The USC defense was in the spotlight today as the Trojans prepare for Cal's speedy weapons.
- Lane Kiffin's daily media scrum ended after one question this morning, which referenced the availability and practice showing of an injured player. The head coach declined to answer the question per his previously stated policy regarding no reporting on practice participation.
- As for the on field news, the defense shifted personnel around for Stanford in part due to depth issues, but also to maximize the most talented players like T.J. McDonald. "He's an impact type player," said Monte Kiffin. "We've got to get him close to the line of scrimmage, so he has a chance to make more plays."
- DT George Uko was also utilized at defensive end, but that was more about making up for Wes Horton, who was limited. "We are just down defensive ends," Monte Kiffin said. "George did a good job. He's never played defensive end ever. Then, we just tried to get the four best guys on the field."
- The linebacker trio is complete with Lamar Dawson's return to health. He led the Trojans in tackles against Stanford. "It just feels good to get back on the field with my team, and line up the defense, and make the calls, and just make plays," Dawson said. "It was tough for me just to watch everybody practice, but I got a lot of mental reps."
- LB Dion Bailey had his breakout game against Cal last year on Thursday Night Football when he intercepted Zach Maynard twice. Since then, he has grown into a full fledged star, but he has seen Maynard improve as well. "His decision-making has improved. He's a little bit more accurate than he was last year. That just comes from maturity."
- Cal's offense will challenge USC's team speed and tackling ability with playmakers on the perimeter. "They create a lot of big plays," Bailey said. "[RB Brendan] Bigelow against Ohio State had a very good game (4 carries for 160 yards). Keenan Allen is very capable of busting open big plays at any moment."
- The Bears lost to the Buckeyes, but most pundits were impressed that the game was even competitive. If nothing else, Cal proved that the Trojans should not take them lightly. "They are not afraid of the big stage," said Bailey. "They went and played in one of the most hostile environments that you could play in in college football, so they are going to come to the Coliseum with confidence high."
- (Photo by John McGillen)