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Monday, August 18, 2008

Kaluka Maiava ready to take his turn for USC

The former backup is on track to join NFL prospects Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing as starters at linebacker.
By Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
7:36 PM PDT, August 18, 2008
USC linebacker Kaluka Maiava filled the back-up role, never complaining that he should be playing ahead of the starter.

Not that he had much of a choice.

Keith Rivers was a three-year starter at weak-side linebacker for the Trojans and was chosen ninth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL draft last April.

"Unfortunately for me, that guy was a freak. A terminator," Maiava said, shaking his head laughing.

Now, finally, it's Maiava's turn.

The senior from Hawaii is on track to start alongside middle linebacker Rey Maualuga and strong-side linebacker Brian Cushing, each of whom are regarded as a possible first-round draft pick in 2009.

"It's my last shot," said Maiava, who had thumb and wrist surgeries last spring. "I do want to play in the NFL, hopefully, one day and I know I need numbers.

"I'm really behind Rey and Cush, and I have to play catch-up."

Maualuga is confident that the 6-foot, 230-pound Maiava will fill Rivers' spot without a drop-off.

"He's played a lot already," Maualuga said. "He's ready to go."

Maiava is expected to provide the Trojans with a ball-hawk mentality that has been missing from the Trojans defense the last few seasons. Though he gives away a few inches to the 6-foot-2 Maualuga and 6-foot-3 Cushing, Maiava utilizes stealth when tracking ball-carriers, receivers and quarterbacks.

"Guys don't see me sometimes -- that works to my advantage," said Maiava, who had 10 tackles last season against Arizona State and forced a fumble against Illinois in the Rose Bowl. "I'd like to think when I'm on the field I make things happen."

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