Even as they struggled tackling last year, game in and game out, Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin stood strong on his no-tackling practice policy all the way until October, in the week leading up to the Oregon game.
Players and coaches alike continuously attributed the struggle with tackling in games to their lack of tackling in practices but maintained that USC had no other option because of its clear lack of depth and capable backups at some positions.
But they're tackling now, Kiffin deciding it's worth the risk of added injuries to provide time for the team to develop its hitting skills. Saturday's full-pads practice was the first time this spring the Trojans tackled.
"It's good to get out here and hit, it really is," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said. "We all know we need to tackle better. We can't tackle better if we don't do it out here.
"It's gonna help us, you know?"
Considering it was the first time they had hit anybody on the practice field in more than three months, the Trojans actually did fairly well. One-on-one tackling drills were a sight to see, as defensive backs that were often criticized for their open-field misses in 2010 did a decent job of stepping up and making the available play.
Monte Kiffin said it was "pretty good, but it could still be better."
Both Kiffins said they felt their defenders realized the enormity of the situation as far as tackling goes. In other words, the Trojans know they won't win many games this year unless their tackling improves.
"I can sense it in our defensive players: they know it has to happen, they know we have to improve on it," Lane Kiffin said. "You can see it in them as soon as we go to tackling drills. You can see that there's a lot of focus on it and guys are taking it very serious, which is good."
That's all fine and dandy and USC obviously hopes to continue tackling and continue keeping its players healthy, but the truth of the matter is that the two are often mutually exclusive. Tackle, and you'll be better but get hurt; don't tackle, and you'll be worse but healthy.
"We do have a lot of injuries," Monte Kiffin said. "Our depth is a concern, but we've gotta work with what we've got. We do have some good defensive players coming in. The group coming in this year has a chance to be pretty darn good, but, again, how quick can they play?"