May 30, 2024
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch says the young linebacker, who has been earning praise since spring practice, will “have a major part in the defense” in Saturday’s season opener.

The kid didn’t come all the way from a tiny town in Louisiana to Southern California to sit around.

No, Tackett Curtis, as his uncle and Many High football coach Jess Curtis said, did not come to USC to kick around empty paper cups on the sidelines. The 2023 recruit saw USC, saw the glory days of Junior Seau and Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, saw the program Coach Lincoln Riley was building – and saw himself as a missing piece, Jess Curtis said.

He saw a need for help. And there would be no redshirt freshman year. No ease-into-fall-camp.

“He’s there,” Jess Curtis said, “to help improve them right now.”

It’s an audacious belief for a true freshman, particularly one entering a crowded linebacker corps. Shane Lee and Eric Gentry, the Trojans’ second- and third-leading tacklers in 2022, were still around, after all. But Curtis came into spring camp after graduating high school early with a heap of coaching praise behind his name – “Oooh, this freshman coming in,” as a smirking Caleb Williams put it – and has wowed coaches and players during fall camp to the point of beaming smiles whenever his name is mentioned.

“Tackett’s one of those kids, we’re having to coach the scheme, we’re having to coach the technique, but the effort and all that stuff – we don’t have to say nothing to him,” Riley said earlier in camp. “You don’t have to motivate that dude at all. He’s going to walk out here ready to practice every single day.”

And lo and behold, on Tuesday, the first day of in-season practice with Saturday’s game against San Jose State upcoming, Curtis was filling first-team defense reps against the scout-team offense.

“He’ll have a major part in the defense,” defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said when asked about Curtis’ role against San Jose State on Saturday.

“A guy that was in here in the spring and plays the game the right way – I cannot be more positive on Tackett,” Grinch continued. “For a freshman to come in here and learn and understand, but also kind of be the model in how you want a guy to play and then has been one of those guys that the head coach has pointed to in team meetings just from an effort standpoint.”

SOLOMON TULIAUPUPU OUT FOR SEASON

A trying and tiresome road for USC defensive lineman Solomon Tuliaupupu – through numerous surgeries and season-ending injuries – paid off in 2022 with a long-awaited debut as a redshirt senior.

But on Tuesday, after USC’s practice, Riley delivered news that will ensure another long climb back for Tuliaupupu: the lineman has undergone season-ending surgery to address a lower leg injury.

“Obviously, real disappointed,” Riley said. “He was having a great camp, a great spring. But still going to have a great chance to have him back with us again next fall.”

“And knowing him and what he’s fought back from,” Riley continued, “it would be no surprise to us all to see him do it.”

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