Bailey, Burnett epitomize changes on D

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
9:24
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Dion Bailey has long been the best example of the philosophical changes USC made nearly two years ago to get smaller and faster on defense.

His move from safety to linebacker in the winter following the 2010 season epitomized the Trojans' newfound preference for speed over size. And the success the team has had and the improvement Bailey has made since the position switch has been as good a testament as any to the quality of the change in philosophy.

But there's another player who's a good example, too: 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior Tony Burnett, who started his USC career as a safety and then moved to cornerback, sort of the opposite move as Bailey. Then he moved to linebacker in the spring of this year and started playing a lot better.

And, in a funny twist of fate, he's now Bailey's backup at strongside linebacker and one of two top reserve linebackers the Trojans use liberally.

USC coach Lane Kiffin spotlighted Burnett this week as another example of a player who fits in better in the Trojans' newer scheme. Earlier on in Kiffin's tenure, of course, USC's defense was a lot worse than it is now, in no small part because it required players to play faster than they were to stop the likes of Oregon's offense.

Now, because of Bailey and Burnett, USC has its players running full-speed all the time. Having both guys at one spot allows the Trojans to do a lot of substituting, too.

That's going to be necessary against Arizona on Saturday and, of course, against Oregon the following week.

"Those guys rotate in there and play the same spot for those reasons, so that we can be around the ball more," Kiffin said.

On Thursday, Kiffin was asked if an opposing offense like Arizona was the reason why he and his staff decided to make the philosophical change to get smaller and speedier.

He nodded his head.

"Definitely," Kiffin said.

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