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Practice Report: USC Football's Eric Gentry Faces Former Team With New Position

Sep 28, 2022

Four games have already passed, but it's still quite the sight for USC fans to see Eric Gentry, all 6'6 of him, playing at inside linebacker. It's a new spot for the sophomore, who changed both schools and positions this offseason. Gentry was an edge rusher at Arizona State, but the Trojans' defensive staff took a gamble out of the NCAA Transfer Portal.

"Coach [Brian] Odom, it was kind of his forward thinking to get him at the Mike linebacker spot," defensive coordinator Alex Grinch explained. "Which allows him more in a space situation with the college hashes. Which to me, at this point, is the best place to put him in order for him to be playable for us and excel for us. So I'm kind of pleased with where we're at right now, but we're constantly evaluating things."

Gentry shared Wednesday that it was actually the pandemic that forced him to get comfortable playing in space. When high school football shut down his senior year, he continued to play in 7-on-7 tournaments, defending receivers. 

"One of the things about linebackers, yeah can you run and hit, but can you fit a gap?" Grinch asked theoretically. "There's two backs in the backfield, are you willing to come downhill and take on a full back? And he could do those things. I think with all guys there are question marks,  but by and large, he's answered that."

Gentry looks to continue his dominance when he takes the field against his former team this Saturday. While some could put too much on the unique matchup, the sophomore looks at it with a level head.

"Just another football game," Gentry said.

Notes from USC's Wednesday practice of Arizona State Week:

  • Offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees shared that USC's offense is obviously not satisfied with Saturday's performance, but he noted that the team's leadership ultimately helped the team prevail. He specifically highlighted how quarterback Caleb Williams played through an off night.

    • "Lack of confidence has never been an issue with Caleb Williams. I guess I didn't really realize  what was going on in the game on Saturday till after the fact and taking a step back and looking at the stats and everything. But never one point during the game did he seem to be fearful or lose confidence, right? He was just a leader for us and really helped get the offense going when we were struggling, especially like on those last couple drives. When we did get in the endzone. I think he was a big part of that."

  • Grinch was asked what determines USC's starting lineup each game and he reiterated what the team's defensive coaching staff has preached since fall camp:

    • "Every guy in our program has been evaluated from an effort and execution standpoint. If you play at a high level, if you compete at a high level and you do so with a team effort, we will not only play you, we will start you and we will champion you. You can insert name in front and insert name behind. That's the expectation. Some guys are doing and some guys aren't doing at the level that we anticipate or expect them to. But today's another day, this week's a new week and we'll make decisions on Thursday in terms of rotations."

  • Running back Travis Dye, who ran for his third consecutive 100+ yard game last Saturday, share his thoughts on USC's offensive performance:

    • "It wasn't clicking as an offense. And at the end, we kind of pulled our heads out a little bit and just barely got away with it. Because the defense gave us chance after chance, after chance. And we appreciate the defense on that part."

Wednesday's media availability: