USC defense hitting hard during spring
APR 02, 2013 9:52p ET
He knew he wanted this year, unlike the previous two, to be more competitive and as a result, more physical.
So far, it’s “definitely” worked, according to junior linebacker Hayes Pullard, who says this is the most competitive spring practice he’s been a part of in his USC career.
It all came to a head at Howard Jones Field during Tuesday’s workout. As they scrimmaged at the goal line near the end of practice, a scrum emerged -- running back Buck Allen pushed defensive lineman Morgan Breslin.
In retaliation, Devon Kennard came over and decleated Allen. The tailback, however, popped right back up and went after Kennard, starting a raucous.
As defensive line coach Ed Orgeron came in to break it up, he was inadvertently tossed aside and left a bloody mess.
Elsewhere, defensive lineman George Uko and fullback Soma Vainuku, who, is not practicing at all this spring, needed to be separated. The two later hugged and made up after practice.
“Nothing (lingers) at all,” said Uko, with a mixture of blood and sweat rest on his upper lip. “It’s just what happens on the field. Once everyone goes in the locker room, everyone’s fine just laughing and playing.”
On the very next play after the scrum, the defense forced a fumble via freshman tailback Justin Davis.
The mix-up is a byproduct of what the USC defense is transforming into; a tough and physical defense under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
“We’re not here to box,” Pendergast said. “We’re here to just compete and keep the offense out (of the endzone). We’re not here to cheap shot or hurt anybody, we’re just trying to be a tough, smart, competitive defense.”
The goal line scrimmage is known to be a physical, however, the competitive juices on both sides were especially high on Tuesday as the physical practices continue to add up this spring.
"Coach Kiffin put us in a situation where we need to thud more and we’re starting to tackle a lot more and everybody is getting the confidence that we need to be able to be the physical defense that we should,“ Pullard said.
The coaching staff isn't worried about what happened on Tuesday. It’s no different than what goes on at other programs across the country during spring practices and fall camp.
The concern, however, for USC is making sure cooler heads prevail in games for the team that finished 110th in the country in penalties last season.
“It’s always a tough line,” Kiffin said. “You want your defense to be physical and the way they were on the goaline and the mentality (they had) but also make great decisions.”