Prospects

Prospects
Photo of Brian Cushing
Brian Cushing (OLB)
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 243
College: USC
Conference: Pac-12
Hometown: Park Ridge, NJ
High School: Bergen Catholic HS
Featured Prospects
Selected by: Houston Texans
Round: 1
Pick (Overall): 15 (15)
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Pick Analysis: The Texans select the versatile Cushing to fill their hole at linebacker. As a linebacker capable of manning either outside linebacker position, Cushing gives the team numerous options for filling out its lineup. With Cushing in place, the Texans have the potential to craft an aggressive blitz package that attacks offenses from multiple angles.
  1. Overview
  2. Analysis
Overview

The unquestioned leader of one of the premier defenses in college football, Cushing is also regarded as one of the finest strong-side outside linebackers in the game. Whether it is blitzing the quarterback, chasing down running backs or dropping back in pass coverage, the chiseled athlete has excelled at whatever task the coaches ask from him.


His steady performances each week brought back memories of former Trojans standout linebacker Duane Bickett, who went on to star in the NFL for Indianapolis (1985-93), Seattle (1994-95) and Carolina (1996) after being selected in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Colts.


Cushing felt that the 2008 season was his chance to prove to scouts that he was not only capable of being a first-round pick, but also prove that he could stay on the football field. Having missed more than a third of his freshman and junior seasons combined due to a rash of injuries, he underwent a rigorous training and nutritional program before the 2008 campaign. His exploits in the training room eventually earned him the honor of being named the team's Co-Lifter of the Year.


On the field, he received All-American recognition in addition to being named All-Pac 10 Conference first-team in 2008. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award, semifinalist for the Lombardi Award and quarterfinalist for the Lott Trophy. He accomplished all of this despite playing with a cast for close to a month to protect a broken bone in his hand.


Cushing earned Parade, USA Today, Prep Football Report, Scout.com, Super Prep, EA Sports and Prep Star All-American honors as a senior at Bergen Catholic High School. He was a member of the USA Today All-USA Team, in addition to receiving Super Prep Elite 50, Prep Star Top 100 Dream Team, Student Sports Top 100, Rivals 100, Super Prep All-Northeast Defensive Player of the Year, Prep Star All-East and All-State Defensive Player of the Year honors.


Despite missing three games with an ankle sprain, Cushing recorded 120 tackles, 11 stops for loss, 10 sacks and seven interceptions as a linebacker in 2004. On offense, the running back and tight end gained 475 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns and caught 13 receptions for 456 yards (35.1 avg) with seven scores. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown.


As a junior, Cushing was named Student Sports Junior All-American, All-State first-team and All-Bergen County Defensive Player of the Year. He went on to register 120 tackles, including 22 behind the line of scrimmage, adding nine sacks and seven interceptions.


Despite missing more than half his freshman season with a shoulder dislocation, Cushing returned to start four games for Southern California in 2005. He shared strong-side outside linebacker duties with Thomas Williams and also excelled on the special team coverage units. He returned a blocked punt 6 yards, delivered 23 tackles (14 solos), recovered a pair of fumbles and caused another. For that performance, Scout.com placed his named on their Freshman All-American squad (honorable mention).


With the depth on the defensive front wall depleted after four starters graduated, Cushing shifted to right defensive end for the 2006 campaign. He underwent a crash course at his new position during fall camp, having missed spring drills due to arthroscopic shoulder surgery. He recorded 57 tackles (27 solos) in his only season on the defensive line, as he ranked tied for second on the squad with 4.5 sacks and paced the Trojans with a career-high 13.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He blocked a punt for the second consecutive year, returning it 21 yards, and also fielded a kickoff that he returned 42 yards for a touchdown. He was named the winner of the team's John McKay Award, given to the player showing the most competitive spirit.


The injury bug resided in Cushing's locker in 2007. He missed a portion of spring drills with a hamstring injury, and at the conclusion of camp underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The All-Pac 10 Conference honorable mention suffered a bone chip and high ankle sprain vs. Idaho in the season opener and two games later, re-injured the ankle in the Washington State clash, missing the next four games. He finished with 25 tackles (14 solos) while starting eight of 10 games he played in at strong-side linebacker.


