Starr getting the hang of college

LOS ANGELES -- The last two months have been a period of change for Scott Starr.

The Trojans freshman linebacker graduated from Norco (Calif.) High School early in order to enroll at USC for the spring semester and take part in spring ball practice sessions.

Once he arrived at USC, the Trojans coaches quickly began talking to him about moving from outside linebacker (his projected position) to middle linebacker due to a lack of depth in the middle.

There will not be a change on Saturday, however. There will be a feeling of familiarity for Starr as he gets to put on the USC uniform and take part in a scrimmage for the first time at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a stadium he has dreamed of playing in since he was a kid.

"It's definitely crazy to think about," Starr said of playing in the Coliseum. "I just have to approach it like any other day and just be mentally prepared to go, but it's definitely exciting."

Being mentally prepared for life as a USC football player is something that Starr is quickly getting adjusted to. Gone are the days of high school, when the coaches would let you slide from time to time, when you were the big man on campus and everyone knew it. And those sweet recruiting pitches from college coaches who once wined and dined you? Those are gone too, replaced by coaches who demand that you keep up if you want to earn a spot.

"You're at the top of the food chain when you're in high school but now you need to work your way back up," Starr said. "These coaches don't care how many stars you had next to your name in recruiting, they treat you like any member of the team and if you're not keeping up you're going to hear about it."

Perhaps the biggest area where Starr has needed to keep up so far in his brief USC career is the expanded playbook. The level of information the players are required to learn is huge, and they are expected to learn it quickly.

"We put things in pretty fast here," USC linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton said. "On the first day, Scott had things down pretty good. The second day, we added more and we've kept on adding more with each passing day. He's doing all right with keeping up, but there are times that he'll forget the little things here and there.

"Those are things that come with experience. The older players are able to process the information faster, and that will come with time for Scott too. The good news is that he's studious, he asks questions and he's a hard worker. This time spent learning the system in the spring will really pay off for him by the time fall camp rolls around."

Starr said it didn't take long for him to realize how important the mental part of the game was going to be at this level.

"I didn't always know where I was supposed to be on the first day of spring practice so I just kind of followed the other linebackers," Starr said. "It's a little overwhelming with how much installation we do every day but I've got all the resources I need to learn it and it's up to me to know it."

Another added factor for Starr with his adjustment has been learning a new position. Starr expected to line up as a strongside linebacker for the Trojans, but there was a need for a backup middle linebacker behind Lamar Dawson. Therefore, the USC coaches explained that his quickest path to playing time was likely to be found in the middle.

"Coach Monte (Kiffin) sat me down and told me the best possibility to see the field was at middle linebacker," Starr said. "That was all I needed to hear."

At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Starr has the stature to handle the physical demands of playing any of the linebacker spots, even if his future may be on the outside.

"Scott took to the change really well because he wanted to help the team," Hazelton said. "He may very well end up being an outside linebacker, but he's a good football player and we want to get as many good football players on the field as we can, so we asked him to make the move."

The ability to get into the rotation right away and get a head start on knowing the playbook is one of the big reasons why Starr decided to enroll early at USC. Instead of walking the halls of Norco High School for one last semester he will be taking part in a spring scrimmage this weekend at the Coliseum as part of his new home. It's a decision that Starr said he doesn't regret one bit.

"I miss my friends at home but this is my future," Starr said. "This was a business decision for me to come in early because football is so important. I'm very happy to be here."