The inside linebacker position for the USC football team has taken several early hits. Jordan Iosefa is out for the season with a knee injury, while Kana’i Mauga and Tayler Katoa are both nursing injuries.
But some of that sting has been eased by the play of Palaie Gaoteote IV and Ralen Goforth.
The junior Gaoteote started the first six games as a sophomore before an injury caused him to miss five of the last seven contests. Still, he finished with 58 tackles, and three for loss.
He has continued to impress in the build up to this season. He was a standout in Saturday’s scrimmage, head coach Clay Helton said on Monday, and has been the leader of the linebackers at camp.
“I’m really expecting huge things from him this year,” Helton said.
Goforth, meanwhile, played in 12 games as a freshman, splitting between inside linebacker and special teams. This camp, he’s bulked up to 235 pounds and has turned heads with his play.
“I’ve been really pleased with Ralen Goforth and his sense of urgency to be a great player,” Helton said. “You see the change of his body right now, it is a physical, strong body. I mean, putting additional weight on and additional strength without losing his explosiveness.”
USC is still looking for other options at linebacker, too. The Trojans moved Raymond Scott from safety to linebacker, his original position coming out of high school.
“He’s done some nice things in the scrimmage so he’ll provide a kid that has some experience and provides some extra depth there,” Helton said.
Helton declined to comment on the federal investigation involving USC receiver Munir McClain, citing privacy concerns and referring instead to the university statement released on Sunday.
“We understand there may be many questions and concerns, but we are unable to discuss this matter because of our obligation to protect students’ privacy and because of the larger investigation with which USC is cooperating,” that statement read. “Coach Helton has told his team not to engage in rumors, to focus on football and always to do the right thing.”
On Sunday, McClain held a press conference in which he read a statement confirming that he applied for pandemic unemployment assistance, but denying any wrongdoing.
McClain has been suspended throughout training camp
“There seem to be a lot of rumors flying around but I want nothing more than to get back to play with the team,” McClain’s statement read. “I applied with the help of a representative from the EDD, the California Employment Development Department, and believe that I did everything right. I hope USC will speak to the attorneys who are helping me, Jenna Parker and Mark Hathaway, so I can have a chance to get back on the field as soon as possible.”
At the press conference, Najee Ali, an activist supporting McClain in this matter, said that they have not received clarity as to what exactly is being investigated by federal officials.