For the third consecutive spring, Cushing was on the sidelines, this time due to arthroscopic ankle surgery. He wore a cast for close to a month after breaking a bone in his hand vs. Oregon State and suffered a shoulder contusion vs. Arizona State, but still started all 13 games at strong-side linebacker in 2008. He was named All-American and All-Pac 10 Conference, as he collected 73 tackles (46 solos), ranking second on the team. He delivered three sacks and led the Trojans with 10.5 stops for losses. He also deflected six passes and picked off another.


High School

Attended Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.) High School...Earned Parade, USA Today, Prep Football Report, Scout.com, Super Prep, EA Sports and Prep Star All-American honors as a senior...Member of the USA Today All-USA Team, in addition to receiving Super Prep Elite 50, Prep Star Top 100 Dream Team, Student Sports Top 100, Rivals 100, Super Prep All-Northeast Defensive Player of the Year, Prep Star All-East and All-State Defensive Player of the Year honors...Despite missing three games with an ankle sprain, Cushing recorded 120 tackles, 11 stops for loss, 10 sacks and seven interceptions as a linebacker in 2004...On offense, the running back and tight end gained 475 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns and caught 13 receptions for 456 yards (35.1 avg) with seven scores...Also returned a kickoff for a touchdown...As a junior, Cushing was named Student Sports Junior All-American, All-State first-team and All-Bergen County Defensive Player of the Year...Registered 120 tackles, including 22 behind the line of scrimmage, adding nine sacks and seven interceptions.


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Analysis

Positives: Physical prototype with a combination of excellent size and overall athleticism for the position. Versatile. Signed with USC as a potential strong safety candidate, but has played defensive end, strong-side linebacker and even middle linebacker. Physical and intense. Big hitter who looks to intimidate opponents with his physicality in every phase of the game. Attacks blocks aggressively and flashes not only explosiveness but ferocity as a tackler. Good straight-line speed. Good flexibility to turn and run with tight ends and backs in coverage. Reads the quarterback well and can break on the ball. Productive pass rusher who is equally effective as an end and blitzing linebacker. Immediate standout performer who started for USC as a freshman.


Negatives: Has struggled with injuries throughout his career -- missing five games due to a shoulder separation in 2005 and three games in 2007 due to a high ankle sprain, as well as undergoing surgery after the 2006 (shoulder) and 2007 (knee) spring practices. Relies on his athletic ability, rather than his upper body strength to defeat blocks too often. Can overrun the play and allow for cutback opportunities. Mistakes often covered up by the surrounding talent at USC.


Compares To: CHAD GREENWAY, Minnesota -- Like Greenway, Cushing is quick to read and react to the play, having a good feel for blocking schemes and the take-off speed to beat offensive tackles upfield. He has enough acceleration to turn the corner, but is best when he slips through the gaps uncontested, as he is quick to fill the inside rush lanes. He stays low in his pads and attacks with good leg drive to neutralize the lead blockers when attempting to fill the run lanes. There are big concerns about his durability, but when healthy he is consistent if not spectacular.


Injury Report

2004: Missed three games during his high school senior year with an ankle sprain.


2005: Suffered a shoulder dislocation prior to the Arkansas contest (9/17), sitting out that game and also vs. Oregon (9/24), Arizona State (10/01) Arizona (10/08) and Notre Dame (10/15)...Underwent surgery after the season, missing 2006 spring camp.


2007: Missed most of spring drills with a right hamstring strain...After spring camp, he underwent arthroscopic left knee surgery...Suffered a slight bone fracture and a high ankle sprain vs. Idaho (9/01)...Saw limited action the next two games vs. Nebraska (9/15) and Washington State (9/22), but re-injured the ankle vs. WSU, sitting out the next three games vs. Washington (9/29), Stanford (10/06) and Arizona (10/13).


2008: Missed spring drills after undergoing arthroscopic ankle surgery...Played with a cast after suffering a broken bone in his hand vs. Oregon State (9/25)...Suffered a shoulder contusion vs. Arizona State (10/11).


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