USC Spring Camp: Trojan Defense Impressing Early


Mar 5, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast at spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC is three weeks into spring camp, and already the defense is developing and improving much more efficiently than the offense is. This has been the norm for the Trojans over the past few years, but this year it is of particular note, as each player is still learning how to fit into an entirely different scheme than the one from 2012.

Through USC’s two weeks of practice before spring break, it had been the Trojan defense that stood out. In Tuesday’s practice, when the team returned in full pads and ready to work, the defense dominated yet again.

This suggests that the players are picking up defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s 5-2 system, and the players that now have new roles and responsibilities are adjusting to them quite well.

For example, let’s look at Lamar Dawson: he came into USC a prized recuit, and Lane Kiffin gave him the highly-coved No. 55 jersey, as if to suggest we could expect big things from this linebacker. Through two seasons however, those big moments were incredibly few and far between. This spring, Dawson has been playing as a Will linebacker instead of the Mike, and it is already clear that having him here in the 5-2 is much more suitable to his skill set. He earned the designation of MVP during Tuesday’s practice, and Kiffin has said more than once that he is the most improved player on the team so far.

Another player that had often been a disappointment but is looking to turn things around in 2013 is Torin Harris. On Tuesday he had one of his best practices of the spring, breaking up multiple pases and even recording an interception.

But its USC’s front seven that is impressing the most in spring camp, a mix of young guys and veterans that are meshing to create a formidable defensive line for Troy.

Things are constantly changing and evolving on the defense, and they will continue to do so for the rest of spring and into the fall. But the fact that the defense is clicking with Pendergast’s system so well so quickly is the kind of confidence-booster that USC needs as they continue moving forward towards a clean slate in 2013.