Defense making progress

This new-look USC defense is coming along nicely according to defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is pleased with the progress of the defense this fall. Monday night in the Coliseum players went through another scrimmage to help get ready for the opening against Fresno State.

“It’s [the] second scrimmage….we kind of mixed up who was going against who,” Wilcox said. “I thought a lot of guys showed some real good things. Again, the tape is where you get most of the information, but I thought it was better than it was last scrimmage, which it should be. We weren't perfect but we’re getting close and closer, just in terms of having our eyes right, all that stuff. The mechanics of it were good. We didn't tackle great at a couple of positions all the time. I thought the ones flew around pretty good, the twos showed some good things. There’s a lot to take from it, but we got plenty to clean up.”

After the first scrimmage, Wilcox felt the defense made too many mistakes. In the latest scrimmage the guys on defense cleaned up their act a bit.

“Standing on the sideline, it looked that way,” Wilcox said. “There wasn’t busts with the guy running free down the field, you know. There was a guy running down the field because we missed some tackles on a screen, but yeah, that’s fair to say.”

One thing you notice during scrimmages this fall are the extra flags being thrown on the defensive backs, thanks to new interpretations of pass defense rules in college football.

“You gotta be really clean with your hands and your feet,” Wilcox said. “The NFL, obviously you guys have probably heard all of the emphasis they’re putting on it. It’s the same in college, you gotta stay in front of the guy. You can still use your hands. We always want to be aggressive in coverage. I mean, that’s part of the deal with playing good pass defense; you have to be aggressive with your hands. They’re making a huge emphasis of it, so we gotta do a good job fundamentally.

“Penalties are always concerning. I think the big ones that you have to clean up, that are unacceptable are the pre-snap and post-whistle. Things that happen in between the plays. Sometimes there’s a facemask, things happen, we understand that, but the pre-snap/post-whistle penalties you have to get rid of and then the rest of it is going to be a result of technique and fundamentals.”

One defensive back who had a few flags thrown against him was true freshman Adoree Jackson. But Wilcox is really impressed with what Jackson has been able to do at the cornerback position.

“He gets better the more he practices,” Wilcox said. “He had missed some time there, but obviously physically he’s got some great tools and he’s a real sharp kid. He’s very smart, so he’ll pick it up, and he can do some things that’ll really help us.”

As far as which side of the ball Jackson will play on, Wilcox will leave that up to the head man.

“You can go right to coach Sark with all of those questions,” Wilcox said. “I think the ‘starting’ thing is such a big deal for all the press releases, but in theory you want 15 guys that are starters. Not only because of the tempo, but if you play nickel packages or a dime subgroup you have to have that many guys that are capable starters. We’ll announce that when the time is right, but I don’t look at it like that right now with him."

Both Leonard Williams and Antwaun Woods returned to the Coliseum for the scrimmage after missing time with injuries.

“I mean, obviously we’d love to play those guys as much as we possibly can. They’re both coming back off of missing some time so we wanted to be smart in how we used them and how many reps they got. Those guys will be ready to play, and they want to play, which is great, obviously. Their attitude is they want to be out there every snap, so we all love that. “

Newcomers Claude Pelon and Delvon Simmons have stepped in while Williams and Woods were out.

“I think they’re getting better and better,” Wilcox said. “Claude, the more snaps he gets, the more he plays with technique. He can really do some good things because he’s a big physical guy. Delvon has continued to improve. I think he’s going to be a guy that we’re going to need- Both of them, to be honest with you. And we just need to continue to push both of them. With the tempo we’re going to see we’ve got to be able to substitute some guys.”

Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at ryan@uscfootball.com .


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