March 17, 2008

Brian Cushing returns, but still recovers

While graduating seniors like Lawrence Jackson, Sedrick Ellis and Keith Rivers prepare for the NFL Draft, Brian Cushing prepares for his final season as a Trojan.

But at this time last year, Cushing had aspirations of joining USC's graduating seniors on draft day.

According to the 6-foot-4, 250-pound junior linebacker, a high ankle sprain suffered against Idaho in the 2007 season opener helped guarantee his return to USC.

But minus an injury that required recent surgery, USC could be entering spring football next week in need of replacing three starting linebackers instead of just one.

"I was more serious about going pro before I hurt my ankle," said Cushing. "Coming into the season, I felt 100-percent, and really good about where I was with my skills as a player.

"After the season, I think Rey (Maualuga) was more serious about leaving than I was. Considering I got hurt, I wasn't able to do a lot of the things I wanted as a player. I wanted to come back and finish up everything I've tried to prove here....

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