Scouring the nation, you probably won’t find many coaches lamenting their team’s poor performances in practices thus far. Instead, coaches are pointing to strengths of their team and reasons to be optimistic. The beginning of a new season is imminent and with that comes revived hope. Some of those teams will prove to have good reason to be hopeful and the others will play themselves into obscurity.
A season after USC more appropriately fit the latter description, they appear ready to thrust themselves back into the national spotlight behind a revamped defense.
The hiring of Clancy Pendergast to replace Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator has brought a change in scheme; from a 4-3 to a 3-4 or 5-2, depending on who you talk to. Regardless of what you wish to call it, all indications are Pendergast and the new scheme encourages the defensive players to be aggressive and the attacker, which would be a welcomed sight.
Taking into consideration the switch to the new formation and examining the roster, it is easy to draw parallels to a similar switch in scheme Pete Carroll orchestrated when he also had an abundance of athletic and hybrid defensive players.
Do the names Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, or Rey Maualuga ring a Victory Bell?
Not that the group on the current roster will definitely produce at the same level of the names listed above, but the combination of Devon Kennard, Morgan Breslin, Hayes Pullard, and others figures to be a formidable group.
Switching to the defensive scheme employed by Pendergast, the Trojans will seemingly have the opportunity to ata minimum play four big and athletic defenders close to the line of scrimmage.
Of course, that is the idea behind the switch to a 3-4/5-2; subtract one typically slow interior lineman for a speedier player. With the advent of the spread offense, defensive speed is key.
Another key aspect that has gone relatively unmentioned is the new scheme will move Hayes Pullard to middle linebacker. After Pullard slid over to the mike position to fill in for the injured Lamard Dawson last season, Lane Kiffin commented that Pullard was a natural fit at the position and would more than likely transition as a middle linebacker in the NFL.
A question mark heading into fall camp, the secondary also appears to be responding well to the change. Up to this point, seemingly after every practice Kiffin is mentioning a safety or cornerback who had an impressive day. For those who may remain skeptical of certain members in the secondary, it is important to note Pendergast’s attacking style.
The front seven should be able to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks, not giving them much time to scan the defense and potentially pick it apart.
A talented and motivated team can be a dangerous one; the 2011 Trojans are the perfect example. The 2013 Trojans may suffer some initial growing pains with the change in defensive scheme that Carroll’s team did not, but the defense appears ready to live up to the expectations placed on them and should propel the Trojans to a strong season in 2013.