Time for 'D' to stop talking, start stopping

They took it on the chin at Boston College and now it's time for this USC defense to come out swinging against a veteran and unbeaten Oregon State team Saturday night at the Coliseum says defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

It was a day for defining this Trojans football team, Wednesday was.

Su'a Cravens was "a SAM linebacker . . . just for this week," the sophomore former safety said.

And Adoree Jackson, he's "a defensive back," if you ask him. "That's my position," the two-way freshman, slated for his most action of the season against Oregon State Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN) at the Coliseum. "I just come into the offense when they need me."

Which is why Adoree spends a half-hour a day with receivers coach Tee Martin before heading to the hourlong secondary meeting with Keith Heyward. Although this has been a week for meetings and film watching and learning and communicating for a defense that suffered a "breakdown" first and then "a catastrophic result," according to coordinator Justin Wilcox in that 37-31 loss 11 days ago to Boston College.

"When you get knocked down, you got to get up and take a swing," Wilcox said, although he wasn't able to exactly describe his own feelings about how that game went down. "A lot of words describe it," he said, "just not for an interview."

But here's the gist of it: "We've got to get better across the board fundamentally," and do so when "we see things for the first time," as they will with Oregon State's well-coached, Pro-Style, fly-sweeping, huddle-up offense. "For young guys when you see it, you have to correct it."

And in college football today, "they're all different," Wilcox said. "You have to have a foundation to play all different sorts of offenses . . . that's the challenge."

It will be especially a challenge for two Trojans -- Cravens, who moves down from safety to the SAM -- and for corner Jackson, who Sark said will get an extended call on defense although maybe in a three-cornerback package.

"I've been saying it all year, wherever they need me," the 225-pound Cravens said after practice. His big challenge, he said, will be "making my reads quicker at the line of scrimmage instead of 15 yards back." And against a team that hides what it does by stacking receivers and varies routes for Sean Mannion, the Beavers' about-to-break a bunch of Pac-12 passing records quarterback, that's key.

Especially after the BC debacle which Su'a described thusly: "All the mistakes we made were busted assignments, they were all the right calls."

So one vote of confidence here for the coaches. And then another, for the person whose vote counts, Steve Sarkisian. "I'm really encouraged by our coaching staff's ability to keep an edge . . . with an attention to detail . . . and a real emphasis on the little things . . . the players responded to that."

It's the players who matter, here, Sark said, describing these Trojans as "resilient . . . prideful . . . they've been through a lot . . . they've worked extremely hard . . . they're chomping at the bit to get back out on the field and not just talk about it."

But then there's an unranked, but unbeaten and very veteran Oregon State team opening Pac-12 play to handle. "This is a big test," Sark said.

End of talk.

Footnoted



For the first time, Sark talked of the slow-going return for Lamar Dawson from knee surgery last season and how they have talked to him about the senior possibly redshirting but that such a conversation wouldn't get serious until after the midpoint of the season, Sark said, indicating he wasn't sure just which game that was. But not just yet . . . Tre Madden, not in pads, and rehabbing inside . . . Cody Temple the defensive player of the day for a pair of back-to-back potential Pick-Sixes against the Scout team. He's much more active than we've ever seen him . . . One defender getting much more of a look is safety/nickel back John Plattenburg, back from an achilles strain. Every time you see him he looks solid. . . . And that was how defensive coordinator Wilcox talked about the three corners with Chris Hawkins and Kevon Seymour battling it out along with Jackson. Clearly Wilcox is not ready to make a call there as they get all three ready . . . and three is the way it may stay with Sark saying of the suspended Josh Shaw's possible return. "Nothing's changed." Sark didn't seem too pleased that that was the case. Just trying to read his body language and facial expressions . . . as to absent junior wide receiver Victor Blackwell, all Sark would say is "He's not here," and Sark doesn't know if he will be after leaving the team the last few days for what have been described as "personal reasons."

For a wrapup of Wednesday morning's practice, check out WEDNESDAY OSU WEEK GHOST NOTES.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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