Practice notebook: Defense responds
August, 5, 2013
By Garry Paskwietz | ESPN.com
It didn’t take long for the new 5-2 defense to show itself Sunday in USC fall camp as Day 2 definitely belonged to that side of the ball.
“It was a really good day for the defense in terms of forcing turnovers,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “They did it a couple series in a row, too, which was good to see. I thought their energy was really good from the start and they carried it through the end of a long practice.”
Su’a Cravens had the first interception of the day for the defense in a throwing drill. It was an athletic, leaping play on a Cody Kessler pass intended for Marqise Lee.
“It feels good to make plays,” Cravens said. “Especially against a Biletnikoff winner, but Marqise will probably try to head-hunt me tomorrow and go deep on me, so we’ll see what happens.”
Chris Hawkins had an interception of Max Browne and Torin Harris came up with interception No. 3 for the defense in the final team drill of the day when he battled with Nelson Agholor and came down with a pass from Browne.
The defense also did a good job creating pressure on the quarterback and came away with sacks by Devon Kennard, Morgan Breslin, Leonard Williams, Antwaun Woods and Quinton Powell.
On the first day of camp, Dion Bailey and Cravens lined up with the first unit at safety. On Sunday, it was Josh Shaw and Demetrius Wright. Kiffin said there is nothing to read into who is starting now because nothing is set. This is a very good safety group that can go six deep if you include Gerald Bowman and Leon McQuay. Kiffin mentioned that depth when discussing special teams; he said it will be important for the safeties and running backs to contribute there because both units have such good depth.
Speaking of special teams
The Trojans did live punt drills at the beginning of practice with Kris Albarado and Joey Krassenstein alternating as the punter. Albarado was getting some good air under his punts. Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor were alternating as the return men.
Incoming transfer defensive lineman Delvon Simmons practiced and was wearing No. 97. He’s got good size and looks like the kind of player who could make an immediate impact, although the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Simmons will have to sit out the 2013 season as a transfer from Texas Tech.
Kevin Greene came out for practice in his familiar No. 81 jersey, but he lined up at tight end, instead of his usual outside linebacker spot. It makes sense to give this a look as the Trojans are a little thin at tight end while the outside linebacker spot is looking solid right now. Kiffin said it’s not a permanent switch yet, just something the coaches will look at to see how it goes.
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireKevin Greene (81) lined up at tight end in Sunday's practice.
Recruits in attendance
Offensive lineman Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont) and ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).
More on-field highlights
In a team drill, Kessler had a completion to Agholor that gained roughly 15 yards. ... Leonard Williams fought off a block attempt by John Martinez in order to corral Tre Madden. ... Lamar Dawson and Michael Hutchings plugged a hole to stop Ty Isaac. ... Madden finished off the reps for the first unit with a long run up the middle. ... Browne came in and hit Buck Allen with a swing pass along the right side for 20 yards.
In the final team drill of the day, Demetrius Wright batted down a pass attempt for Lee, Kessler hit Agholor for a first down and Justin Davis had a pretty, weaving run along the left side for 20 yards.
Kiffin said after looking at film from the Saturday practice he was impressed with Madden and Davis. He called them “special players with unique skill sets.”
Su’a Cravens on coming out with a strong effort on Sunday, highlighted by a leaping interception over Marqise Lee on a Cody Kessler pass:
“Yesterday [Saturday] I had an all-right day. It was kind of slow for me, and I made a couple of mistakes. Today [Sunday] I feel like I was more on myself – I studied a lot with Chris Hawkins in my room before practice and I feel like I was on it.”
Marqise Lee on the interception by Cravens:
“At the end of the day, if he’s going to do it in the game, then hey, I don’t mind him doing it to me. ... But tomorrow is another day and I’m not going to let that happen.”
Leonard Williams, on the defense’s standout performance during the team period on Sunday:
“The offense got us [Saturday]. We came out kind of quiet, and I feel like the defense really responded [Sunday].”
Williams, on what has been a noticeable emphasis by the defense to attempt to force turnovers so far this fall camp:
“Day 1 of camp, the coaches just told us that the ball is the most important thing in the game, so we’ve really been emphasizing that with turnover drills with every position on the defense. We’re just really working on getting the ball. Not only are we doing it in drills, but we’re carrying it over to team when we’re going against each other. So every time that one of us is holding somebody up, another guy is coming in and going for the ball. Everyone is going for it.”
Williams, on one of the primary factors behind the defensive unit’s energetic effort on Sunday, inside linebacker Hayes Pullard:
“Hayes is the leader of our defense and he’s a really hyped guy, so we all feed off of him. I feel like everyone is really responding to it and feeding off of that energy.”
Kevin Greene, on when he found out that he would be lining up at tight end on Sunday:
“They basically told me this afternoon. Coach Kiffin said, ‘We’re going to try something different today.’ So I went out there with a smile on my face. I’m not going to come out here and pout. Whatever the coaches want me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Greene, on how the first day at tight end went:
“It was basically just about getting my feet wet. Over time I’m pretty sure that I’ll feel a lot more comfortable – once I take some more snaps and understand what I’m doing out there.”
Greene on the last time that he played on the offensive side of the ball:
“Senior year of high school – when I first started. It’s been a while. I started off playing wide receiver. I did that for about a game or two, then I went strictly to defense from there. So, just playing about four or five years of straight defense, and then switching the mindset like that in one day, it could be tough, but at the same time I’m definitely willing to learn.”