LOS ANGELES (AP) — The assignment was simple for Southern California defensive end Korey Foreman in his first college game: rush the quarterback on third down.
But the top defensive recruit in the 2021 class might have to do much more in his first Pac-12 Conference game against Stanford on Saturday because of an injury to a starter for the No. 14 Trojans and the style of play from the Cardinal.
“I think he’s really ready,” defensive tackle Tuli Tuipulotu said. “He’s been really getting into his playbook, knowing what he’s gotta do.”
Adjusting quickly is something Foreman has gotten used to since arriving at USC (1-0) this summer. He immediately realized relying on the strength and speed that allowed him to overwhelm high school offensive linemen would not be enough, so Foreman began absorbing every bit of information defensive line coach Vic So’oto and his new teammates could offer about how to become a more complete player.
“Every time I put on my helmet I can’t wait to make something new. Every single day is the opportunity for me to better myself than I was yesterday,” Foreman said.
Foreman’s willingness to work immediately impressed Tuipulotu, who navigated the same transition when he was a freshman last season.
“He was a baller (in high school), so they just let him out, let it go and just play and stuff,” Tuipulotu said. “But when he came here, there’s a lot of stuff you got to take into account and really just see and stuff, so he learned a lot more football stuff.”
That education could be put to the test this week. Nick Figueroa, the redshirt senior who starts at defensive end, is dealing with a sprained shoulder that kept him from practicing Wednesday.
So’oto expects Figueroa will be able to play, but the injury should lead to more snaps for Foreman. If Figueroa can't go at all, Foreman would likely make his first career start.
No matter which scenario plays out, Foreman will be tested by the variety of formations and personnel groupings Stanford (0-1) can employ, notably its use of multiple tight ends and extra linemen.
Foreman does have familiarity with Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee, who will make his first college start. They played together for one season at Centennial High School in Corona, California, and McKee left an impression with his approach to the game.
“He’s not like a ‘get down’ type of quarterback. I feel like he’s not scared to run over somebody,” Foreman said.
As for everything else Stanford can offer, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando believes Foreman will meet the challenge.
“I’ve got confidence in that kid. All the way,” Orlando said. “And he’s come a mile.”
Orlando’s goal is to allow Foreman to play fast and make the most of his elite physical traits at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. That means using the schemes Foreman is most comfortable with right now, “so I’m not gonna be the guy that blocks him with calls,” Orlando said.
The strategy worked in the 30-7 win over San Jose State to open the season. Though he did not make a tackle while playing roughly a dozen snaps, Foreman did help collapse the pocket to force the pick-six that sealed the game.
“Korey did pretty good,” Tuipulotu said. “Crazy get off, crazy athletic. Everything as advertised, he’s that guy."
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