Trojans’ Defense Only Part Of USC’s Mounting Problems

Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE

In 2010, the USC Trojans were slapped with detrimental sanctions, and in the midst of a never-ending media circus, a coaching overhaul was brewing. Several players transferred, but most rode out the storm in hopes that they would maintain contention as a top-tier team. Saturday night’s game against the Oregon Ducks was a wake up call for Trojan Faithful that unfortunately arrived too late.

Throughout head coach Lane Kiffin’s career at SC, fans have maintained a sort of “entitlement” to their throne and dynasty, often without realizing what the Trojans are dealing with.

To recap the sanctions Kiffin was handed in his first season: a two-year postseason ban, the loss of 30 scholarships over three years, and the vacation of all wins during the time Reggie Bush was deemed in violation of NCAA rules on amateurism. All of which came with a high level of criticism by analysts as a corrupt abuse of power by the NCAA.

In Kiffin’s first season as head coach, he finished with an 8-5 record, and a huge 48-14 win over California. In that game, QB Matt Barkley tied the USC school record for touchdown passes in a game, with five in one half, giving SC fans the hope they needed.

It was announced on June 6, 2011 that the BCS Committee was stripping SC of the 2004 National Championship, but even though SC was ineligible to compete in the Pac-12 Championship that year, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee still amassed 1,000-yards apiece receiving, with Curtis McNeal at 1,000-yards rushing, and Barkley at 3,000-yards passing – a first since 2005. That season, the Trojans finished with an 11-2 record, with big road wins against Notre Dame, and Oregon.

Despite a significant upswing in wins-to-losses between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the program, and its’ loyalists failed to pay attention to underlying problems, which have been exposed this season.

USC went into 2012 as the preseason No. 1, poised for a Barkley Heisman Campaign, and as an automatic in for to the National Championship game in Miami. Bear in mind, that all this hype was happening as the Trojans were still limited to 75 scholarships (as opposed to 85).

Center Khalid Holmes has an interesting job description and relationship with Barkley, as he reads defenses, with Barkley calling the audibles. Against Syracuse, Khalid suffered a right ankle injury that sidelined him through the Stanford game.

Possession after possession, the USC offensive line (without Holmes) was getting manhandled against the Stanford front seven – who were able to sack Barkley five times; an unprecedented number for a line that had several returning starters.

Traditionally, Barkley takes the snaps from Holmes under center, but against Stanford, Kiffin should have adjusted to the shotgun formation entirely, which would have alleviated pressure off of redshirt freshmen Cyrus Hobbi, and given Barkley a better view of the field to find his targets.

Unfortunately, this loss set the tone of how valuable Holmes is to the offense, and all things considered, 2013 is already looking to be a scary season with his draft declaration imminent in January.

On Saturday against No. 3 BCS Oregon, USC’s defense was awful, and that’s on Monte Kiffin. Sure, he was a genius with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but his archaic methods are failing at SC. Defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron needs to step up and make the calls if they want a shot at cracking the top ten again this season.

Here are some statistics to digest from the 62-51 loss: This was the first time in USC’s 124-year history that 62 points were allowed in a game, and Oregon’s 730 yards of total offense were the most allowed by a USC defense EVER. The Trojans defense is ranked 49th overall, allowing 24.2 points per game, and against Oregon (who, by the way is No. 1 in scoring, averaging 54.3 points per game) they clearly piggybacked the offense and were lucky to come out with an 11-point differential.

Adding insult to injury, this is the first season since 2001 that cross town rival (No. 18) UCLA is ranked higher in the BCS than (No. 19) USC.

There’s still a possibility to win out the rest of the season, but The Kiffin’s – Lane and Monty – will require some significant changes. AD Pat Haden knows what needs to be done to avoid a return to the days of Paul Hackett. Fans deserve better, and I fear that if those changes don’t happen soon, casualties such as the de-commitment of Max Redfield (the nation’s No. 37 ranked ESPN 150 recruit) will be one of many hits to the Trojans No. 1 ranked 2013 recruiting class.

Follow VF Castro on Twitter: @VFdoesFootball

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