Outside of the quarterback competition the biggest question was how would USC's defense look after going through a change in the majority of their personel? Taylor Mays staying for his senior year and Josh Pinkard getting another year of eligibility provides some leadership in the secondary but the linebacking corps and the defensive line are all relatively new faces when it comes to be in starting roles.
Well it seems that the new crew is picking up where the old crew left off...
USC's defense is in a transitional phase, the starting linebacker corps and several linemen from last season now preparing for the NFL draft.
But after one-third of spring practice, it's clear the unit does not seem to have lost much, if any, speed.
"The whole group can run and they're showing it," Coach Pete Carroll said after the defense mostly dominated during a 63-play scrimmage Sunday.
Linebacker Malcolm Smith displayed his burst after scooping up a fumble. The junior jetted up the sideline and stiff-armed quarterback Mitch Mustain to the ground on a 70-yard touchdown return.
Later, cornerback Kevin Thomas picked off a Matt Barkley pass in the end zone and dashed up the sideline more than 50 yards before the freshman quarterback knocked him out of bounds.
"Our defense has come out attacking the football better than we have in other springs," Carroll said.
Now, obviously some of their "success" is because the offense is still trying to find their identity in regards to securing a new starting QB and until that question is settled I would expect the defense to have a bit of a leg up even thought they are replacing almost everyone.
Pete Carroll is pleased with the defenses progress as his concerns are eased a bit with what he is seeing first hand.
Perhaps a bigger worry is linebacker, where Chris Galippo, Mike Morgan and Malcolm Smith replace Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Kaluka Maiava.
"Malcolm, Chris and Mike jumped right in there and have been playing fine," Carroll said. "And (reserves) Luthur Brown and Jordan Campbell look the part and know the stuff."
The position should be bolstered in the fall when highly touted recruits Jarvis Jones and Frankie Telfort arrive.
Carroll feels even better about the defensive line despite the loss of defensive end Clay Matthews, expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft, and Fili Moala, projected to be picked in the second to third rounds.
"I know it's early in the spring and the offensive line takes longer to develop, but the defensive line is having a lot of success against a pretty experienced offensive line," Carroll said. "They're not struggling, and better than they were at the end of the season. Jurrell Casey, Armond Armstead and Everson Griffen are all playing hard and making an impression. Griffen understands why Clay played so much last year."
The defense is once again going to be called upon next season to make big plays so its nice to see that the new crew has the same intensity of the group that recently moved on. There are still a lot of questions to be answered but its nice to see that familiar make up we have been accustomed to seeing.