USC will be without one of its captains for the first half of Saturday’s game against Boston College. Redshirt senior linebacker Hayes Pullard will be forced to sit after being ejected for targeting in the third quarter of last Saturday’s game at Stanford.
In fact, while Pullard is allowed to warm up with the team before the game, he has to sit in the locker room for the duration of the first half. With Pullard out, the USC coaching staff has a couple of options at the Mike linebacker position, including moving Anthony Sarao over.
Instead, Michael Hutchings, a true sophomore from Antioch will be making his first career start.
Hutchings was the No. 4 outside linebacker in the Class of 2013 coming out of De La Salle High School. As a senior, he was named Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football after compiling 113 tackles and 11 tackles for a loss as De La Salle won the CIF Open State Title.
After arriving at USC, Michael Hutchings was moved inside and spent much of his freshman year backing up Pullard and playing on special teams. In 14 games, Hutchings had 19 tackles, setting a career high with six against Colorado.
After dislocating his left elbow during spring practice this year, Hutchings came back and had a good fall camp, spending a lot of his time watching tape and studying Pullard, who also is his roommate.
"I am excited for Saturday, I want to see what is in store," Michael Hutchings said of his impending first career start.
This young season has already been full of first for Hutchings.
In the Trojans' season opening victory, defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. tipped a pass attempt from Fresno State quarterback Brandon Connette and Hutchings found the ball fall into his arms for his first career interception. He collected three tackles in the game.
Then against Stanford was thrown into the mix for his first significant crunch time action after Pullard's ejection. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was impressed with how well Hutchings handled the situation.
"Nobody panicked. One man down. Next man up. That's how he handled it," Wilcox said. "We expected him to handle it well and he did."
Anthony Sarao, who has started alongside Pullard since the second half of last year, praised Hutchings for his work ethic.
"I think Hutch is a great learner," Sarao said. "He comes out there and the train never stops rolling, so when he comes out on the field, it's the same thing."