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Pendergast gives USC defense upper hand on read-option

Long gone are the days of archaic ground-and-pound attack when the Aggies head into town with the spread-option that runs rampant in the Pac-12. But do not fear, USC has the trick up their sleeve to once again shut down the opponent.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

Change has been rather imminent and worthwhile for the USC defense who are striving under the tutelage of long-time defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who brings a bevy of NFL and Collegiate experience to the table.

"We feel like we are the best defense in the country," said safety Dion Bailey after practice on Wednesday, looking at the Trojans improved physical mindset through three games. "last year we came into games and we play at how we were going to adjust to teams. And with coach Pendergast we are going to make teams adjust to us."

Players are starting to recognize that last year's anomaly of a defense is a total thing of the past. Thanks in large part to the intense mentality and proper game plan implemented from their defensive coordinator starting on day one.

This enthusiasm certainly brings back memories to Pete Carroll's dominant 2008 squad which ranked first nationally in scoring defense and pass defense, while also ranking second in total defense and fifth in rushing defense.

Through three games this season, the leaders on the defense recognize the strides they have already taken in establishing themselves as aggressors on the line of scrimmage. "We are going to do what we do, and if we run it well then there is nothing teams can do," Bailey said about his confident units mentality moving forward.

Already this season, USC ranks second nationally in rushing defense, third in sacks and fourth in total defense. The Trojans are also sixth in interceptions, tackles for losses and pass-efficiency defense and eighth in scoring defense.

"We gotta keep getting better, we are not done yet," Devon Kennard duly noted about its performance, not allowing a touchdown from their starting unit this season. "We didn't get any sacks, or turnovers last week, so we can improve."

The Trojans next test moves out to the spread-option attack, one that is growing in popularity amongst the Pac-12. Something that makes this early-season test seem like a statement game for what lies ahead on that side of the ball.

"We have seen what he has done in different places, and we have great personal for this type of scheme," Dion Bailey said about the adjustment from working with Monte Kiffin to Clancy Pendergast beginning in Spring Practice. "We understand we've got to show up week in and week out, and we've got to produce."

In terms of facing the spread-option, the Trojans have been torched in recent memory by UCLA, Arizona and Oregon with stopping mobile quarterbacks that could makes plays through the air and especially on the ground.

While this weeks task of slowing down Chuckie Keeton remains just as stiff, the emphasis centers around "keeping him in the pocket and not letting him get outside," according to sophomore tackle Leonard Williams, who alongside fellow DT Antwaun Woods will certainly be called to once again limit the running game up the middle.

While the offense is certainly improving following their nearly 500-yard plus performance against Boston College, the biggest yard stick for wins and loses will ultimately stem from its defense at season's end.