Juco DL adjusts to new pace at USC

The introduction of the up-tempo offense to the USC spring practice agenda was an adjustment for everyone, particularly a 6-foot-5, 293-pound junior college transfer who was already dealing with the transition to the four-year level.

Such was the case during spring for defensive lineman Claude Pelon, a midyear transfer from Mesa (Ariz.) College who came to USC with high expectations of being able to contribute right away in the middle of the line.

“The pace is very fast, that was the biggest adjustment for me,” Pelon said. “That first week was pretty hard to deal with, but I adjusted and it’s going the way I want it to right now.”

As Pelon got more and more comfortable this spring, the USC coaches noticed his raw strength and ability to move up and down the line. Those second-team reps suddenly became first-team reps and by the time spring ended, Pelon had earned a spot atop the depth chart at defensive end.

“Claude is a guy who made a lot of strides,” USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We started to see his burst, we started to see him in the backfield more. I just want him to keep fighting hard, all the time, with great technique. I know it’s in him.”

This spring was a positive start to a USC career for Pelon that began in Florida and took a detour through the junior college route in Arizona. When it finally came time to pick a school last fall, Pelon had USC and Washington among his final choices so when Sarksisian and staff made their way to Los Angeles, it made the decision final for Pelon.

“I had to go to junior college to take care of some academics and grow up as a person,” Pelon said. “The situation worked out great for me with USC because I know I’m with the best coaching staff to help get me to the next level. I’m loving everything about this place and I don’t feel homesick at all, there’s no humidity here!”

Pelon, who had two sacks in the USC spring game session, also has the benefit of having a fellow Floridian on the defensive line in All-American Leonard Williams, who sat out the spring with an injured shoulder.

“Leonard and I talk a lot off the field about making sure I’m doing everything right,” Pelon said. “I can’t wait to see him back on the field, it’s just going to make us that much better as a group.”

There also has been advice from nose tackle Antwaun Woods about what Pelon can expect in the fall when playing home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“Antwaun tells me I won’t believe what it’s like for the games,” Pelon said. “He said when you walk down the tunnel you can hear the roar of the crowd going crazy. Man, I can’t wait to feel that.”