New USC safeties coach Craig Naivar has an ideal safety for the Trojans’ new defensive scheme: A bunch of Marvell Tell clones.
Former USC safety Marvell Tell made an impression on new Trojans safeties coach Craig Naivar when he faced off with the Texas Longhorns in 2017 and 2018. So much so that Naivar holds him up as an ideal.
“If I cloned a guy we’d throw five Marvell Tells out there,” Naivar said on Tuesday, as USC introduced their new assistant coaches to the media.
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Tell is now in the NFL and unavailable for cloning if that were possible, but Naivar is willing to work with what he has.
“We are adaptable,” Naivar said. “This system works well because we can play upon young men’s strengths and hide their deficiencies as we develop those to not make them deficiencies anymore.”
The coach did highlight some special traits he wants to see in his defensive backs.
“We like speed. We like length. And we like guys that like to hit people,” he said.
Naivar will have some talent to work with exhibiting all of those traits. Isaiah Pola-Mao and Talanoa Hufanga are returning starters at the position. The former certainly checks the box for length at 6-foot-4. And he sure likes the hit people…maybe a bit too much. He’s suffered season-ending injuries twice because of shoulder injuries sustained while hitting.
Hufanga is undoubtedly physical in his own right. He finished second in tackles last year despite missing three games of action. His absence was noticeable.
It will be up to Naivar to do exactly as he said: Highlight each of their strengths while hiding whatever flaws they may still carry.
One thing Naivar puts little stock in is surface appearance, which both Pola-Mao and Hufanga deliver in spades. He is eager to see players on the practice field putting their physicality to the test.
“The underwear Olympics do not win football games,” Naivar said.
He’ll have the opportunity to start proving that next week. USC Spring Camp practices open next Tuesday, March 10.