USC defense struggled to adapt this year

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

There is a lot of blame to go around for USC's 7-5 season, and a defense that struggled all year can take its fair share of the blame.

USC's defense was supposed to be about as good as its offense this year, or at least that is why quite a few people picked them as the top team in the country to start the preseason.

Flash forward a few months, and the Trojans finished the season 7-5, far from the top as most expected, and will play in Sun Bowl instead of the Rose Bowl or the BCS title.

As the LA Times writes, much of this stems from the coaches inabilities to adapt their defensive schemes to fit the high-flying offenses that are now the face of the Pac-12. The beginning of the Trojans downfall started on Oct. 27 with a 39-36 loss against Arizona and continued on Nov. 3 with a record setting 62-51 loss to Oregon.

The hurry-up offenses that confounded USC's football team this season show no signs of abating - and another is on the way. California just hired Sonny Dykes, he of the quick-paced, no-huddle "Air Raid" attack that will make the Pac-12Conference even more harried for defensive coordinators.

On a few regards, statistically the Trojans defense was pretty good. They were ranked fourth in the nation with 43 sacks and caused 29 turnovers - good for 14th. They also doubled their number of interceptions from 2011 to 2012 - nine to 18.

But the LA Times writes that the Trojans didn't utilize the proper scheme too often with their speedy players, and their defensive alignments took no one by surprise.

Operating out of a 4-3 scheme, USC rarely disguised its intentions. Defensive backs gave receivers too much room to operate. The Trojans also struggled to stop the run - especially against top-flight backs. And they committed far too many penalties and consistently missed tackles.

With a new defensive coordinator eventually coming in and nine defensive commitments in the nation's best class coming in next year, the Trojans defense will need to set the USC style of defense all over again. That would be more like the 2008 squad, which gave up a season high 24 points and shut out three opponents.

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