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Oregon Football

Five Players to Know: USC Defense

November 1, 2019

Like the Trojans' QB and RB groups, the defense has been riddled with injuries. Key guys like Talanoa Hufanga and Drake Jackson both seem unlikely to play Saturday, which means USC will need some of its many other highly ranked players to step up and make some plays.

Here are the five guys that will need to be at the top of their games if they want to slow down the Ducks.

John Houston Jr. (10), Linebacker

The 6-3, 220-pound redshirt senior has been the Trojans' anchor. He leads the team with 70 tackles to go with 2.5 sacks, 3 pass deflections and 1 fumble recovery.

The veteran inside linebacker has really asserted himself in 2019. And he’s versatile, able to cover routes across the middle and get after the quarterback.

Houston will have to be great against the run Saturday, as the Trojans' defensive line is one of the team's most wounded position groups.

Isaiah Pola-Mao (21), Safety

The 6-4, 205-pound redshirt sophomore is long and versatile. On the season he has 49 tackles to go along with 1.5 sacks, 1 pass deflection and 1 interception.

With Hufanga not expected to play, the Trojans will need Pola-Mao to take his game to another level. He usually has the luxury of playing next to a super talented safety, but all eyes will be on him now.

Marlon Tuipulotu (51), Defensive Line

The 6-3, 305-pound redshirt sophomore from Independence (Ore.) is one of the key pieces on the defensive line. He leads all linemen with 37 tackles, and he has 1.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble.

With DE Jackson out of his walking boot but still not practicing, the Oregon offensive line should be looking to key on Tuipulotu. Tuipulotu will need not only to get after the quarterback, but also to jam up Oregon’s increasingly potent running game.

Isaac Taylor-Stuart (6), Cornerback

The 6-2, 205-pound redshirt freshman rose up the depth chart during the offseason to become a starter. He has responded with 28 tackles to go along with 4 pass deflections.

Taylor-Stuart plays opposite standout cover corner Olijah Griffin, so expect Oregon to test Taylor-Stuart – a lot. He’s super athletic and has the size to be great, but he hasn’t reached his full potential.

While Taylor-Stuart has had his moments this season, at other times he has been subpar. Can Justin Herbert take advantages of those lapses and make some big plays?

Palaie Gaoteote IV (1), Linebacker

The 6-2, 250-pound sophomore plays next to Houston at inside backer. He has 47 tackles, good for fourth on the team.

Gaoteote is a big body who has taken on a monster role in the middle of the field. He’s yet to record a sack, but he certainly poses that threat.

At his size, I expect Oregon will try to create some mismatches against him with crossing routes across the middle. Isolating him against Spencer Webb could be a mismatch, so Gaoteote will need to be playing at the top of his game Saturday.

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