Perhaps the biggest surprise of all from USC's blowout win over Arizona was the star turn from linebacker Kana'i Mauga. Can he do it again?
With Palaie Gaoteote out because of a high-ankle sprain, Kana'i Mauga is USC's weakside linebacker. Last week he played about as well as any Trojan has on defense this year, collecting 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, interception and forced fumble. It was quite a first start. The unassuming sophomore from Hawaii admits he didn't see the breakout performance coming. His special night led to a flood of texts from his friends and family back home.
"Where I grew up, where I came from is not, I guess you could say privileged," Mauga said. "It takes a lot of hard work to make it out of there. I feel like it gives them confidence and I feel like that what they should get from this, that anything is possible through work."
Mauga's big game didn't happen by accident. He's been mentored well by Jordan Iosefa, John Houston and Palaie Gaoteote. The importance of preparation has been impressed upon him. "It all starts from Monday though Thursday," he says. "We have to win in the film study." What's more, his humility could expedite his growth in this time of opportunity. Mauga readily admits he's not a finished product.
He's always brought an upbeat attitude, energy and hustle to the equation. But he knows he needs to get faster. After a frustrating season at strongside linebacker last year, his 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame would seem much more conducive to playing inside. But he's still learning to read offenses from that spot. He proved he can be a difference-maker and should be on the field even when Gaoteote returns. USC, though, needs him to continue producing now.
-- Adam Maya is a USC graduate and has been covering the Trojans since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJMaya.