What are your thoughts on the possibility of the Trojans using more of a 3-4 defense this year?
One of the most interesting areas of speculation for the Trojans this offseason has been the possibility of incorporating elements of the 3-4 into the defense next year. USC coach Lane Kiffin promised a thorough evaluation of the entire program following the 7-6 record this past fall, and there are a lot of reasons why he would consider the new defensive look. At the top of that list is that the 3-4 is considered a good defense to attack the spread if you can find two athletic outside linebackers who can run. The spread has obviously been an offense that has given the Trojans fits in recent years so it will be interesting to see how this shift works and how often it will be used. Will there be additional changes to the coaching staff beyond the defensive coordinator in an effort to bring other coaches who know the system? It’s possible. Of course, a lot of the success of the 3-4 will depend on how quickly the USC players can adjust to some different roles.
For those older Trojans fans, the 3-4 defense was near a way of life for John McKay’s legendary teams. The original Wild Bunch was in a 3-4. A number of NFL teams are using it with success, and that certainly wouldn’t hurt the Trojans' ability to still talk to recruits about still being a stepping stone defensively to the NFL.
I remember the old 3-4 days with nose tackles like Monte Doris and Willard “Bubba” Scott. The 3-4 defense of McKay's also brought stand-up outside linebackers called "defensive ends" like former All-Americans Jimmy Gunn, Charlie Weaver and Tim Rossovich.
If you look at the 2013 defense in a 3-4 defense, you could see the defensive tackles as Leonard Williams and George Uko; Antwaun Woods at nose tackle; the inside linebackers being Hayes Pullard and possibly Scott Starr; and the outside linebackers Anthony Sarao and Dion Bailey, if Bailey doesn’t get moved to safety. Where would defensive end Morgan Breslin fit in? That’s why they play spring ball. In a 3-4 defense, a player like Charles Burks could become a factor as a defensive end. It’s all very intriguing.
The simple fact of the matter is the Trojans’ defense the last few years just hasn’t been getting the job done, and some changes need to be made. And while I’m not sold on a complete flip to a 3-4 defense 100 percent of the time just yet, if it’s used in combination with a number of other fronts, then I’m all for it. And if Clancy Pendergast is ultimately the choice as the new defensive coordinator, he certainly has already had quite a bit of success with it in the Pac-12 at Cal, particularly in his first two years there against teams like Oregon who featured the up-tempo, spread offensive looks that the Trojans have struggled against. My biggest question is does USC currently possess the personnel to make the 3-4 work? A big body in the middle at nose tackle is a prerequisite. Does someone like Antwaun Woods or a possible newcomer along the lines of A’Shawn Robinson fit that category? What about at the key outside linebacker spots? Can Morgan Breslin and Devon Kennard make that transition? We certainly don’t have a clue right now, but if the new defensive coordinator can, in fact, fit all of the right pieces together, perhaps the use of more of a 3-4 defensive look is just what the doctor ordered.