Inside the Galippo-Dawson switch

It happened so quickly.

A couple of hours before kickoff last Friday at Colorado, freshman linebacker Lamar Dawson tweeted he was going to make his first career start for USC that night. That was more than a mild surprise considering that, just two months ago, Dawson wasn't deemed ready enough to even sub in for Galippo on one single snap during USC's season opener against Minnesota.

Nobody knew what to expect. Was Chris Galippo going to move to strongside linebacker, temporarily, to accommodate the injured Dion Bailey? That seemed fairly likely. But it turned out Dawson had supplanted Galippo in the starting lineup after the senior's poor play against Stanford the previous week. And Galippo played some, backing Dawson up against Colorado, but it was by far the least he'd played in any game this season.

So, then, it was clear: A change had been made. Galippo has been replaced by his understudy four years his younger. The question now is whether he has any chance of regaining his spot in the season's final three games -- the final three of his college career.

“I think I’ve been thrown a lot of curveballs in my career," Galippo said Monday, asked how it felt to be told he wouldn't start against Colorado. "This is just another one. It’s just something else I have to work through. It’s a lot like getting hurt or having to work through stuff like that. It’s not the first time I have been in this situation. But I’m not going to feel sorry for myself.

"I have confidence in myself. It’s really just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities I get on Saturday and ending these last few games with a bang.”

Galippo was told by USC coach Lane Kiffin on Sunday or Monday of last week that he wouldn't start. He and Dawson both practiced the whole week with that knowledge, but neither said anything publicly until Dawson's tweet. In retrospect, Galippo was clearly hurt by the decision. But he didn't show it.

"It's not a personal deal," said linebackers coach Joe Barry. "Coach decided to make a decision and we pulled in and told Chris, and he wasn't happy with it, which I was happy with.

"We'd have a big problem with it if he was OK with it."

Even now, Galippo is not really OK with it. Asked, point-blank, why he lost his starting spot, he couldn't come up with too much.

"I mean, obviously I haven’t played perfect," Galippo said. "I know I have made mistakes. I’ve done everything I can. I tried as hard as I can. I’ve done what I’m good at, the mental side of the game, getting guys lined up and being a leader out there. I think it shows when I’m out there on the field.

"I just got to continue to take advantage of the opportunities I get.”

Dawson did that against the Buffaloes, Kiffin and Barry both said. And Dawson confirmed it in his own low-key way.

"I played decent," the freshman said. "I missed a couple assignments, and I still gotta work to get better this week."

As for Galippo, the obvious, immediate question now is what this will do for his future. As in, will it affect any potential NFL career for him?

Barry says no way.

"As I told Chris, life is about bumps in the road, and this isn't the biggest bump in the road you're gonna have. It's about how you deal with adversity," Barry said. "I was in the NFL for 11 years, and I saw first-round draft picks flop and guys that were undrafted, backup players in college, have 15-year careers. The NFL is not an exact science.

"This by no means is gonna affect Chris Galippo's future at all, unless he allows it to. That's gonna have no bearing on it at all."