Thanks to the lingering after-effects of NCAA sanctions, USC still hasn't reached the kind of depth a program of its recruiting stature would be expected to have -- and another major injury to its front seven will put that depth even further to the test.
The Trojans announced late Sunday that redshirt sophomore linebacker Jabari Ruffin tore a knee ligament in Sunday practice and will miss the entire 2014 season. Ruffin suffered the injury while being tackled during an interception return.
"This is very unfortunate news about Jabari, but I know he will rehab well and come back strong next year," coach Steve Sarkisian said in the announcement. "And, I know our team will step up in his absence."
Ruffin was widely projected to serve as one of the Trojans' starting outside linebackers this fall. A top-100, four-star recruit in the class of 2012, the Downey, Calif. native made one start and collected 22 tackles in 2013.
With Ruffin out of the picture, the Trojans appear likely to start senior J.R. Tavai and sophomore Scott Felix (formerly Scott Starr) at the rush end and strongside linebacker positions, with sophomore Quinton Powell and the usual crop of blue-chip freshmen also in the mix.
Ruffin is the second Trojan defender to be lost for the season due to a ligament tear, with defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow having torn his ACL in July.