The USC Trojans had trouble keeping up with some of the high-paced offenses they faced in the Pac 12 in 2012. Their seeming inability to adjust to the high-flying spread attacks they saw prompted a change at defensive coordinator and now Clancy Pendergrast is applying his 3-4 (or 5-2 depending on who you ask) to adapt more quickly to the varied attacks they will undoubtedly see in conference play. The key to making those changes work will be the play of “mike” linebacker Hayes Pullard.
Last season, Pullard finished No. 2 on the team in tackles and is the leading returning tackles for the Trojans in 2013. He finished No. 7 in the Pac 12 with 107 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He averaged over eight tackles per game during his sophomore season and will be put in a position to use his athleticism to wreak even more havoc next season.
USC needs someone to step up and take charge of their defense as they usher in Pendergrast’s defensive philosophy. Their defense sabotaged the Trojans on more than one occasion in 2012 and they must step up their game in 2013 if the Trojans have any chance of making up ground in the hyper-competitive Pac 12 South division. There are questions on the offensive side of the ball with a new quarterback taking control, so they may not be able to out-score people as much next season as they needed to last year.
Pullard will have to step up his game in 2013 and be the leader on defense that the Trojans need. If he can break out as a star in the Pac 12 next season, USC has a chance to be a serious contender next fall.