USC Trojans College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The defense wasn’t amazing, but it was good enough. It was great at taking the ball away, the pass rush was terrific, and it ended up allowing 370 yards and 26 points per game. There are enough missing parts to be a problem, but it’s USC – there’s talent, and it starts with …
– The secondary – it’s very, very good. The Trojans lose leading tackler Talanoa Hufanga alone with all-star corner Olaijan Griffin, but there’s no problem moving around the parts as needed.
6-4 Isaiah Pola-Malo is an NFL safety coming off a 40-tackle season – he was third on the team – and several good options are there to work into the other job. It might take fall camp to get there, but this isn’t a worry. The corners are even stronger with All-Pac-12 talent Chris Steele and Isaac Taylor-Stuart locking things down.
– The defensive front needs a few new parts, but veteran Nick Figueroa is back at one end after leading the team in sacks and tackles for loss, and LB/DE Drake Jackson is in a salary drive as a future big draft pick in a hybrid role.
The tackle situation is a bit more of a question mark with Caleb Tremblay leaving for Tennessee, Marlon Tuipulotu now a Philadelphia Eagle, and with 325-pound Brandon Pili suffering a leg injury. It’s a thin group, but landing Ishmael Sopsher from Alabama was a huge help.
– Relatively unheralded Ralen Goforth returns in the middle of the linebacking corps, and 245-pound thumper Kana’i Mauga is back as the team’s second-leading tackler with 41 stops, but it’s going to take some work on the outside – not counting where Jackson plays – with Palaie Gaoteote transferring out.