Hidden behind the outstanding offenses that USC puts on the field year after year is always a solid defense that is vastly underrated. The Trojans may be known for the Pat Hadens and Marcus Allens of the world but their 11 National Championships wouldn’t be possible without the likes of three-time All-American Richard Wood or 10-time pro bowler Ronnie Lott.
Even now, with new faces and new names, the Trojans are fielding as potent an offense as ever backed by a ball-hawking defense. We all know about Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, and the threat they pose. But why do we never give enough credit to T.J. Macdonald, Nickell Robey, and the rest of Monte Kiffin’s crew? The defense was so efficient last year that they only allowed 23.6 ppg on the season playing in a conference that featured both Andrew Luck and LaMichael James, two of the most prolific scorers in the NCAA in 2011.
SC followers, though, seem to have very short memories. It was only a year ago that the Trojan faithful cried foul over the inept defense that could not tackle or get anywhere near the quarterback. That squad allowed 0.87 more yards than their opponents actually gained which is was incredibly average for the FBS in 2010 (trojanfootballstatistics.wordpress.com). For a powerhouse like USC, middle of the road just isn’t acceptable for this “win every year” fan base.
I recall how many articles were written and conversations were had blaming Monte Kiffin and his Tampa-2 defense for the Trojan’s failures to Oregon and Stanford. People wanted the elder Kiffin gone and his NFL style defense out of Troy.
As we all know so well, the younger Kiffin ignored the outcry and stood behind his father’s defensive vision. Thank goodness he did because this past season USC managed to cut down its yards allowed per game to 374.8 and its yards allowed per play to 5.44, both significant reductions year over year.
2011 saw the rise of defensive stars of the future like freshman Dion Bailey who recorded 2 interceptions on the year. Freshman Hayes Pullard tied for the team lead with 81 total tackles on the year; the other tackles leader on the team was Dion Bailey (cfbstats.com). For a USC squad that is dripping with talent top to bottom, who would ever have guessed that two starting freshman could lead a storied program like the Trojans in tackles.
As drastic as the improvement has been in the time that Lane Kiffin has been coach of USC, it begs the question: why have the Trojans seen so much improvement in such a short amount of time? Everything about this program has been in flux and turmoil in that time span.
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