LOS ANGELES -- Following a Trojans practice that took place on Dedeaux Field on Wednesday, USC head coach Lane Kiffin said that he was happy with the performance that he’s seen so far here in the bye week, as the Trojans have been able to focus on a few areas that they normally might not be able to.
“Yesterday was really concentrating on cleaning up and improving in the red zone, and today was on third-downs and special teams,” he said. “You know, this is a week of developing depth and trying to find guys. Trying to get guys coming back that can help us on special teams, like a D.J. Morgan, like a George Farmer...just trying to develop all those guys who we can get snaps here and there.”
Defensive line the story of the day
Kiffin continued to praise a USC defensive line that has easily been the surprise of the season so far. A unit filled with first-year players like Morgan Breslin, Antwaun Woods and Leonard Williams -- in addition to veterans like George Uko and Wes Horton -- was relentless against California. There could be more reinforcements on the way according to Kiffin.
“Anytime that you can have a game -- a conference game especially -- and you’re able to get pressure like that, and have nine sacks all by defensive linemen, I don’t know that I’ve heard of that before,” he said. “It was great to see, and we need to continue that, and hopefully we get J.R. Tavai back. J.R. is more experienced than the rest of those guys, and that would help us too.”
Morgan Breslin: Dominating on the field -- an enigma off it
Headlining Ed Oregon’s unit has been Breslin, a junior college transfer who racked up three sacks against the Golden Bears on Saturday. But what’s been most impressive to Kiffin is the way that the Walnut Creek native simply refuses to let up on the field.
“He played every snap, and the first play of the game he makes the play all by himself with the tackle in the backfield, and the last play of the game he makes the sack,” he said. “So, a pretty cool story to point out to our guys -- a guy playing the first snap of the game and the last snap of the game at the same speed.”
While Breslin is a force on the field, he’s proven to be a silent mystery off of it. Refusing media requests for interviews on an almost daily basis now, Kiffin revealed that he’s just as quiet when he’s among his teammates and coaches.
“He does not have a personality at all,” Kiffin joked. “In Friday night meetings we try to get him to talk, and he just says ‘Fight on.’ And Coach [Orgeron] likes it that way.”
Another out-of-state standout
Williams has been another first-year star that has contributed to the stellar play of the defensive line. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound freshman has made a quick adjustment to the college game, compiling 9 tackles and 4 sacks at his defensive tackle position.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Kiffin said. “Really has rushed great in there, having fun...We were just talking to his high school coaches yesterday on the phone and they were saying how he relayed back there how much he loved it here. And it’s another one of those out-of-state success stories.”
Trojans’ team identity found?
One of the big storylines of the season has been the Trojans’ search for a team identity. With largely inconsistent play through the first few games, especially from the offense, Kiffin is hopeful that it was discovered against California.
“Well, I hope it is what we saw last week,” he said. “That was a great identity -- very physical, run the ball, stop the run, rush the passer, protect the passer…”
• Lane Kiffin opened up his post-practice media session by jokingly stating, “I like my SID.” -- A reference to the news coming out about Jim Mora ejecting the media, as well as the SID staff from UCLA’s practice this morning.
• Kiffin also confirmed that some players have been affected by a flu bug that is going around the team.