Talking defense

Change is more than inevitable for this USC defense, it's already happening.

The word on offense with Tee Martin moving up into the offensive coordinator's spot has been "no drastic changes." And "a seamless transition."

No shot at doing that on defense when three of USC's four assistant coaches on that side of the ball are no longer here. There will be changes no matter what. And before the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

Which is just the way new D-line coach Kenechi Udeze, the former USC All-American D-lineman and first-round draft pick who had to retire after four seasons from the Minnesota Vikings with acute lymphoblastic leukemia now in complete remission. BKU has moved up from his position of assistant strength coach to take over the D-line from Chris Wilson, now at Missouri.

"It's pretty cool," freshman Rasheem Green says. "I learned a lot from Coach Wilson but I've already learned a lot from BKU. . . there have been a lot of changes, the way he wants us to play blocks and use out hands. That's the focus."

Indeed it is, BKU says. "I don't think we've been as consistent there as I'd like to see over the years . . . I want them with a violent get-off from blocks," with emphasis on hand placement -- "especially the inside hand."

So that popping sound heard on Cromwell Field should have been no surprise. That was one defensive lineman after another slugging the big bags on the fly -- left, right, left.

"One of the big things we do is getting into -- and off of -- blocks," BKU says. Can't do it if you can't handle your hands -- and do so in a very martial arts-type way with them.

And while this is just a small sample after the first practice in pads, the 11-on-11 end of Sunday's workout had the D-line getting four sacks in the final dozen plays.

All of which had to put a smile on new defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon's face as the lone holdover from the defensive staff.

"There'll be some changes," he says noting that as long as he's coached with departed D-coordinator Justin Wilcox, he's had many more defensive influences from his years as a Tennessee Titans linebacker under Jeff Fisher.

He's been offered a chance to continue at USC in his roles as linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator but "Yes, I'd like to be a defensive coordinator," he says. But he also wants to stay at USC: "It's a great place," he says. "I'd love to stay here and recruit and develop great players."

He says it "meant a great deal to him" that Clay Helton kept him on. "He had some tough decisions to make," Sirmon says.

Filling in with grad and administrative assistants on the defensive side of the ball in addition to strength guy BKU hasn't been a problem, Sirmon says. "They're very familiar with what we're doing . . . they've been in all the meetings" and have seen all the film.

"They bring a kind of fresh energy," Helton said. "The way they've handled it, I commend them . . . We may have some growing pains but there's so much professionalism in that group."

And a chance to make a move up. "I'm evaluating everybody -- those on the current staff and those on other staffs," Helton said.

Su'a . . . the decision


Announcing his decision to leave USC for the NFL by a tweet earlier in the week was just the way Su'a Cravens said he likes to do things. "I'm no drama queen," he said/ "I don''t like making things dramatic."

And the last thing he wanted was his future to b the focus of this football game with people asking him and recruits wondering what the deal was. Sure, he said he likes the fact that USC is bringing back linebackers coach Sirmon. But that's not the deal.

Nor does he fault USC for the fact that he's had five different coaches in his three years here. "I didn't come here for a coach," he said. "I came here to play football."

And he'll be moving on to do the same thing. He didn't get an official NFL evaluation but says he's been assured he's a middle to late first-rounder but maybe higher. "Depending on how I run," he says. If he can run a 4.4 forty, he can move up to the top half of the first round, he believes.

He's run a laser-timed 4.58 when he was at his top weight closing in on 230 in the summer and now at 222, thinks he can get it down even if he's not all convinced the 40 time means that much. "A lot of fast guys are not playing," he says.

But he will be -- in his final USC game. "I'm not going to be emotional about it," he says. "I play every game like it's my last."

Adoree' . . . the promise


He's remembered for what he did a year ago in San Diego with the ball in his hands and two long-range touchdowns -- the 98-yard kickoff return and the 71-yard quick release TD catch out of the backfield against Nebraska.

"It's exciting for me to go back there . . . it was just me playing my game," Adoree' says. But his game is changed a bit now.

"My decision is to be a specialist on defense and a return man," he says "and where I'm needed on offense."

And that need is down to about six to eight to 10 plays a game on offense because of how much work he gets elsewhere. "He had 29 plays in the first quarter against Stanford," Helton notes. "If his reps are down, I'm the greediest man around."

But when teams control the ball the way Stanford did, there's not much time -- or much Adoree' -- left over for offense. We note this because we just don't see him doing much on offense these days. Helton says that's because Adoree's six- to 10-play offensive package can be handled after Wednesday's workout and during Thursday's closed practice.

"It's not like for the wide receivers whose full-time job it is," Adoree' says. "I still do a lot of offense but I don't feel like I have to spend a lot of time there."

He does have somewhere he'll be spending lots of time this spring -- and it's probably not going to be on football. "It's totally up to me," he says if he chooses to spend all his time concentrating on winning a national championship in the long jump (not to mention a team title for USC) as well as putting himself in the mix for a spot on the U.S. team at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Both Clay and Adoree' say the promise made to him when USC was recruiting him that he could do that is something they've talked about and agree on. But they also agree on this. Corner back is the place he's going to play.

"I feel like I've made some progress," he says of his sophomore year at corner. "But I haven't been consistent . . . progress . . . not consistent . . . it's why I'm out here after practice."

Chad Wheeler, Day 2


No Chad Wheeler here again and no information from USC on the junior left offensive tackle's absence . . . "I'm sure you have questions about Chad," Clay said, "I can't talk about it."

But there was some talk. Asked if he would rule Wheeler out of the Holiday Bowl, Clay said he doesn't "have a crystal ball" for what might happen 10 days down the road. But made it clear USC is making other plans with Zach Banner sliding in at Wheeler's left tackle and Chuma Edoga at right tackle.

As to whether he's had a chance to talk to Chad, Clay said "No I haven't at all, just wishing him well."

And then finally, asked how he handles something like this in his first go-round as head coach, he said "after 21 years as a college football coach, you've seen pretty much every situation. The primary focus is the kids and their well-being. That'll always be my focus . . . and I appreciate the question."

SUNDAY QUICK HITS:Day 2 of USC's Holiday Bowl prep has the team on Cromwell Field after the overnight rain . . . lots of noise and lots of energy generated in the close quarters here . . . makes for a lively workout with the Trojans adding helmets to the shorts and helmets from Saturday . . . Ajene Harris out in pads, running routes and catching punts after his preseason double hip surgery . . . Toa Lobendahn, not on gear, is here and patrolling the sidelines with little hint of a limp on his surgically repaired knee . . . Jordan Simmons remaining on offense at left guard with the second group . . . Deep catches by Taylor McNamara, Isaac Whitney and Juju Smith-Schuster . . . On the first play of the finishing 11 on 11 Cody Kessler was sacked and Khaliel Rodgers got rolled up on and was down for a couple of minutes before limping off on what looked like an ankle injury.

CHECK THIS OUT: For Sunday's practice report, check out SUNDAY HOLIDAY BOWL GHOST NOTES.

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


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