Spring Scrimmage: Pullard Keys Dominant D

It was a very encouraging scrimmage for the defense and a very troubling outing for the offense on Saturday. Look inside for all the news, notes and quotes from the Coliseum.

It was a very encouraging scrimmage for the defense and a very troubling outing for the offense on Saturday, and at the end of the day, head coach Lane Kiffin summed it up perfectly with some dry humor.

"I thought the defense came out flying all over the place, great mentality about themselves, it was very good to see the offense help that by not performing very well," he said.

The offensive struggles were evident from the very first series of the morning and continued throughout the day.

With the absence of Rhett Ellison, who was held out of practice with an injured ankle, the inexperienced fullbacks and tight ends struggled to get properly aligned a number of times, resulting in a handful of illegal formation penalties.

"(Rehett) moves around a lot for us, so that leaves you with a lot of young guys," Kiffin explained. "That leaves you with Soma (Vainuku) in that move position and that leaves you with Christian Thomas in the move position, so we suffered from that today."

In 73 plays, the offense committed 7 penalties and scored just one touchdown, which came on a five-yard rush by D.J. Morgan on the final play of the day.

Morgan had 51 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Curtis McNeal rushed 13 times for 49 yards.

Wide receiver Robert Woods added 8 receptions for 71 yards, but there was no question that the stars of the day were on the defensive side of the ball.

Hayes Pullard and Marquis Simmons led the way and got plenty of help from the defensive line.

"I was very proud about how our defense played, especially the front seven," Kiffin said. "I thought Hayes Pullard had another great day today too."

Simmons had six tackles and set the tone early by hitting D.J. Morgan behind the line of scrimmage on the first series. He later added a stop near the goal line to end an offensive drive.

"I just ended up doing my assignment and being in the right position to make the play," Simmons said. "That's the main thing about defense right there. "I felt that we just played hard and played fast. As long as we play together and play fast everything will come together."

Pullard was credited with 3 tackles but was in on several other plays.

The sophomore from Crenshaw continues to impress this spring, making the most of his extended reps with the first-team, because of injury issues at the linebacker position.

"He started off kind if slow as far as just learning the defense but now he is picking it up and playing fast," said safety T.J. McDonald.

McDonald believes Pullard can push for a starting spot in the fall and reminds him of a former USC linebacker.

"He was playing physical. He reminds a lot of Malcolm Smith in the way that he plays," McDonald said. "He plays fast, he plays physical and he's getting better everyday."

With a year of experience, Pullard has emerged as a playmaker this spring, and is gaining confidence with every play.

"That's a big thing when young guys come up here and build that confidence and know that they are getting better everyday," McDonald said.

Hot Reads

- The play of the secondary continues to be a bright spot this spring, and safety T.J. McDonald credits the return to physical practices.

"It feels real good," he said of tackling in practice. "I can't say that I have as much anger as I do on game day, but still, just to get the feel of taking those angles and the speed of the game is a good feeling."

- Linebackers Will Andrew and Dallas Kelley also had strong showings. Andrew recorded six tackles and Kelley had an interception.

- After practice the players headed to the pool to take part in the annual Swim with Mike event, a swim-a-thon that helps raise scholarship money for physically challenged athletes.

- Former USC players Keyshawn Johnson, Ryan Kalil and Petros Papadakis were in attendance on Saturday. Johnson addressed the team following the scrimmage.

Linebacker Marquis Simmons had six tackles on Saturday.

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