Talkin' Football with Joe Barry

The most intriguing position battle this fall has been the competition between Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard for the starting middle linebacker spot. We recently caught up with USC assistant coach Joe Barry to get his thoughts on Kennard's move to the middle, what he looks for in a recruit and much more.

Question: What went into your decision to leave the NFL and come to USC to coach at the college level?

Barry: I think there was a bunch of things that factored in. Number one was that I played here so USC holds a very special place in my heart - but then obviously Monte (Kiffin). I owe everything that I have learned and become as a coach, at least in the last fifteen years, has come from Monte Kiffin. I think those two things combined along with the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty in the NFL right now. All of those things factored in together and made it a pretty easy decision to want to come back here.

Q: What has been the biggest difference in coaching paid professionals to college players?

Barry: It's not about getting paid as opposed to not getting paid. To play this game, you need to see plays and you need to experience plays. I have a firm belief that it takes 1,000 reps in doing something to perfect it. You are talking about guys that are 28 years old that have played four years in college and been in the NFL for four years so they have seen a lot of football. I think that has been the biggest difference for me, just the young player. The main difference for me has just been the youth and the inexperience. I'm coaching 18-year-old and 19-year-old players instead of guys that are 27, but that's fun and I really enjoy it.

Q: What was it about Devon Kennard that made you think he could make the move to middle linebacker?

Incoming freshman Hayes Pullard will add some much needed depth at linebacker.
Barry: I hadn't even met Devon yet, and I was on the job for the first three or four days, and the first thing I did when I got here was I went back and watched every game from last year, and I noticed the kid before I even knew who he was. He was at defensive end and just a big kid that could run. I had just got here and all the other coaches were out recruiting and all of the sudden I see 42 playing linebacker now. So I kind of do my research and I found out that there were some injuries and they had to move Kennard to linebacker. Now, in conventional football that is almost unheard of. Usually a safety gets moved to linebacker, but it's very rare that a defensive lineman gets moved back to linebacker. I noticed that he basically had a seamless transition so that is kind of where we first got the idea. Then as the offseason went on and I started to see the depth, Lane said he wanted competition at every position. The middle linebacker position on our defense is just like the quarterback and we felt that if we wanted to get competition there then we needed to move somebody there.

In competitive team sports the best motivator is competition. As a coach you can yell and scream all you want, but unless you have a guy behind you that is nipping at your heels, when you have a guy behind you, you aren't going to miss any practice, you are going to be wired in and you aren't going to want to screw up anything. You can't beat competition, and we got it right now.

Q: Have either of the guys taken a lead in the competition at middle linebacker?

Barry: We don't have to make that decision until Sept. 2nd or whenever we play so it's still an open competition right now. Both guys are doing a hell of a job with every opportunity that they get, whether it's with the first-team or second-team. When the dust settles we will obviously have to name a starter but we aren't ready to do that yet.

Q: What has been your assessment of the play of the outside linebackers during spring practice?

Barry: Malcolm (Smith) came into spring ball hurt so we kind of spoon fed him along early, so he is a little behind in the sense that he hasn't had a lot of reps. He is now healthy and getting back into the swing of things. I am excited about him. I expect him to have a career year this year – same thing with Michael Morgan. I think Morgan is a guy that has all the physical tools. He can run, he's big and he's been around here. I expect him to have the best year of football that he has ever had. We have some guys kind of in the shadows behind those guys. I am excited about Shane Horton, Jordan Campbell has been here a number of years, and we have Simione (Vehikite) and Marquis Simmons. But those first two guys, I am expecting big things from them this year - no doubt about it.

Q: What roles will Simione Vehikite and Marquis Simmons have this coming season?

Barry: They're young. Every rep that they get is a new experience for them. They are still learning every single day and every single rep that they have. As long as they continue to develop and just get better, and that's the main thing with a young kid, you understand that they are going to make mistakes, but when you correct those mistakes you want to make sure that they don't continue to make them. They are in that phase of their development right now but I am excited about those two kids.

Q: What are your expectations for Glen Stanley and Hayes Pullard?

Barry: We are going to start Glen off at the SAM linebacker position and Hayes (Pullard) at the WILL. All I know of those guys is off the limited amount of tape that I saw, but we are going to try to kick start them and get them as developed as humanly possible. It's a great attitude that Pete (Carroll) had and Lane (Kiffin) had - when you come in here you are going to play so you better be ready.

Q: When you are out recruiting players, what is it that you are looking for in a linebacker?

Barry: Speed, athleticism, instincts and smarts. Those are probably the biggest things. In defensive football, I don't care what system; you have got to be able to run. We ask our linebackers to do a lot, as far as the middle linebacker running down the middle of the field or an outside linebacker getting matched up on a wide receiver out in space, so you have to be athletic. I want a guy to be physical and smart. You got to be the whole package.

Malcolm Smith and Chris Galippo have been solid this spring.

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