Wednesday, July 27, 2011
10 questions for fall camp, No. 5: Will Perry walk the talk?
By Pedro Moura
First on the list of our 10 question series for fall camp involved picking a backup for Matt Barkley; second, a look at the potential second receiver and Brice Butler's chances of earning the spot. The third question post, published Monday, involved offensive freshmen. Tuesday's talked over which defensive freshmen stand the best chance of immediately contributing this fall.
The fifth is this: Defensive end Nick Perry talked a big game this spring about the numbers he plans to post this season. Will he be able to reach his high expectations?
Perry's goal for the 2011 season is to exceed 15 sacks, he said back in April during spring practice. In two seasons with the Trojans thus far, he's totaled 13 sacks. Even given that, though, Perry's number is reasonable. He's dynamic as a pass rusher -- speedy, agile and strong, if not durable.
So the question of whether he'll be able to reach the expectations is a two-parter, really, involving two sets of outside circumstances. The first is whether he can stay healthy all year long. If he misses more than a game or two, 15 sacks quickly becomes unreasonable.
The second is how many snaps he'll actually get. With Devon Kennard moving from linebacker to end in the offseason and Wes Horton another starting candidate, the Trojans have three players worthy of starter's snaps.
In digging deeper to the injury question, it's not as if Perry has proven injury-prone in the past. The ailment that sidelined him for the Hawaii opener last year and limited him throughout the season was a high-ankle sprain suffered midway through fall camp -- nothing overly serious, nothing long-term. He simply tried to get back to the field quicker than he should have, and paid the price for it with a lack of explosiveness for months on end.
Asked in April how he could avoid situations like that in the future, Perry smartly said he couldn't avoid them -- he could only limit them, by liberally rehabbing even the smallest of injuries. An approach like that, if executed as he envisioned, would surely help him stay healthy and effective.
About the three ends for two spots, if there's any position on the field where such an arrangement is useful, it's on the defensive line. Lane Kiffin has admitted numerous times this offseason that USC's linemen played too many snaps last season, mostly because there was little quality depth behind the starters. There still isn't much depth at end -- behind those three the only scholarship returner is Kevin Greene, who hasn't played any meaningful time at end.
An even rotation between Perry, Kennard and Horton -- with a few thrown in for Greene and perhaps freshman Greg Townsend Jr. -- would work just fine. Plus, Kiffin brought up the idea Tuesday, at media day, of having Perry move inside on passing downs to provide a better pass-rushing look.
He will have the opportunities. There are a few dominant tackles in the Pac-12 he'll be going against that will make his life difficult, like Stanford's Jonathan Martin, but, in general, the lines across the conference are average and beatable by someone with Perry's speed and sense for the quarterback.
That's it for today. Thursday we question whether Kennard will be able to make an immediate impact at his new position.