The USC Trojans are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2012 campaign that forced Lane Kiffin to make sweeping changes to his coaching staff. With spring practices rapidly approaching, these new coaches will have to quickly imprint their systems and style on the team–none more so than defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergrast. He’ll have to work without one of his defensive leaders, however, as starting linebacker Dion Bailey will miss spring practice as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
Bailey was a key member of the Trojans’ defense in 2012. He made 80 tackles and led the team with four interceptions as a sophomore and projects to be a major contributor to Pendergrast’s new defensive scheme. But the coach will have to work through spring drills without one of the keys to his plans in 2013 after Bailey had surgery January 20 on his shoulder and is currently in the middle of a six-month recovery.
Where or how Bailey will be used in Pendergrast’s defense remains to be seen and probably would have been a focus of the spring. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior could move to safety next season or be used as a linebacker/safety hybrid. Pendergrast is looking to create a more flexible, disruptive defense that will favor athletic, versatile linebackers and safeties. Bailey looked to be a perfect fit for both positions and could be lined up all over the field to get the best matchup possible.
But all of that may have to be put on hold with Bailey missing out on crucial reps this spring. That will put him behind the curve as far as learning the new defense, which is starkly different than former DC Monte Kiffin‘s soft read-and-react zone defense that Bailey played last season. The best way to learn a defense is to play in it, and Bailey won’t get that chance until fall camp opens up next August.
So how quickly can Bailey learn this new defense next fall after missing spring practice? The answer to that could determine how effective USC’s new defensive coordinator is in year one.