4. College Football News Preview 2020: USC Trojans Defense 3 Things To Know
– No USC team in the program’s long and storied history had ever allowed more points than the 2019 team. The defense wasn’t that bad, but the 381 points allowed blew past the 366 the 2017 team gave up.
Even so, the Trojans still finished sixth in the Pac-12 in total and scoring defense, had a terrific pass rush, and finished fourth in the conference in pass D. Call it a stepping-stone season for a group that should be far, far better.
And why? 12 of the top 13 tacklers are back – they were all underclassmen – and in all, just two of the top tacklers who mattered are done. That, and Todd Orlando comes in from Texas as the new defensive coordinator.
He’s getting back all the defensive backs to go with a 4-2-5 alignment that relies on the deep group of returning talent. 220-pound junior Talanoa Hufanaga is a big-hitter who finished second on the team with 90 tackles, and fellow safety Isaiah Pola-Mao is another good-sized tackler who came up with 73 stops. Expect these two to do even more. The corners are also big at another deep position.
– There’s not a big overall shift in styles, other than being a bit more versatile with a hybrid pass rusher serving as part linebacker, part defensive end. This is where sophomore Drake Jackson will likely fit in.
The 6-4, 255-pounder made 46 tackles with 5.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss, and now he’ll be turned loose. The rest of the line is loaded, especially at tackle with a terrific rotation around juniors Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele.
– Leading tackler John Houston is the one massive loss. Senior Jordan Iosefa missed last year with a knee injury after making 32 tackles in 2018. If he’s in one piece, he’ll be the team’s leading tackler, and then it’s up to 250-pound junior Palaie Gaoteote to bring more thump after a 58-tackle season. The talent is there with both to be all-stars.