SALT LAKE CITY — USC linebacker Porter Gustin was poised for quite a final homecoming to the state where he played his high school ball.
However, a season-ending ankle injury late in Saturday night’s 31-20 win over Colorado will keep the senior from taking the field this weekend when the Trojans take on the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Gustin, who is a Salem Hills graduate, leads the Pac-12 with seven sacks. He’s fourth in tackles for loss with 10.
“We’re all kind of numb right now to be honest with you,” USC coach Clay Helton told reporters in a teleconference Sunday night. “Because he’s a force of nature. You think of him as a superhero, as ‘Thor,’ we say. To know he’s not going to be with us for the remaining part of this season is obviously something that hurts us all.”
The Orange County Register is reporting that the timetable for Gustin’s recovery is 3-4 months. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound ‘backer from Elk Ridge is slated to have surgery this week and then begin rehab in preparation for next spring’s NFL Draft.
“You feel bad for him because he is a great kid and a really good player,” Whittingham said. “But I never really address injuries much because everyone has them and it's pointless.”
Whittingham noted that the Trojans have plenty of good players, just like everybody else, to fill the vacancy.
“You just have to play with the guys you’ve got and go from there,” he said.
USC, though, is quite dinged up at the moment. Their latest depth chart is laced with “or” at numerous positions.
“Every team is banged up. Everyone in the country is banged up,” Whittingham said. “So I don’t want to hear any sob stories.”
The loss of an impact player like Gustin, apparently, isn’t altering Utah’s approach to the pivotal Pac-12 South game with USC.
“Obviously, he’s a really good player, but you don't wholesale change because of that,” Whittingham said. “You might tweak something here or there, but nothing major."
Utah linebacker Cody Barton agrees with Whittingham that injuries are just part of the game.
“We’ve got guys down. They might have some guys down,” Barton said. “So, you know, like coach Whit said, there are no sob stories.”
Quarterback Tyler Huntley isn’t expecting anything less from USC’s defense without Gustin. It’s not changing his approach to Saturday’s game.10 comments on this story
“It definitely won’t,” he said
USC’s defense is fourth in the Pac-12 against the pass (218 yards per game) and sixth against the run (163.2 ypg). Senior linebacker Cameron Smith, a longtime Utah nemesis with 31 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumble in his career against the Utes, is third in the nation with 7.4 solo tackles per game. He missed the Trojans’ win over Colorado because of a hamstring strain.
USC (4-2, 3-1) at Utah (4-2, 2-2)
- Rice-Eccles Stadium
- Saturday, 6 p.m.
- TV: Pac-12 Networks
- Radio: ESPN 700AM