Five star linebacker Osa Masina is the latest elite prospect to commit to USC.
After watching his highlights, Masina is probably my favorite prospect thus far.
His combination of size (6'3", 230 pounds) and speed is the first thing that stands out, but his natural feel for the game is so fun to watch.
Osa Masina is very physical and isn't afraid of contact, which is obviously important for a linebacker, but not just for the purpose of tackling. I would argue that the best attribute a linebacker can have is the ability to take on and shed blocks and Masina is great at locating the ball and navigating through traffic.
In this example, Masina (3, lines up right over the center pre-snap) diagnoses the run play almost immediately -- it's really quite remarkable. He then takes on the block from the fullback, blows him up, and still makes the tackle on the running back. This is a great play that really showcases Masina's instincts.
Here is another example of Masina not being afraid of getting dirty. He starts as the second player in white from the right side of the screen and takes on the block of the offensive lineman before shedding and making the tackle.
Masina's athleticism is key in why he'll be so valuable to the Trojans. Coverage, especially over the middle of the field where there are often mismatches, is vital in today's style of football. Osa Masina has incredible range and speed to match up with tight ends and even some receivers, which will be an incredible luxury.
His versatility will be extremely valuable, and something the Trojans have been missing since Dion Bailey left for the NFL (Su'a Cravens is also a similar type of player, but isn't often asked to do much in coverage, unfortunately).
Masina's explosion and consistent leverage also makes him a really good blitzer, and his overall style of play reminds me a little of Daryl Washington of the Arizona Cardinals.
Here is some more great recognition. Masina (31 this time) is playing a short zone over the middle, and has the awareness to recognize the shallow crosser behind him and jump the route.
And here, he recognizes the "play-action tight end throw back" offensive play concept, smoothly flips his hips to change direction, and is then fast enough to make a play on the ball.
That kind of athleticism from the linebacker position gives the defense the freedom to do more kinds of things -- USC can play in base defense more since Osa Masina gives them coverage ability similar to what a defensive back would bring, or Masina can bluff an "A-gap" blitz since he has the range to drop out into coverage so quickly. USC can also play some Tampa-2 (but not too much, Monte Kiffin) to limit big plays, since Masina has the speed to run down the middle of the field and essentially act as a deep safety.
As a sidenote, he carried the ball quite a few times as a running back in high school, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a few short-yardage looks.
In short, Masina looks like the complete package. He is the exact prototype you want in today's aerial game, but still has the size and strength to play well when he's close to the line of scrimmage too. Hayes Pullard did a lot for the Trojan football program, but Osa Masina is capable of being way better.
I wouldn't be surprised if Masina ended up being the first USC middle linebacker since Brian Cushing to go in the first round of the NFL Draft.