Friday Practice: Defensive Dominance

Defensive end Everson Griffen was the star of the day as the defense recorded nine quarterback sacks and kept the offense out of rhythm all afternoon. Look inside for all the details from Friday's practice.

Defensive Dominance

One of the major questions heading into spring practice was how would the young defensive line perform in 2009, and if Friday's practice was any indication then the future is very bright.

The young, but very talented line led by Everson Griffen looked dominant, disrupting the rhythm of the offense, and keeping the quarterbacks on the run all afternoon.

"Jethro's got these guys going and it was a pretty dominant day for the front group today," Pete Carroll said. "I think this defensive line is playing very quick. Their quickness is across the board. It's showing up."

Griffen recorded two of the defense's nine quarterback sacks and played with great determination and passion.

"We ate up the offensive line - yum, yum," Griffen said.

After missing the first practice of spring because of disciplinary reasons, Griffen has responded with three-straight impressive performances.

Pete Carroll credits new defensive line coach Jethro Franklin for getting Griffen back on track.

"Everson and Jethro are hitting it off now," Carroll said.

Griffen, nor the coaches were pleased with his performance last season, when he recorded just 18 tackles and 4.5 sacks while playing behind Clay Matthews.

"Everson is clearly seeing his level of play from last year and wants to improve on it. He's focused play after play and utilizes the speed he has," Carroll said. "He wasn't happy about it at all and we were very frank about making sure that he understood why Clay (Matthews) played so much last year.

"Obviously, Clay was a great player but Everson opened the door for him. So, he's very determined to grow up and play like a really big time player and Jethro's all over him every snap. He's been very effective here in the couple days out so it's really encouraging but we're just getting started.

"Just establishing habits that last a long time and carry through all of your play and changing a little bit of the attitude and hopefully we can make him into something special."

Ausberry, Butler Battle for Third

After just four practices, it appears that David Ausberry and Brice Butler are the most likely candidates to take over as the No.3 wide receiver in 2009.

Both players pulled in acrobatic touchdown catches on Friday and received praise from Pete Carroll.

"Those guys are playing really well. It's great to see Brice (Butler) making plays and coming through, he's a very good route runner," Carroll said. "He's a route runner a lot like Patrick (Turner), a real intricate sense about running routes and his footwork is really good.

"And David is playing huge. David's really finally playing consistently. Everyday he's had a good day and that's one of the best days he's had since he's been here. He's always been spectacular at times but his consistency is the best it's been. That's really a good sign for us."

Butler made a one-handed catch on a pass from Aaron Corp for a five-yard touchdown and Ausberry elevated over Brian Baucham to pull in a long touchdown pass from Matt Barkley.

Carroll Says Steroid Report is False

USC Head Coach Pete Carroll dismissed a report that said former USC linebackers Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing had tested positive for steroids at the NFL Combine.

"That was really unfortunate that that came out," Carroll said. "I think it's irresponsible is what it was."

Carroll said there was no validity to the claims made in the report and was angry that Cushing and Matthews would have to answer questions on the issue.

"There's no tests that say anything like that. And so somebody just reported it and wrote it out there," Carroll said. "These guys have never been in that situation before, they've never had any kind of test in that direction at all, and they didn't when they got tested by the NFL. They would have known three weeks ago. The teams would have already known if that happened. The information is already out on the results of those tests.

"It's just bad reporting."

News and Notes

- D.J. Shoemate (concussion), Anthony McCoy (hamstring) and Michael Reardon (shoulder) were among the players that didn't participate in practice on Friday.

- Stafon Johnson returned to practice on Friday and looked good running between the tackles.

- Offensive lineman Alex Parsons injured his hand and was expected to have x-rays after Friday's practice.

- Stanley Havili, David Ausberry and Brice Butler all had touchdown receptions.

- QB sack total: Everson Griffen (2), Averell Spicer (2), Josh Pinkard, Nick Garratt, Derek Simmons, Jurrell Casey, DaJohn Harris

- The Trojans will be in full pads for Sunday's practice, which starts at 11:30 a.m.

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