Cushing came to USC with high expectations but a shoulder injury put his freshman season in doubt. He was expected to redshirt, but managed to come back in the sixth game of the year and provide a boost to the defense. Despite not being at full strength, Cushing played in eight games and finished the year with 23 tackles. Cushing was moved to a hybrid DE/OLB spot as a sophomore due to a lack of depth at DE for the Trojans, and he had his best season to date. Playing with his hand down quite a bit, he managed to rack up 57 tackles, 13.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks on the year on his way to earning All Pac10 2nd team honors. A breakout season was expected as a junior, but Cushing was again slowed by an injury, this time a severe ankle sprain. He hobbled his way to 25 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and a sack in eight starts on the year. Cushing had a strong senior season for the Trojans, ending his career with his best season as a linebacker. He had 66 tackles, ten for loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception on the year. He earned All Pac 10 1st team honors and even some All American accolades for his success this year.
They arenít made any better than Brian Cushing, from an ability standpoint. Cushing has fantastic size, speed, and athleticism. He has the size and toughness to match up with the bigger, more physical tight ends but the athleticism and speed to run with the H-Back types. His size and strength at the point of attack allow him to hold his ground and make plays in the running game, as well as line up as an edge rusher in passing situations. The time Cushing spent at the elephant end position gives him a very well rounded game. He can make an impact as a pass rusher, stopping the run, or dropping into coverage. Cushing also has very good instincts and is always around the action. He wastes no motion in diagnosing the action and flies to the football.
The only real knock on Cushing has been his durability. A shoulder problem limited him during his freshman season and an ankle injury hindered him as a junior. He has had only one season where he made the impact expected of him throughout the year. Cushing needs to stay healthy and stay on the field to maximize his impact.
Cushing has the talent, instincts, and toughness to be a star linebacker in the NFL. He has made an impact on the field even when not at full strength but all the nagging injuries have slowed him down at times. He was healthy for the most part as a senior and he had an excellent season to close out his college career. It is a deep draft for linebackers but Cushing should still hear his name called in the first frame, and could be a steal if he lasts outside of the Top 25.