It is the secondary that offers the most promise defensively for the 2001 Trojans with starters returning at every position and with them comes the group's own hero, Antuan Simmons. Sidelined in 2000 with stomach tumors, Simmons is back at full strength for 2001 and should compete for the corner spot. What is most exciting about the Trojan Secondary is the depth and experience of each player. Players like DeShaun Hill, Troy Polamalu, Kris Richard, Chris Cash, Darrell Rideaux and Frank Strong all saw major playing time in 2000. So with Simmons, Kevin Arbet, Jason Leach and the much anticipated return of Matt Grootegoed the unit looks to be among the elite of the Pac Ten.
One might compare SC's secondary to Ucla's entire 2000 defense. Bruin fans crowed in 2000 about the plethora of starters returning, but then when studying their defense's poor play from 1999, most Trojans wondered if the Bruins having any of those players back would be an asset or liability for the cross-town rivals. As it turned out, Ucla's defense performed poorly once again. So, with our Secondary's sickly performance in 2000 it wouldn't be inappropriate to again ask, why this year, with the same players returning should USC expect anything but the same from the unit. Again, the answer must fall to coaching. Although Dennis Thurman saw many of his players enter the NFL under his tenure, there was always an outlying criticism as to the manner in which he taught his men to defend the pass. Thurman didn't seem to encourage that a defender look back for the ball, but instead play the man. Couple that with Young's orders to play off the line and it spelled trouble. Our defensive backs were, in some cases to small and in others too slow, to play that style of defense successfully.
So, instead, in 2001 Dewayne Walker, SC's new Secondary Coach and Assistant Head Coach has taken on Pete Carroll's bump and run style and mixed it with stunts from all the secondary positions, to create a far more attacking defense. With the "in your face" type defenders SC fields, the consensus is that the Trojans will witness dramatic improvement. With the questions at Linebacker, it will necessary for the Secondary to step up it's play.