USC football Spring Camp notes: Defense makes necessary strides (4/11)

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /
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Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC football’s penultimate practice of Spring Camp featured a defensive victory, while Clancy Pendergast explained how his unit has shown what he hoped it would.

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Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has seen what he wanted to see from his new USC football defense this Spring Camp.

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“I wanted to see good technique, improvement at all three levels of the defense,” Pendergast said after the Trojans’ 14th practice on Thursday.

All three levels of the defense have hit the right notes for the defensive coordinator so far.

“I wanted to see the defensive line play with a consistent stance, to play with good hand placement and move their feet on contact and then be disruptive versus the pass,” Pendergast explained. “I’ve seen that.”

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USC’s defensive line has been one of the most consistent aspects of the defense this spring, in large part because they have been one of the deepest.

On the interior, Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele have provided a strong foundation while Jacob Lichtenstein and Brandon Pili have kept up the standard on the second line.

On the outside, Christian Rector, Drake Jackson, Connor Murphy and Nick Figueroa have created a larger front with disruptive tendencies on the edge.

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Moving backwards, Pendergast and company transformed the inside linebacker group by moving outside linebackers like Jordan Iosefa, Kana’i Mauga and Juliano Falaniko inside, along with swapping the positions of John Houston, now at middle, and Palaie Gaoteote, now at weakside.

“I thought the inside linebackers needed to do a better job at keying and diagnosing run and pass and be better internal blitzers,” Pendergast said. “I’ve seen that.”

With Houston and Iosefa trading off first team reps at the MIKE, the defensive coordinator said he has felt confident in each’s ability to lead the defense.

The most concerning aspect of the defense all spring has been the secondary, which is entirely new look thanks to five graduations from last year’s starting lineup and a slew of injuries keeping out many of their replacements this spring.

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Even so, the available players in the secondary have shown the progress Pendergast has hoped to see.

“I wanted to see them play better situational football,” Pendergast said. “When we’ve had the guys in the secondary out there that are going to be out there probably in the fall, they’ve done a good job with that recognition.”

The Trojans on defense have one more practice to impress their coaches, but thoughts have already turned to the summer, which will be critical for more than a few players, according to Pendergast.

“They’re going to have to really work in the offseason,” he said.