USC Football: Defense & Special Teams Midseason Report

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Now a look at how the defense has progressed through seven games...

(Photos by Jon SooHoo)

Jurell-Case.jpgDefensive Line

Preseason: They were expected to be the most dominant unit on the team, but Nick Perry suffered a high ankle sprain early on in camp, which tested their depth.

Midseason: Mixed results.  While they have had dominant performances, they have not penetrated consistently and caused enough problems in the backfield to protect a young secondary.  Without a healthy Perry, they rank just 8th in the conference in sacks.

Second Half: The defensive ends need to get healthy.  Wes Horton was having a breakout season before a back injury at Wazzu.  Perry is capable of being a sackmaster if he can get fully healed.  They could be a truly special unit next season.


Preseason: Again, depth was a grave concern as was the inexperience of Devon Kennard in the middle, but seniors Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith were expected to make plays on the outside.

Midseason: They have not been bad, but they have barely made an impression.  The Cal game showed what the unit can do when they play downhill.  Chris Galippo is the biggest surprise of the group having regained his confidence.

Second Half: Now that they have had some time in Monte Kiffin's defensive system, the backers need to start attacking again.  With brutal tests like Oregon on the docket, they must play free and fast.

Shareece.jpgDefensive Backs 

Preseason: Shareece Wright was expected to be one of the best corners in the nation, but the rest of the corps lacked experience.  Nickell Robey was the sensation of Fall camp.

Midseason: Wright has mostly been as good as advertised.  He is one of the most punishing hitters that you will ever see at the corner position.  Robey, Torin Harris and Jawanza Starling have suffered through growing pains at times, especially giving up deep balls.  T.J. McDonald is at his best coming towards the line of scrimmage.

Second Half: Tackling in the secondary has been atrocious, so Lane Kiffin has added live tackling drills to sharpen up their skills.  Given their youth, they just need to focus on improving down the stretch because this core group, besides Wright, could be together for two or three years.


Preseason: Jake Harfman was a known quantity at punter.  Joe Houston won the place-kicking battle easily over Harfman.

Midseason: Harfman has been solid, but Houston has struggled from distance, which proved costly in the Trojans' loss to Washington.  However, he has handled the adversity well with perfect kicks against Stanford and Cal.

Second Half: Houston needs to make the kicks that he is expected to make.  Kiffin will likely eschew lengthy tries when he can avoid them, so Houston can focus on being accurate from 40-yards and in.


Preseason: The young guys and RoJo took their turns in practice, but we knew the senior would be trusted as a punt returner.  Robert Woods was expected to make his mark on kick returns.

Midseason:  Pound-for-pound, they have probably been the Trojans best unit.  Johnson places second in the conference in punt return average, while Woods leads in kick return yards.  They have both scored momentum swinging special teams touchdowns.

Second Half: Keep up the good work!

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