Adam Rose of The Los Angeles Times USC Blog All Things Trojan was kind enough to take some time and respond to a few questions that I had about USC's stud defensive players linebacker Rey Maualuga (photo left) and safety Taylor Mays (photo below)...I want to thank Adam for taking the time to respond...
Q1. What are the strengths of Rey Maualuga's game?
A. The first thing people talk about is how hard Maualuga hits. YouTube is littered with clips of him crushing some pour soul. I like to joke that Maualuga is the reason Waldo is hiding. In more realistic terms, Maualuga is an aggressive player with an incredible burst that allows him to get into the backfield -- which makes him a threat to sack a quarterback or drop a tailback for a loss. His bone-jaring hits can also lead to turnovers, which has also been a cornerstone of USC's success. While he's strong, athletic, and pretty big, he never struck me as a weight-room freak. He's more energetic and intense, like the Tazmanian Devil cartoon.
Because of his raw ability, Maualuga becomes a player that offenses have to gameplan around. If a quarterback takes his eyes off of Maualuga, there's always a chance that he'll wind up eating the turf (and even spitting up blood, like Rudy Carpenter did last year).
While not a strength, another factor is that he's always been surrounded by other talented players. He's been very modest about sharing credit, and deservedly so. He wouldn't have wound up in the backfield so often without Sedrick Ellis, Lawrence Jackson, and Keith Rivers distracting the offensive line. All three have left for the NFL, but they've just been replaced by another group of highly touted players (plus he's still lining up next to Brian Cushing).
Q2. Where does Maualuga rank among the great linebackers at USC?
A. It's a little early to say, because his legacy will depend on this season. Just think of the guys who have worn USC #55 alone: Rivers, Seau, McGinest, Claiborne. As Maualuga continues to make his mark wearing #58, it may come down to how the team performs this season. Maualuga is a leader, and leaders are remembered for winning. If the Trojans don't win it all this year, he'll be their first superstar in recent memory to leave school without a national championship ring.
At the same time, Maualuga has already won three Pac-10 championships, a Rose Bowl MVP, and could approach 300 career tackles this year. It's not like his resume is lacking. He just has some big shoes to fill.
Q3. What are the strengths of Taylor Mays?
A. Size and speed. He's got an unusual combination of the two. When I say Maualuga doesn't strike me as a weight room freak, Mays does. You'll hear that from everybody who watches him (ESPN ranked him #2 in the nation when it comes to workout freaks). Like Maualuga, he's physical and loves to hit.
Q4. Could you comment how Mays can impact the game from the free safety position?
A. He takes away the middle. Big wide receivers aren't fast enough to escape him, and Mays won't hesitate to crush them. He leveled a 6'5" receiver in practice the other day. A 5'10" guy doesn't stand a chance. I'm often skeptical of 40-yard dash times, but for those who care he's been clocked under 4.3 seconds. Receivers can't run, and they can't hide.