Defensive Progress...

No one is going to deny that USC's defense has looked atrocious at times this season.

The reasons have been many. Be it an alleged lack of talent/depth or getting comfortable with the scheme, new coaches and new players, either way the defense has dropped off.

But a lot of it is youth. This is a young defense, especially the back 7...

Saturday night's wild shootout with Arizona State gave a glimpse of what USC fans can expect as this team tries to grow up before their eyes. The Sun Devils are the one team in the Pac-10 younger than the Trojans, so the game was full of silly mistakes and youthful excess. Wasn't it great?

You can see this USC coaching staff tinkering with its lineups, trying -- in part -- to find out which of these young players are going to be impact performers for them in coming seasons. The youngsters on the spot Saturday were true freshman tailback Dillon Baxter, who snuck in front of Marc Tyler with a good week of practice and redshirt freshman cornerback Torin Harris, who played most of the game as a nickel back.

How'd they do? They played, um, like young guys.

Teams go through ups and downs.

We had a great run, but as time moved on we missed on some players and we missed on some coaches. Be it ego or nepotism the fact remains those issues set us back. We saw some progress against Cal and the defense seemed to come together a little bit against ASU. Against Oregon it was going to be an uphill battle so I will cast that game aside.

Even with the team struggling to adapt to Monte Kiffin's scheme we have a few great performances.

The question has been an obvious one...should we modify the scheme to improve production?

The Trojans used a pretty basic formula in recent, decent defensive performances vs. Cal and Arizona State: They played a significant amount of man-to-man coverage and complemented that with blitzes.

The more I watch this USC defense, the more I’m convinced that’s the way to go.

The defense has plenty of athletes. It also features a ton of youth. Man-to-man coverage pits athlete against athlete. It doesn’t eliminate thinking, but it reduces it.

Young defenders such as Devon Kennard, Nickell Robey, Torin Harris and Jawanza Starling are at a stage where the less reading-and-reacting they have to do, the better.

Of course, you can’t play man all the time. You have to mix it up, at least a little, or any experienced quarterback will figure out what you’re doing and burn you.

I think Lev makes a good point in utilizing the talent you have and modifying the scheme to fit that talent. Lev isn't the only one saying it as it is all over the message boards but I believe he is one of the only journalists to actively call for it.

Our guys seem to play better when they don't have to think. Let their natural instincts take over.

This week could be one of those weeks where letting the guys fly around might not be a bad idea...especially if they are facing a less than 100% Nick Foles. He is a lot like Matt Barkley...he doesn't like to scramble. Stanford turned up the heat all night on Foles...'SC should do the same. (a little more on Foles tomorrow)

[...] While the Wildcats want the ball in Foles' hands as much as possible, they can't afford to risk his health.

Foles was blitzed from all sides Saturday, his first game back since suffering a dislocated right kneecap on Oct. 16. He was sacked twice and hurried a handful of other times. Foles appeared to injure his left shoulder while taking a sack in the third quarter, but stayed in the game.

"We knew that they were going to try to get pressure on us because of the knee injury and everything, trying to hit me," Foles said.

I say what the heck...give it a shot.

It is going to take time. We still have a lot of work to do. But it won't be getting easier either, not with the sanctions really taking hold next year.

Right now I just want to see steady progress this year.

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