Getting it done . . . by everyone

The secret to USC's defensive improvement isn't a change in scheme but a change in execution -- by all 11 defenders doing their jobs.

To a man, USC players are convinced the Trojans' defensive improvement is not about scheme, it's about team -- with each man executing. It's really that simple, that basic.

"It's everybody doing their job," says senior corner Kevon Seymour, who says he's gotten his groove back after early season injuries. "It starts up front with Delvon Simmons and Antwaun Woods.

"We are more physical," Simmons said. "They're just coaching us more to be physical and beat the double team."

Which in USC's three-man front, didn't happen much against the likes of Stanford and Notre Dame.

Now they know they have to find a way to beat it. That's their job. "It's just everybody do your assignment," Seymour said. "Don't try to do anybody else's . . . and trust your teammates to do theirs."

"We did that on Kevon's interception," defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "Scott Felix got in the quarterback's face . . . it's execution, or at least a good part of it is, doing the same thing over and over. It's about a lot of things, not any one."

But one of them is always execution. Doing your thing. Doing it right.

Chris Hawkins said sometimes, however, you do have to help the other guy do his. That's how it worked on Adoree' Jackson's interception return for a touchdown.

"I saw it was a duck," CHawk said. And he saw Adoree' pick it off "and he was running that way," And CHawk was waving to Adoree' to come his way and that's what he did. And then it happened, CHawk took out not one, not two but three Cal players by the time Adoree' dove the ball into the pylon on a 46-yard return.

"Like Superman," CHawk said of his own work on the Pick-Six. "We watched that play Monday . . . I got applause."

But sometimes, it's not just up to the defense to get the defense ready," Hawkins said. As happened Wednesday with the near full-contact, not full-pads [helmets, shorts and shoulder pads] workout that got very chippy by the end between the first offense and defense. Credit tough hits on one receiver after the next finishing up with a multiple defender crushing of a none-too-pleased De'Quan Hampton.

"That's good for everybody," CHawk said. "They're really mad at us during the week and that gets them ready to get after somebody else on Saturday."

JuJu just being JuJu

Hawkins isn't alone when it comes to special powers, however. "You've got to plan for him not to be here," Clay Helton said of leading receiver Juju Smith-Schuster after Monday surgery to put a plate and screw into his right hand to repair a fracture in the Cal game.

"But he is Superman," Helton said with a shake of the head. He'll know more by week's end whether JuJu makes it back for Arizona (7:30 p.m., ESPN) at the Coliseum Saturday. With the hand in a post-surgical cast, JuJu hit the field at 8:30 in pads Wednesday and helped out with drills while kibitzing with his mates despite the mid-forearm to fingertip cast that will be replaced by a soft cast Thursday.

On one ball-security drill, there was JuJu punching the ball with his left hand as receivers caught it and jumped over a dummy. Whatever he could do. "His mindset is that he's going to play," Helton said.

"If he's ready, he's ready,' Helton said, "if not, we're not going to endanger him."

"JuJu told me he's going to do everything he can to play," Hawkins said.

They said it

*** Adoree' Jackson on Clay Helton: "We're playing for him. He's taking care of us, we have to take care of him."

*** Justin Wilcox on Helton: "Coach Helton is one of those guys who's real positive . . . he never has a bad day."

*** Chris Hawkins on the play of the USC defense: "We're executing on a whole other level now . . . everybody is doing their job and when everybody does, this defense is amazing."

TUESDAY QUICK HITS: Zach Banner missed Wednesday's practice to be with his family after the death of Zach's grandfather . . . family comes first, Helton said of Banner who was scheduled to return Wednesday evening . . . WRs Steven Mitchell (ankle) and Darreus Rogers (hamstring) were both back and going hard until they shut down Rogers the second half of practice to play it safe with his hamstring . . . Same for Cameron Smith after his tight hamstring from the Cal game . . . freshman Ykili Ross was working with the second D at safety in his black Scout team jersey . . . more big, athletic plays from freshman WR Deontay Burnett . . . Leon McQuay dinged up his knee with his live punt block Tuesday and with Jonathan Lockett (groin) was under wraps . . . Adoree' came back with an 11 on 11 interception . . . Taylor McNamara had to be careful with his shoulder meaning lots of work for Connor Spears.

CHECK THIS OUT: For Wednesday's practice report, check out WEDNESDAY U of A WEEK GHOST NOTES.

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