USC Football

Iosefa says Leadership & Cohesion Strong

August 29, 2017

Although Iosefa didn't play much at linebacker last season, he did play on special teams and during the spring became Cameron Smith's backup, where he'll play significant minutes this season.

With the team finishing the 2016 season strong with a victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl, we wanted to find out how Iosefa felt Fall Camp[ 2017 is different than a years ago.

"From a team standpoint I think our cohesion is great, we understand the playbook more and we understand Coach Clancy's mindset," said Iosefa. "So, we're playing faster and more physical. I think we were a little hesitant last year, but we're getting to the ball a lot faster this year."

He also talked where he's improved most as a player since last Fall.

"I think it's been mentally," Iosefa said. "I've been taking a ton of mental reps being behind Cam (Smith) and being physical is a must when you come to USC. Being mentally prepared is the key to success with anything."

Numerous players have told us Ivan Lewis has said this past offseason was the best he;s seen for the strength and conditioning program at USC. And that cover more than a dozen years. Lewis was at USC when Chris Carlisle was Pete Carroll's S&C Coach.

"It was phenomenal," said Iosefa. "The leadership made the offseason strength program great this year. There were freshmen leading their group, sophomores leading their group and Uchenna led his group. I think we are all learning how to be leaders, because without leadership, you can't succeed."

A freshman who's playing alongside Iosefa is Levi Jones and he's impressed the coaches thus far. We asked Iosefa if he's been impressed with Jones.

"He's catching on fast and he plays fast," said Iosefa. "He's learning the playbook quick and he'll be great."

Uchenna Nwosu has become a significant leader for the Trojans and someone the younger guys want to emulate on and off the field according to Iosefa.

"He's such a leader on and off the field," Iosefa said. "If you watch him practice, you see someone doing things the right way. He goes 110 percent every play and guys like me, Marlon Tuipulotu, Levi (Jones), Wole' (Betiku) and Connor Murphy see a prime example of how we all want to play. He's fast, aggressive and runs hard to the ball every time."

Another young linebacker who's not getting talked about much is Juliano Falaniko. Those of us who cover recruiting didn't get an opportunity to see him play until he arrived on the practice field for day one  of Fall Camp. I told Iosefa I watched a few clips from the first day of practice and was immediately impressed with Falaniko's motor. 

It's how guys are from the islands," Iosefa said. "They don't often get looked at or get attention, but they only need one opportunity and they'll make the most out of it."

You would think the transition from Samoa to US would be extremely difficult for Falaniko, but Iosefa says he's transitioning nicely with the help of his Polynesian brothers.

"You'd be surprised, football is big in Samoa," said Iosefa. "There are a lot of people from American Samoa in the league (NFL) right now. So, he's making his own transition and he's comfortable as ever. As long as you have Samoan or Polynesian food nearby, we'll be alright. You don't always have to be around Polynesians to be comfortable, but it's a big plus. They understand your background and you understand theirs. Having Polynesian guys right next to us and being able to hang out with them every day, helps bring that feeling of home."

Although Iosefa is from Hawaii and that's home for home, he settled in quickly at USC and knew he wanted to be a Trojan before he ever set foot on campus. He explained why.

"I came on an unofficial visit with Tua Tagaovailoa and our parents are super close," said Iosefa. "We came out together for the Rising Stars Camp. That was my first time on a plane...ever. I committed before I ever visited this school, because I really like Coach (Clay) Helton a lot. Coach Sark was still here, but the first two coaches I met were Coach Helton and Coach Johnny (Nansen). They came by my school and they were really genuine people. I've met a lot of other coaches, and I just don't know kids can turn down Caoch Helton and Coach Nansen. I love playing for Coach Helton and our while team loves playing for that man. He's a genuine and nice man, but he's tough, gritty and has the mentality you need."

Now that he's been at USC for a year, we asked him what it means to him to be a Trojan.

"A rich legacy, being relentless and being a champion in general," he said. "We walk by legends every day down the All-American Walk. You see guys like Adoree', Rey Mualauga, Lofa Tatupu, Junior Seau and Troy Polamalu. It just makes you think how blessed we are to be in this position at The University of Southern California and living the life."

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