USC Scouting Report: Defense & Punting

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Mikell Simpson could be effective in the short passing game against USC.

Last year USC was the consensus No. 1 team in the nation entering the season, a ranking that relied heavily on the fact that the Trojans returned 10 veteran starters on a defense that head coach Pete Carroll called the fastest defense he had ever coached. But injuries plagued the Trojans all season and they finished 11-2 and out of the National Championship picture.

Though not No. 1 entering 2008, USC is still rated among the top three teams in the nation by most services and with seven returning starters, Carroll may again have the fastest defense of his coaching tenure. Despite the injuries, the Trojan defensive unit was second nationally last year in both total defense (273.2) and scoring defense (16.0) as well as fourth in rushing defense (84.2) and sixth in pass efficiency defense (102.1).

Southern Cal is anchored by a strong linebacking unit and a big, fast, physical secondary. The defense has three main objectives when it plays: eliminate the big play, out-hit the opponent, and get the ball. The question for the 2008 unit is not do they have speed, but can they, like Virginia, replace two of the top linemen in school history and retain their superb run stopping effort of last season?

A second focus of the USC defense this season will be ball disruption.The National Championship teams of 2003 and 2004 and the 2005 team that made it to the Bowl Championship Series title game thrived by creating and taking advantage of turnovers. Between 2001 and 2005, USC averaged a turnover 38 times per season or roughly one on every fifth drive. Over the last two seasons, that number dipped to an average of 25 times per season or a take-away forced in just one of every seven drives.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look:

Statistics

  • The Trojans held seven of their 2007 opponents to 15 first downs or fewer. They lost two of the five games where opponents converted more than 15 first downs.
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