After the Trojans outlasted Arizona in triple overtime, USC posted a graphic to social media touting linebacker Eric Gentry as a “difference maker.” The 6-foot-6 inside linebacker was seven-for-seven on tackle opportunities against the Wildcats and led the team in tackle, defense and run-defense grades, per Pro Football Focus.
“EG really is that guy,” the Instagram caption read.
Then he played two snaps the next game.
The junior’s inconsistent but effective playing time has been one of the major questions surrounding an inside linebacker group that has struggled to find its footing. He made a loud statement for a larger role last week, earning the start alongside Shane Lee against Cal and starring with six tackles, one for a loss, a forced fumble, an interception and two pass breakups.
But even after making his case for more playing time, Gentry was unfazed by his undefined spot in the rotation.
“I just do everything possible that I can do to get on the field,” he said Tuesday. “[Linebackers] coach [Brian] Odom told us if you get two reps, imagine all the work that you did to get those reps.”
After Gentry missed all of spring camp and most of fall with an injury, he was “really, really rusty” to start the season, Riley said, which contributed to his fluctuating role. This week, Gentry confirmed his health is no longer a concern as he waits for a larger opportunity.
Gentry and Lee moving into the starting lineup for the first time this season displaced Mason Cobb and Tackett Curtis. Cobb finished with a season-high 15 tackles against Cal, including two for loss. Curtis, the freshman who had started every other game this season, had three tackles and a forced fumble and recovery on special teams.
Raesjon Davis, who appeared to be third in line at the position at the beginning of the season, had just two tackles against Cal in a diminished role.
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