Time Is Running Out

Continuing the development of middle linebacker Devon Kennard is critical as Trojans face reeling Minnesota.

"Uprising" by the British trio Muse is USC's unofficial theme song this season, but the Trojans might be better served listening to the space-rockers' 2003 breakout hit "Time Is Running Out."

They have two more games that should be walkovers, starting this Saturday at reeling Minnesota, before facing Heisman Trophy candidates Jake Locker and Andrew Luck back-to-back.

"We want to play better," coach Lane Kiffin said. "We want to be able to put together both side and play a complete game finally."

That's two weeks to eliminate penalties, figure out an offensive identity and perhaps most importantly get newly minted middle linebacker Devon Kennard and the defense up to speed.

With that goal in mind, the sophomore played every snap last week against Virginia, relegating former starter Chris Galippo to the bench.

"There's a ton of intricacies to the position and (Devon is) just going to have to play to get those experiences. Every day is a new experience for him," linebackers coach Joe Barry said.

Kennard, who came to USC (2-0) as a defensive end last year only to move to outside linebacker late in the season, has nine tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack.

Barry said it was how he handled the switch that convinced the staff Kennard could make the move to middle linebacker, arguably the most important defender in the Tampa 2 scheme.

"You can teach a linebacker how to key better, how to use his hands better, how to tackle better but you cannot teach a linebacker how to have a feel for the game. That was the thing that we saw with Devon just in the short period last year that he played linebacker," he said.

Besides making all the calls, Kennard is also often called upon to cover the middle portion of the field. Against Hawaii, that meant running 40 yards downfield against slot receivers, one of which resulted in pass interference.

"He was running stride for stride with the fastest receiver Hawaii had, that makes me feel good," Barry said. "Now you got to do up and make a play. I feel very comfortable with both of our MIKE linebackers, whoever is in the game, executing that defense and that covering when we ask them to.

"Would I like him to go up and intercept the ball? Hell yeah. Do I expect him to next time? Hell yeah."

Kennard, Galippo and the rest will have to somehow corral the potent Golden Gophers (1-1). Even though Minnesota has struggled through its first two games, running back Duane Bennett has 291 rushing yards and senior quarterback Adam Weber has yet to throw an interception this season.

"They're playing really well on offense," Kiffin said. "The tailback has got a ton of yards. Quarterback rating is great, he's being very efficient. We're going to have our hands full, this is a really, really good offense.

"They'll be playing at home on the turf and they are going to come out ready to play."

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