Gerard Martinez | USCFootball.com

BKU talking the D-line talk

The talk is different from last spring because Kenechi Udeze and his D-line guys are in a much different place.

Kenechi Udeze, as is his way, was trying to follow his blockers after practice and escape Howard Jones Field before anybody found he was gone.

Sorry, BKU. You're busted. Not this time.

"I'm sweaty, and I'm really hungry," BKU says, "and it was just my birthday [his 34th]."

Just a few questions about the guys you're coaching, now that you've been corraled. How different is Year II from last spring?

"Night and day," BKU says, enjoying the subject matter now. "And not just for the D-line guys but the whole defense."

And for their second-year coach? "I learned something [last year] . . . assume nothing. You have to teach slowly. You're taking guys from high school to an NFL-style defense."

And in Marlon Tuipulotu's case, doing so just weeks after leaving high school. Which is why his development into a first-teamer right now -- improbably replacing departed 25-year-old grad student Stevie Tu'ikolovatu -- has BKU saying things like: "I started smiling instantly" when he noticed Marlon knew "when to take notes" in the position room.

"Pretty good for a 17-year-old," BKU says of the experience. "It's really enjoyable . . . Marlon has been great. He has such a high football IQ," on top of his quick hands and feet and balance and low center of gravity thanks to his career as Oregon state super-heavyweight wrestling champ.

"He's got good feet, he's tough and he's coachable . . . My hat's off to him," BKU says with a nod toward the corner of Brian Kennedy Field where in the evening shadows, you can hear the sled pads popping. "He's over there working on his technique."

Which has always been the key word for Kenechi -- "technique." It's all-important. It's why you practice. It's what you coach. And it's one of the principles for Clay Helton's coaching.

"He's one of the more football-instinctive kids I've seen," Clay says. "He's picked up the defense quickly. And you don't see many 300-pound men with that quick-twitch ability. You don't want to put so much on a freshman but . . . "

Yeah, "but" . . . this seems different somehow. And then there's another "but." It's not all about the freshman, BKU says, that's changed how he feels about his guys.

It's guys like "Malik [Dorton], Liam [Jimmons] . . . and Josh Fatu," BKU says. "I think I speak for all the coaches about all these guys."  

Then to finish things off, there's Rasheem Green, who should be ready "to take the next step," BKU says of the 285-pound USC junior with a very high ceiling. "He has to become a pro, which means being consistent in everything he does."

So does he do that? Do they all do it on this much deeper group? Does Jacob Daniel grow into his big body and also make that leap?

"We'll wait and see," BKU says. He says he simply does not know. "We're going to have two to three more guys [in the fall] and we're going to find out. You're going to have to show me in practice. Nothing is given."

Nothing has been given to Kenny Bigelow, the former five-star prospect working his way back after his second major ACL surgery. Thursday was his first chance to hit after his rehab "and knock the rust off," Clay said.

Will it set him back, BKU was asked. "Did it set Adrian Peterson back?" BKU asks. "Everybody's different. I'm not going to put any pressure on him."

"He's not ready for any live situations yet," Clay said. "I'm hoping his confidence and health comes back for him. He can be a dominant player."

And if he is, he could be playing on a dominant D-line. And that may be why BKU didn't mind talking -- just a bit.

FOOTNOTED

Saturday's practice, which will be viewed by the attendees at this weekend's USC coaching clinic in addition to the public and players' families, will start at 10 a.m. . . . It will be a full-pads, full practice but not a scrimmage . . . the final two scrimmages will occur next Saturday, April 8, and then in the Spring Game at noon, April 15 . . . additional injuries this last week that would have had Ronald Jones, Viane Talamaivao, Tayler Katoa and Pie Young joining Nico Falah and Aca'Cedric Ware on the sidelines helped Helton make that scrimmage call, he said . . . Clay says one explanation he has for the way an Isaiah Langley, for example, is going out and competing with Iman Marshall and Jack Jones for a starting corner spot is the way they spent a week this winter meeting with and "giving each player an individual plan," Clay said. They told them "this is your area of development," Clay says, "I don't like the word 'weakness'," and every player came out with the thought that "there's a plan for me," Clay said. Isaiah was one of them. 

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


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