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Four USC defensive starters could be out for Saturday’s game vs Arizona

USC defense could take a hit on Saturday with four starters injured.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The USC defense could be a little bit thinner as four defensive starters could miss Saturday’s homecoming game against the Arizona Wildcats. During Tuesday’s post practice media scrum head coach Clay Helton shared that linebacker Palaie Geoteote defensive backs Olaijah Griffin, Isaac Taylor-Stuart, and Greg Johnson could potentially miss Saturday’s game. All four of them suffered injuries in the Trojans 30-27 loss to No. 8 Notre Dame last week.

Helton stated that Johnson will not be medically cleared for Saturday after dislocating his shoulder in last week’s game. He could also miss some time to rehab his shoulder. Griffin status is also doubtful for this week’s game. The sophomore cornerback left last week’s game and missed Tuesday’s practice with tightness in his lower back. This was the same problem that forced him to sit out the Trojans loss to Washington three weeks ago.

USC will turn to true freshman Max Williams at the nickel cornerback position in place of Johnson. Chase Williams could also be a candidate, however the Trojans could opt to keep him at safety. Max Williams made his season debut against Washington for a suspended Johnson. On the outside expect freshman Cornerback Chris Steele to take the place of Griffin if he’s unable to go.

Taylor-Stuart status, on the other hand, is more hopeful for Saturday as the Trojans will observe his status through the week. The redshirt freshman cornerback suffered a high ankle sprain against Notre Dame and was in a walking boot during Tuesday’s practice. While he is further along than both Johnson and Griffin, he still has a ways to go. USC could opt to go with a pair of true freshmen opposite of Steele if Taylor-Stuart is unable to go. Jayden Williams and Dorian Hewett will likely get reps at the second outside cornerback spot and compete for that spot through out the week.

The linebacker spot will take a hit with Gaoteote missing this weekend’s game. The sophomore linebacker suffered an high ankle sprain against Norte Dame. While the injury had many worried, the Gaoteote managed to return to the game. Kana’i Mauga played in place of the injured linebacker during the loss to the Fighting Irish and will most likely start in his place against Arizona. Freshman Ralen Gorforth, redshirt sophomore Juliano Falaniko, and redshirt freshman Elijah Winston are also possibilities to replace Gaoteote at the linebacker spot.

With Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate and running back J.J. Taylor coming in, the linebacker spot will be very crucial for the Trojans in containing the Wildcats duo.