fourth Trojans linebacker to be lost this season for a non-injury related matter. Jabari Ruffin was suspended indefinitely in October for an undisclosed student conduct issue. Don Hill and Osa Masina were suspended earlier in the season while under investigation for an alleged sexual assault.
Without Tucker, who is the backup outside linebacker behind Uchenna Nwosu, USC will turn to freshmen Oluwole Betiku and Connor Murphy as needed.
“They’ve done a nice job progressing throughout the course of the season,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. “I think the offseason’s going to be really important for them in terms of their development, but they certainly have worked hard enough and understand the defense enough to be able to play.”
Although Tucker manned the spot behind Nwosu, he primarily made his mark on special teams. He had nine tackles in 12 games.
Betiku has played sparingly and has not had a tackle or a sack. Murphy has six tackles in 12 games.
“I think guys will be able to step in and step up easily,” senior linebacker Michael Hutchings said.
Tucker is still practicing this week. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kevin Scott, who is also academically ineligible, was not seen Thursday.
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