Kiffin 'pleasantly surprised' with defensive line
Lane Kiffin gave his team the day off on Thursday. It will be their first of two off days in three days during the bye week.
As the Trojans go through the bye, Kiffin's two most glaring concerns have been eased.
First and foremost was depth at running back. That problem disappeared when Silas Redd showed up from Penn State.
The one-two punch of Curtis McNeal and Redd showed just how dynamic they can be in the win against Cal last week, leading the charge for a season-high 296 rushing yards. McNeal finished with 10 carries and 115 yards, while Redd had 21 carries for 159 yards and a touchdown. It was a welcome sight considering what the running game produced in the previous three games.
"I would say the (biggest) disappointment would be, prior to the last game, our run game," Kiffin said, "and when we need to, to be able to dominate people up front and we were able to do that last week so hopefully we can continue that."
After Redd announced he would be a Trojan, Kiffin's focus of concern shifted to the defensive line. When the Trojans' head coach was asked earlier this week what he's most pleased with, he starts with talk about the defensive line. If Kiffin isn't giddy about this group he's not far from it. He is "pleasantly surprised" with the play of the front four.
They've produced considerably more than what was expected from an unproven group that closed fall camp with 24 starts between them –defensive end Wes Horton made 22 of those 24 starts. There's also enough depth that the Trojans are able to rotate guys in and out of the game --something he says is needed in today's game with the majority of spread offenses and heavy emphasis on tempo.
"You got to credit Ed a lot on this too," said Kiffin congratulatory of defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. "He's developed a lot of great ones here and for him to do it this fast with these guys is very exciting and very exciting for our future because they're young."
Despite how pleased he is with the defensive line, he'll quickly put to a halt any conversation with this group and USC's "Wild Bunch II" from 2003.
"We still got a ways to go," Kiffin said. "We have not played four great games. We played really well last week. The great defensive lines here did it for a whole year. 2003 with the 55 sacks and the 1.7 (yards) per rush. That's a dominant defensive line that played the entire year."
This group has 16 sacks through four games and is allowing 3.2 yards per rush.
No. 13 USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12 South) will start preparing for Utah (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12 South) when they return to the practice field Friday evening.
Before that, members of the team will visit USC Women's and Children's Hospital Friday morning, the school announced.