Lamar Dawson was supposed to be the next great USC linebacker. He was going to become the next Chris Claiborne or Willie McGinest or the late, great Junior Seau.
As he arrived on campus in the summer of 2011, Dawson just finished an illustrious career at Boyle County High School in Danvillle (Ky.), where he led his team to the 2010 State 4A Championship. USC had just lost Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan to graduation and Dawson was expected to come in and play right away. He was even given No. 55, becoming the first linebacker since Keith Rivers to don the sacred number.
Dawson played in eight games during his freshman year including starting the final four and was a CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-American Honorable Mention. In 2012, Dawson was fourth on the team in tackles (74) and played in 12 of the 13 games (missed the Hawaii game due to an injury). His best game came against Arizona State when he had 11 solo tackles and an interception.
In 2013, the injuries began. During practice before the Trojans 8th game of the season, Dawson tore his ACL and saw his season end early. He hoped to return for the 2014 season but was unable to recover from his knee injury in time and redshirted.
USC lost Hayes Pullard to graduation in the offseason and Anthony Sarao is out for all of spring practice because of a foot injury, making Dawson along with Su'a Cravens the leaders of the linebacking core. Dawson has looked good this spring and his return next year could be huge to a run defense that allowed over 133 yards per game.
Lamar Dawson hasn't played since 2013, but after months and months of rehab, he looks poised to have a huge comeback year in 2015.