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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
USC's holes are on defense

By Kevin Gemmell

Working off of Mark Schlabach's most recent "way-too-early" top 25, Brian Fremeau looked at the top five teams on Schlabach's ranking and Insider decided to pick apart the holes.

Topping that list are the USC Trojans.

Fremeau on the Trojans:
Generating consistency and dominance on defense needs to be the point of emphasis this spring. The Trojans forced three-and-outs on only 32 percent of opponent drives last year, the 70th-best rate in the nation. All 10 BCS bowl team defenses last season were better at getting opponent offenses off the field more quickly. (The other four teams in this article [Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Georgia] were much better at forcing three-and-outs, each ranked in the top 12 in this metric last season). Those extended drives were a major liability in USC's losses to Stanford and Arizona State last year -- the Trojans gave up 92 offensive points on only 26 non-garbage opponent drives.

Offensively, there isn't much to complain about other than the current vacancies at left tackle and fullback. And the defense should continue to improve under Monte Kiffin's tutelage.

Naturally, there are holes to fill -- specifically on the defensive line, where some shuffling is bound to happen in order to replace Christian Tupou, DaJohn Harris and Nick Perry. But the fact that safety T.J. McDonald decided to return -- thus giving the back seven another full year together -- bodes well for USC's defense to make more strides next season.