The D gets the better of the O

LOS ANGELES -- By now, it's a time-honored cliché.

The first few weeks of any football season, a team's defense is almost always ahead of a team's offense, coaches say. Defense is more about reacting than about doing; offensive timing takes longer to develop than defensive timing.

Is it always true? Probably not. It's one of those terms that has taken on a life of its own. But when a team's actual offensive player says it, then it's probably accurate.

And Trojans running back Curtis McNeal said as much after USC's Friday scrimmage at the Coliseum, during which the offense visibly struggled and the defense thrived.

"Just like every team, the defense is always ahead of the offense," said McNeal, who sat out most of the day after suffering a stinger. "The defense is flying around on top of their game right now. And the offense, we just have to catch up.

"We have some parts. We just have to catch up on every part."

One of the parts that still needs some catching up: the Matt Barkley-Robert Woods connection. Because of Woods' injury that has held him out of most everything the Trojans have done since last November, the timing between the two USC stars is clearly off at this point in camp.

But both Barkley and coach Lane Kiffin indicated Friday that it'll be back to normal sooner rather than later.

"We'll be fine," Barkley said. "I don't think there's anything to worry about."

Something to worry about: The running back position. Even with Silas Redd in the fold, there are still depth concerns in the backfield, and they became clear to see when McNeal was out Friday.

Buck Allen and Soma Vainuku, the Trojans' contingency plans for ballcarriers if their top three get hurt, carried 17 times for a combined 44 yards -- good for about two and a half yards a carry.

Redd broke a 43-yard big gainer on the first play of the scrimmage but ran only other time on the day.

In a week or two, Friday's events might be cause for serious concern.

But for the fifth day of camp, it's just normal, as McNeal said.