Bobby Haskins bringing an essential voice to the USC locker room

By the time the sun set on his first day in Southern California, Bobby Haskins was already pretty confident he’d found his future home. After a chaotic couple of weeks on the transfer portal, the coveted Virginia tackle immediately clicked with USC coaches and immediately moved to LA. It didn’t matter that USC had yet to hire an offensive line coach. Haskins felt it was the right fit.

Then came the perfect closing note on his official visit to USC…courtesy of Australian rock band Men at Work.

“I come from a country Down Under!” Haskins was performing from a private karaoke room in Koreatown that night in late December. Joining him on the mic for a duet few in the room would forget was former USC player – and native Australian – Ben Griffiths.

When it came to karaoke, there was no stopping Bobby Haskins. It just wasn’t in his nature. It didn’t matter that the towering tackle had just hit the rest of USC’s offensive line. Microphone in hand – and a cacophony of flutes pounding out over a pure ’80s tune – any walls that might have stood between them crumbled.

Adding a new voice to an already established offensive line is usually a delicate process that takes time when personalities and playstyles degenerate. But Brett Neilon knew before Haskins even hit the chorus of “Down Under” that it would fit right in.

“We’ve got to get this guy over here,” the USC center decided that night before trying his hand at some Taylor Swift songs.

“We sang with all our hearts,” Neilon said.

For Haskins — or any self-respecting karaoke enthusiast — there was no other way to sing karaoke.

“My whole family loves to sing,” Haskins said. “My buddies from high school, their brothers and sisters and families love to sing. At home we’re going to run music videos on TV and my family are going to get the brooms out and we’re going to get the air guitar working and all that good stuff.”

“He’s definitely not afraid to put himself out there,” added Keith Hellstern, Haskins’ high school coach at Fairfield Prep, Conn.

He’s brought that same energy to USC’s offensive line room since arriving in January, even when he was sidelined in the spring.

After suffering an ankle injury during his final season in Virginia, Haskins underwent surgery soon after. That meant he had to serve out his first few months at USC and learn the new offense remotely.

“It was hard just to watch,” Haskins said. “When you’re on the sidelines, you get this little itch.”

Offensive tackle Bobby Haskins defends Florida linebacker Jonathan Greenard.

Offensive tackle Bobby Haskins (right) defends Florida linebacker Jonathan Greenard during the second half of the Orange Bowl between Florida and Virginia on December 30, 2019 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

(Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

“All you could ever want in life is an opportunity to compete. I have that. I am very excited about it.”

– Bobby Haskins on joining USC

His absence in the spring meant he had to start preseason camp on the second-team offensive line, while Courtland Ford handled the lion’s share of replays as a starting left tackle.

Most transfer offensive tackles could assume their starting spot is secured considering there are few experienced linemen available in the portal. But USC offensive coordinator Josh Henson said last week that none of the Trojans’ open offensive tackle spots are guaranteed. And Haskins seems to have no problem moving forward without such a guarantee.

“All you could ever want in life is an opportunity to compete,” Haskins said. “I have that. I am very stunned. We have a great attacking group. I’m here to help the team win in any way I can.”

His 20 starts in the left tackle is certainly a good start. Ford and his colleague Jonah Monheim have 16 starts between them.

“He puts himself in a position to win a lot,” Henson said of Haskins. “[That’s] simply experience. [He’s] an experienced operator. He doesn’t make it difficult for himself.”

Haskins added 10 pounds to his physique in the spring as part of a plan he devised with USC strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie to increase upper body strength. He’s checking in about 305 now, which he says has already helped him improve as a run blocker.

Whether that’s enough for the job as a left-hander will be decided in the next two weeks. But among his fellow linemen, Haskins’ voice has already become an integral part of the USC dressing room.

“If you’re going anywhere for your senior year, you have to have faith in that,” Haskins said. That’s something Coach [Lincoln Riley] spoken since the very first meeting we had as a team. It’s the speed of trust. We don’t have time to think or to dip a toe in the water.

“We have to dive head first. That’s what I did.” Bobby Haskins bringing an essential voice to the USC locker room

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