The USC secondary has been called young, explosive, raw and most importantly productive in large part thanks to a bevy of depth arriving at the position this offseason. All of which should be put to the test facing up against the strong-armed Connor Halliday in the pass-happy Washington State Cougars offense looking for blood.
For a majority of the season-opening 30-13 win over Hawaii, the Trojans fired out a lineup of Anthony Brown, Kevon Seymour, Josh Shaw and Su'a Cravens in the secondary. All of whom played reasonably beyond their years in pass coverage. Following huge interceptions from Cravens (on the very first play we might add) along with a pick-six from Shaw expect plenty more opportunities for this wiry unit from their new-look Pac-12 foes up North.
In step the Washington State Cougars, a team that has been well documented to rifle the football all over the field under the most-recent direction of Mike Leach calling plays from the sideline. "They use all areas of the field with the run and pass game, and they will really stretch you out," said USC Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast. "They only have one game under their belt so their is a little bit more of an understanding of what we can do to stop them"
Following a season-setting performance on the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans back end has its sights firmly set on changing the conversation in their first game at the Coliseum this weekend. "We have had a great week of preparation thus far and we have our work cut out for us," according to safety Josh Shaw who embraces the challenge, and would want nothing less than opportunities to make plays in the midst of helping his team win.
When asked how to slow down, or even limit the passing game from a unit not afraid to let it fly 60-plus times per game, the Trojans back-end play makers put matters into a simple perspective following Wednesday's practice. "You always have to have your eyes open," Shaw said, adding "you have to treat every play like it is third down."
With injuries to top cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Kevon Seymour suffered last week, the likes of Dion Bailey, Josh Shaw (converted CB in 2012) and even rising senior Torin Harris -who recently received sincere props rom Marqise Lee for his improved effort this season- have been tossed into the fire amongst the rotation of talent for USC.
"We are a team that operates with the next guy up mentality," Pendergast said when asked about injury concerns across the board during the past few weeks of practice. "So whoever that guy is regardless of position, we are not going to let any injury stop what we have to do scheme wise."
Shifting attention over to the safety position, the Trojans youngest contributor in Su'a Cravens has been flying around the football, even showing some T.J. McDonald like skills while still only 18 years of age. For Cravens, the opportunity to face multiple sets across the field sounds rather exciting. "If I am on my p's and q's we should be flying to the ball all game long," Cravens said, before gently cautioning that "if not, it's going to be a long day for us."
While the Cougars have not defeated USC since 2002, in part of a rigorous schedule featuring match ups with nine ranked opponents on the schedule, players are not overlooking the challenge coming their way from Washington State's offense. "This week is going to be a little bit harder, but hopefully we can apply some pressure on the quarterback who gets the ball out quick," Pendergast said about facing Mike Leach's upset-minded squad.
In terms of the overall scheme implemented this week, the Trojans expect to be tested all over the field from sideline to sideline. Yet they understand that a tremendous pass rush along with excellent coverage on the back end will allow the defense to control the tempo from the opening kickoff; resulting in another USC victory at the Coliseum.