Talking defense: More . . . and better

The numbers say USC will be better because they'll be much deeper, much more able to stay fresh and sub in.

Kenny Bigelow wanted to say it. But he wasn't sure he should. Not that the redshirt sophomore defensive lineman who seems ready to make an impression in this, his third season at USC, was saying anything his defensive line mates haven't been strongly hinting at.

"Leonard Williams is not the face of this defensive line," he said. "I think all of us want to show we're more than one man."

Leonard certainly isn't the face of this line now. The nation's No. 1 D-lineman a year ago is the face of the New York Jets D-line right now.

But that wasn't meant as a shot at Leonard, Kenny says. Which is why he hesitated saying it. Just a call for how Bigelow thinks this relatively no-name defensive front has a chance to step up.

But to just come out and say it, to say that this group, playing together, playing faster, playing more aggressively with more bodies in the rotation, might be improved might look like a shot at Leonard, Kenny said. So he grinned and talked of not wanting to say what might sound a bit politically incorrect.

"But yeah, I can see that," he says when asked about the consensus of his teammates that this Leonardless line that has been getting after it and making life difficult for both USC's run and passing game as it puts more pressure on the quarterback. This line could be better than a year ago.

"We're definitely underrated," Bigelow says. One big reason: They're not playing like last year.

"I like what we're doing a lot . . . we're definitely more forcing . . . the coaches are more comfortable with us . . . and allowing us to be more free to make plays."

Bigelow is down to what he believes is his perfect weight at 285, from a high of nearly 320 before he hurt his knee a year ago requiring surgery and rehab.

He says of the knee: If you didn't remind him of it, he wouldn't know he'd had the surgery. That's not the issue, he says. Playing just four games the last three seasons -- all in high school -- is.

"I wake up every morning and tell myself I can't take this for granted," says Bigelow, one of the nation's top-rated D-lineman coming out of high school in Delaware.<.p>

But the same point he makes about this USC D-line he makes about himself: It's not about stars. "There's something I've found out about USC. When you sign the papers and come through that gate [pointing to Goux Gate], stars don't matter."

Making plays is what matters here and now.

Scott Felix agrees with that. Up to 248 pounds as a Rush end, a hybrid linebacker/D-lineman, the redshirt junior feels that "with more bodies out there, we'll be able to play with more energy . . . it's going good."

Wilcox, Sirmon talking D


Peter Sirmon likes the look of his four freshman linebackers out there -- tall, rangy, athletic, wide wingspans in pass coverage, big enough to come up and put a stopping hurt on a ballcarrier. But he takes them for what they're able to do on the field now.

"I don't compare them against the veterans," he says. His job is to coach them up -- differently of course as freshmen -- but "to let that talent shine through."

And do so in a defense that coordinator Justin Wilcox says "will be able to substitute a lot more." But maybe not in the traditional way we think about it.

"Not the way you guys think of it," he says "in terms of ones, twos and threes." The substitution pattern is "more mix and match," he says. But the key here is the ability to substitute.

No more will USC have players on defense out there for 104 or "more than that" snaps a game, Wilcox says. The young linebackers are "getting better every day," he says. "That's a simple concept but it's hard. You have to do it every day."

He talks about going from odd to even fronts and almost admits to what every one of his players says about this team: They'll be in attack mode more.

We say almost. "Yeah," he says a bit grudgingly. "Everybody wants to play aggressively."

His players do. So do the fans. And as demonstrated in his post-practice press availability Saturday in place of Steve Sarkisian, who had the day off from talking, so do some of the media.

Wilcox wasn't exactly going to go there. Wasn't going to second-guess last year's read and react non-attack that ran out of bullets at game's end in an edgy Q&A session that shows he won't be pushed around.

Which really doesn't matter all that much as long as his defense won't be. That's really where this is going. It's not so much about what they're saying but what they've been doing. And if they stick with it, it looks like they will.

SATURDAY QUICK TAKES:


Not a bad crowd for as hot as it was Saturday for the shorts, shoulder pads and helmets workout at 2:30 . . .same time Sunday . . . Dedeaux Deck thinned out a bit in the heat . . . big scare of the day came on a Kevon Seymour knee injury when he went down without contact to the right knee and then after getting checked out by the trainers after being down for three/four minutes, walked off shakily . . . Later, Sark who was taking the day off from commenting but is the only one allowed to talk about injuries, sent the message that Kevon "just banged his knee, nothing serious" . . . USC fans can only hope . . . we saw the play and didn't exactly see the "banging" . . . Trojan football alums here today: Chris Galippo and Drew McAlister . . . "I don't miss it a bit," Chris said of the hard work in the 92 degree heat . . . Lots of position group work today . . . no "finishing challenge" final five plays as the ice cream truck with shaved ice arrived early . . . lots of water breaks today . . . Safety John Plattenburg back full go today after going only in individual drills the last couple of days with a hip pointer.

CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Saturday's workout, check out FALL PRACTICE 8 SATURDAY GHOST NOTES.

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

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