The USC Trojans are looking to restore some of the former shine to their program this season, bringing in a familiar face in Steve Sarkisian to lead them as their new head coach. With NCAA sanctions in their rear-view mirror, the Trojans are ready to put themselves back on top of the Pac-12 with a strong 2014 season. While depth is still an issue for a roster coming out of severe NCAA sanctions, the team will be a serious contender thanks to a stout defense led by arguably the best linebacker in the conference, senior Hayes Pullard.
Pullard is a three-year starter who has led the Trojans’ defense in tackles two of the last three seasons. As a junior in 2013, he finished the year with 94 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and an interception as the Trojans ranked as the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12, allowing just 334.9 yards per game. This season, the senior linebacker will be at the middle of what should be a top-10 defense nationally with key returners at every level and one of the top young defensive coordinators in college football calling the shots in Justin Wilcox.
Sarkisian himself pegged the front seven as the strength of this USC team during the Pac-12 Media Days and that front seven revolves around Pullard. With 39 starts under his belt and 282 career tackles, there are few who can match Pullard for experience. But he’s more than just an old-hand at making plays. He’s also one of the most athletic and instinctive defensive playmakers in the country. It’s easy to imagine Pullard eclipsing the 100-tackle mark in 2014 and logging double-digit tackles for loss as an agent of disruption for USC.
If the Trojans hope to get back on top of the Pac-12 in 2014, it will be on the strength of their defense. With a tested leader like Hayes Pullard leading the way, nobody better sleep on USC restoring the pride to their program and making a strong push for a conference title this fall.