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September 3, 2011
No doubt the USC defense took its lumps in 2010, ranking in the bottom third of college football giving up 400 yards per game.
That didn't sit well with Trojan defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron who knows something needed to change.
First thing the staff did this offseason is essentially cut the playbook in half.
"No question we simplified things a lot," Orgeron said. "It starts with the fundamentals and you can see it working."
With an easier to grasp scheme, the players understand what their assignments are, allowing them to play faster.
The other side of the equation is the staff knowing more about the players they are coaching during year two.
"Yea we know talent wise what they can do and cannot do," Orgeron said. "How they can think on their feet, what adjustments they can and cannot make, as well as what the strengths of our defense are."
Looking back at camp, Orgeron is optimistic about the defensive improvement.
"They are a lot better, they are a more cohesive unit, and guys are tackling better," he said. "Big guys are being switched around. Devon Kennard and Torin Harris had a good camp, Nickell Robey and Jawanza Starling had a good camp also. Lamar Dawson is doing well at linebacker, Hayes Pullard has made some improvement.
"You can see improvement and you can see a different team here. But you have to play the game and tackle in the game."
Orgeron's passion is coaching the big guys up front. One NFL scout we talked to said this group of defensive linemen was the most talented in all of college football.
"They seem very talented, but once again, talent doesn't make plays," Orgeron said. "They have to make the plays on the field, but I am excited about them. They are a good group, they listen to me, it's their second year together I expect to see great things from them."
The biggest disappointment for Orgeron last season was not being able to use a full eight-man rotation on the defensive line.
This season he has the bodies to be able to substitute when he feels it is necessary.
"I love having Devon Kennard and keeping those guys fresh," he said. "Him, Wes [Horton], and Nick [Perry] and the anticipation if Armond Armstead comes back, you are talking about a very good group. George Uko coming into the rotation, Christian[Tupou] is healthy, Juicy [DaJohn Harris] is in good shape, he still has things to work on but he is looking good."
The USC secondary was highly criticized last year, but Orgeron knows that more pressure on the quarterback helps to eliminate some of those throws downfield.
"There were a lot of times last year in the fourth quarter when we should have won the game but we didn't," he said. "We feel with the rotation and another year, those guys should generate a better rush.
"The rush was nowhere what we are used to, but we have to do it on Saturday. Nobody counts those sacks from camp, they don't count.
"I've seen a tremendous improvement, but no quarterbacks are live and we have not faced a scrambling quarterback. Last year I thought we would have a tremendous pass rush and we didn't. I am being cautious and I want to see it on game day."
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates as the Trojans kick off the season.
Ryan Abraham is the publisher of USCFootball.com. You can email him at email@example.com or follow him on twitter at @insidetroy.