Q&A with Monte Kiffin

With five of 15 spring practices completed, Dan Greenspan of SCPlaybook.com spoke with assistant head coach Monte Kiffin on Thursday for his thoughts on the Trojans defense.

Dan Greenspan: One-third of the way through spring practice, assess where things stand with the defense.

Monte Kiffin: We're getting better. You know, guys are hustling hard. They got us with some deep balls today, called some coverages that kind of taxed us a little bit, but we're still a bit young. We got some guys that have either been hurt and are just coming off injury or are just young at certain positions and things like that. But we got some good young secondary guys that just haven't played a whole lot.

DG: With the secondary, T.J. McDonald seems to have taken a hold of one of those open safety spots. He and Shareece seem to be the two constants back there.

MK: T.J., he's coming along. Again, he just hasn't played a whole lot, so every snap and every formation is a new experience for him. He's a quick learner, has a great attitude and he's going to be a great football player.

Monte Kiffin brings a wealth of experience to USC.
DG: Knowing Coach O from his first stint, when he's throwing around this kind of praise and potential with the defensive line, it's clear that could be a really special group.

MK: Well, they look pretty good. We got some big guys working pretty hard. Coach O and myself are really pleased. We got a lot of competition going on back there. We got some good people, some kind of no-name guys that are really playing hard right now. Coach O really gets them going.

DG: Have you ever had a 295-pound defensive end like Armond Armstead before?

MK: We've had a few but not a whole lot. Even in the NFL, you know, we had some at 275 or 280 like Simeon Rice and Greg Spires. Those guys weren't real big guys but this is a pretty big guy and I like the way he is moving right now.

DG: At the linebacker position, what's jumped out there so far?

MK: Devon Kennard, he made a big move from defensive end to SAM backer. Now he's over working at MIKE right now, but he hasn't played a lot of MIKE. Galippo, we're trying to work him hard, get his weight down and get his quickness back. And then Malcolm has been hurt a lot, but him and Michael Morgan, we got two good seniors. Again they haven't played a whole lot, but Malcolm and Michael had pretty good junior years.

DG: Could you see Kennard moving around if he doesn't win the MIKE job outright?

MK: Well, we don't know for sure. It's still early. We're not even halfway through spring practice, so we'll just have to wait and see. Got to get guys plenty of time (to get settled), I don't want them moving around too much.

DG: The cohesiveness of this staff is coming through and the team really seems to be embracing what you have brought to the table.

MK: I worked with Coach O and Coach Garza at Tennessee, that was the first time we worked together, but it's nice with us three guys. Coach Barry was with the Buccaneers, so I've worked with all three of these assistants and it helps when you're coming in (to a new place). What has helped is a lot of what Pete has done here for years, we've done. We've tried to keep the terminology basically all the same. A lot of things that Pete called, we would call the same things anyway. There's a few things he called different and we've actually taken what they called them here at USC. It's easier for four or five coaches to learn it than 30 guys on defense.

Monte Kiffin looks on as Lane Kiffin is introduced at USC.

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