As a 6'5", 245 pound linebacker, Salem Hills product and USC commit Porter Gustin brings a lot to the field physically for the Trojans.
Let's take a look at his highlight tape:
From watching him play, Porter Gustin doesn't seem to have the range that fellow linebackers Osa Masina and John Houston have. He is currently projected to play middle linebacker for USC, but I think his skill set may be better suited at strong-side linebacker. Gustin's body type seem to make him a better fit playing close to the line of scrimmage, taking on blocks and using his size and length to his advantage.
For instance, look at this play Gustin (11) made, navigating through traffic and snaring the ball carrier with one arm. This instance is a prime example of Gustin getting the most out of his physical radius:
And here's Gustin coming off the edge from the bottom of your screen from an outside linebacker position, which is where I can see him fitting with USC:
He doesn't look like a very refined pass rusher on this play, as he plays pretty upright and doesn't really look to get his hands into the offensive lineman. But he does throw a little swipe in there to knock the offensive lineman's hands away, and pulls off a nice little inside foot move. I think with a little more work, Gustin could definitely become a contributing pass rusher due to his natural length and athleticism relative to offensive linemen.
He's a little hard to spot here, but Porter Gustin starts lined up at the top of your screen, right on the line of scrimmage from a linebacker position:
He quickly diagnoses the play, getting a great first step after the snap and beating the lineman inside. Gustin then crashes down the line of scrimmage and makes the tackle. This is another type of play Gustin would be put in position to make as a SLB, and he really excelled in situations like these.
Here's another one:
He navigates his way through traffic, beating offensive linemen with his speed before catching the ball carrier from behind. A very decisive and athletic play, and one that suggests he has the talent to play wherever he is asked to.
Gustin wasn't asked to cover much on his highlight tape, which was disappointing to me. Today's style of football is so much about linebackers and their ability to play in space, and I simply haven't seen Porter Gustin do enough of that yet.
However, here is another nice instinctive play he made:
He actually has man-coverage on the running back initially, but the back stays in to block. Gustin therefore drops into coverage, and gets some nice depth with only three or four steps as he reads the quarterback's eyes and finds the ball.
And this one might be my favorite play of the entire tape:
Porter Gustin (11) maneuvers around two blockers before making the tackle. He has really good stop/start ability for such a big guy, and that will surely serve him well at the next level.
Gustin is quite clearly the fastest player on the field for much of his highlight tape. Check out this play, with Gustin in at quarterback:
He basically runs by a bunch of dudes, and then over a bunch of dudes. But he likely won't stand out like this against D1 competition in coming years.
My main concern with Porter Gustin is his ability to play in space -- I just didn't see a large enough sample size on his tape, but his abilities will become clearer once Fall Camp begins.
It is important to note that Hayes Pullard wasn't the most athletic linebacker, and he was a three-year starter. Still, if SC wants to field an elite defense, having three-down linebackers who can play in space is very important.
I'm not saying Gustin isn't that kind of player, but based off of what I've seen, I'd rather see him crashing down toward the line of scrimmage rather than backpedaling away from it. Porter Gustin isn't yet the player he will grow into at his peak, and probably not even the player he'll be when fall starts. He'll be a banger right off the bat, but will probably need to work on getting more comfortable in space.