I wasn't going to make a big deal out of this but I read this comment from Shareece Wright last week and was bemused...
Kiffin has received the most criticism, probably because he is actually at USC (unlike the Carrolls) and he brought a big NFL reputation and his famed Tampa 2 defensive formation. But the players back him and hold him blameless.
But Wright defended Kiffin and said fans who blame him are ignorant.
"The fans don't even know what the calls are," Wright said. "They have no right. It's not the calls. We need to make plays as players."
There were plenty of fans who know football that could see that things clearly weren't going right. guys out of position and missing tackles were obvious to many of us so I am not sure just what the calls had to do with it.
So, Wright held a defense only players meeting before the Cal game to address the defenses woes.
The senior cornerback, a team captain, wanted to speak up and talk to teammates about the way the Trojans' defense has been playing but did not want to overstep his bounds.
On Thursday, with Coach Lane Kiffin's blessing, Wright addressed the entire defense, which is ranked 100th nationally and 116th against the pass.
"I needed to take that leadership role," Wright said. "I just told the truth from a player's perspective.
That's fine, it was definitely needed.
But what motivated Wright to call the meeting was a comment from a student/fan...
When rain forced the Trojans to practice on the FieldTurf of Cromwell Field, which does not have fences to close the public's view, cornerback Shareece Wright said he heard a student pass by on his bike.
"Someone on a bike said something about wrapping up," Wright said. "I thought, 'Oh, that's how people feel about us. We can't tackle.'"
Wright said the incident provided some motivation for calling last week's team meeting of defensive players.
"I told the young guys, think like this is it for you," Wright said. "Don't settle for, 'Oh, I'm young.' The focus and attending to detail was there (in Saturday's victory against California)."
Wright said the defense's rejuvenation, which caused it to move up 10 spots to 90th nationally in total defense, is not complete after one good performance.
You bet it isn't complete. There is still a boatload of work to do on defense.
What really makes me scratch my head is that it took a student driving by on his bike to point out something that my 4-year old could see to make a light go off in Wright's head about the defense needing to step it up.
If the defense doesn't respond then Monte Kiffin is the fall guy, I don't care if his son is the head coach. Either the players grasp the scheme or you change the scheme so the players can perform at an optimum level. It is clear that Kiffin did just that based on some of the post game comments we all read.
The question is what took so long?
I was willing to throw the Hawaii game out because of their gimmicky offense but when I saw the defensive performance against UVA I knew there was a problem. Wazzu was a little better but not by much and we all saw the poor results of the UW and Stanford games. Even with a little help from the Stanford clock operators and the Ref's calling NOTHING on 'Furd the USC defense still looked lost.
This is a nice start for the defense on the road back to respectability but there is still a ton of work to be done. The defense needed a kick in the pants and they got it from a most unusual source.
Sometimes great things come in strange packages...