On to the Trojan defense today. The Trojan defense struggled mightily the first game against Hawaii. Since then, they’ve gotten progressively better but they still have some obvious weaknesses where they haven’t put it all together. The talent is there though.
This is an area that most people regard as the strength of the defense. That much has proven true in USC’s first 4 games, although they haven’t truly been tested. Chris Polk will be the best back USC has faced this year and the Huskies offensive line might be the best they’ve faced also. That’s pretty pathetic. Anyway, the Trojans are led by Jurrell Casey. Casey is a big 305 lb. defensive tackle who was a pre-season All American in some publications. He’s perhaps the biggest reason USC is stout against the run and poses quite a few match-up problems up front. Other names to watch on the line are Armond Armstead, Nick Perry, and DaJohn Harris. Armstead and Perry have been hurt as of late but are probable for the game Saturday. If they can’t go that is obviously a big hit to the USC defense. They do have some decent depth here unless one or two more guys get hurt. The Trojans’ need to rely on their pass rush to take some of the heat off the much-aligned secondary.
The Trojans have had more talent at the linebacker position in the last decade than some NFL teams. Last year, they took a little bit of a step back and it’s yet to be seen how good they are this year. Obviously, there’s talent. That goes for all of USC’s positions. USC has three players in their linebacking corps who saw quite a bit of time last year, Michael Morgan, Malcolm Smith, and Derek Kennard. Morgan has good size and is one of the fastest players on the team. Smith started all of last year at weak-side linebacker. Both Morgan and Smith are team captains. Derek Kennard takes the middle linebacker spot. He split time with Morgan last year at strong-side linebacker and now slides over. These guys deserve credit for helping shut down team’s run games but also deserves a little of the blame for not helping the young secondary.
On to that weak secondary I keep alluding to. Let me say that they haven’t been as bad as I might have let on. The Hawaii game was truly atrocious. The secondary was carved up the entire game and never looked that close to stopping them. They have been better since then but not entirely. Wazzu moved the ball pretty well through the air against the Trojans but couldn’t take advantage. USC does have 6 interceptions on the year, that’s pretty good but when you see the amount of passing attempts against them, it make a lot more sense. The best player in the secondary is Shareece Wright. It seems like he’s been a Trojan for forever. He’s the guy who laid the late hit on Jake in 2007 that most Husky fans count as a cheap shot. He’s also a very good cornerback. Most teams stay away from him and I imagine that the Huskies will on Saturday. USC has been breaking in a new corner and two new safeties outside of Wright. This will be the first time this unit has been really tested since Hawaii and will be a good gauge of their improvement. Thank goodness this isn’t Nebraska!
Usually I end the scouting reports here but I feel like I should add that USC’s special teams are excellent. They are the best the Huskies have faced this year. This is an obvious area of concern since the Dawgs have been terrible in special teams. So, consider yourself warned in that area. I really think that might be where this game is won, which doesn’t bode well for the Huskies.
Thanks for reading, lots more coming tomorrow!
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3 responses to “Scouting the USC Defense”
Thanks for the rundown, Andrew. I’m looking for your opinion on one aspect of this game. Do you think they will try to shut down Kearse by putting Wright on him as much as possible? Do you think Wright matches up that well against Kearse? I’ve taken Kearse as one of my WR’s in my fantasy league based upon USC’s lousy performance against the pass to date. I’m fighting the urge to second guess myself. I have a feeling this game is going to center around USC trying to take Kearse out of the game and Sark trying to establish his dominance. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Hey Matt, thanks for commenting! I think USC will try to match-up Wright with Kearse as much as possible but I don’t think that will shut down Kearse completely. Jermaine is, hands down, the Huskies top receiver and the coaches know that. They’ll try to take advantage of that by lining up Kearse in the slot and doing other things that will give him the best the match-up possible. It’s worth noting that Wright was the guy who was on Kearse last year and Kearse had a pretty good game.
To try to give you a clear answer, I expect Kearse to have a good game. Especially since the Huskies will probably pass a lot. Hope that helps!
To throw in my two cents, UW receivers rarely line-up exclusively on one side or another, like you see with some offenses. Kearse will be on both the right and left, as well as some trips formations and so forth. Corners usually do stay on one side though, and I can’t see USC moving Wright to cover Kearse all the time. I could be wrong, but that’s usually how it goes, unless you have Darrelle Revis against Andre Johnson or something.
I think the passing game will be successful as long as the offensive line can open some holes and protect Jake when he’s throwing. The UW receivers, especially Kearse, are good enough that they’ll usually get open if Jake has some time.