The idea was to do a Holiday Bowl wish list for USC football here. How to make the most out of the next couple of weeks starting with the just-announced three early morning practices this weekend.
You know what we're talking about here; getting the guys next in line to be ready to step up, getting the Trojans starters -- young as they are -- ready to make the most of their considerable talents and building on their assets not trying to hide their liabilities.
And make it an across-the-board deal.
But then along came our guy at Foxsports.com, Bruce Feldman, with an insightful column on Clancy Pendergast and the former USC defensive coordinator's take on things a year removed from turning the Trojans -- in a single season -- into the nation's No. 13 defense a year ago after a dreadful three seasons of downward drift under a disconnected Monte Kiffin.
And while the piece was all about Clancy and how he did what he did at USC and not much about this year's Trojans, some of the things Clancy said made us stop and take notice.
Again, we're the ones making the connections here for the former Super Bowl coordinator with the Cardinals who took a pair of downtrodden Pac-12 defenses -- at Cal and USC -- to the top.
We're the ones noting how it happened right away for the formerly seventh-ranked Trojans to get to No. 1 immediately. Clancy was just talking defense and taking no shots.
But now we have a new No. 1 on our wish list for the holidays. We'd like some of this for USC. And that's not to say Clancy was perfect. We'll give him a pass on that crazy Arizona State game a year ago but the UCLA game at the Coliseum, that gameplan was on Clancy. And we said so then. But anybody deserves one.
So here's what we'd like to see here -- and now. And we'll use Clancy's words as told to Bruce, and apply them to USC's now No. 68 national defense.
Interestingly, it was a former Trojan, Jeff Fisher, Clancy credits in Feldman's piece: "I learned a lot from Jeff," he told Bruce. "I really learned to think outside the box."
Might be a really good way to go these days against the offenses and the quality of coaches -- not to mention quarterbacks and wide receivers -- in the Pac-12.
We hadn't realized this but one of the way Clancy has occupied his time, he told Feldman, was doing defensive seminars for teams like the NFL's Redskins and Falcons and the Tennessee Vols where he's been brought in to help them defend offenses as different as the read-option, the pistol and the spread attack.
We guess our wish here is that USC still has Clancy's number. And maybe gives him a call to come by for a seminar here. Because the way Feldman describes it, we could use a little of this: "Whatever the scheme, Pendergast says the most important thing to being a good defensive coordinator is being able to adjust your system and understanding your own strengths and weaknesses," Bruce writes.
"And," quoting Clancy again, "being able to fit your players in it and knowing how to make adjustments during the course of a game depending on how someone's trying to attack you."
"Adjustments during the course of a game:" Now there are words we can all agree on.
Then there's this for a USC defense that with eight starters returning including two of the most athletic defenders in all of college football, Leonard Williams and Su'a Cravens. Still, USC was no better than No. 7 in the Pac-12 in sacks -- behind Utah, Washington, Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona and Oregon.
Pressure on the quarterback is a key part of what Clancy always aimed to do, he told Feldman: "Whether it's a running quarterback or a passing quarterback, you always try to get them off their spot and give them different looks. You don't want to be vanilla."
Former USC interim head coach and longtime assistant Ed Orgeron was spending his first year with Clancy last season and could not say enough good things about him. "He's the smartest defensive coordinator I've been around,' Ed said then, "the kids love him."
Ed elaborated for Feldman: "His strength is game-day calling. He knows how to attack the no-huddle and really can adjust to what the other team's trying to do. He doesn't panic on the sidelines and the guy really has no ego."
We like the sound of all of that -- attacking, no panic, no ego. But then Ed noted Clancy's "attention to detail," as Feldman called it. "Our DBs tackled about as well as they had in all the time I was at SC."
So while others may be looking for a visit from Santa this Holiday season, we'd like to see one from Clancy.
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