LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans were back on Brian Kennedy/Howard Jones Field on Tuesday morning, going full-pads once again in preparation for this Saturday’s clash at Arizona. And while USC is coming off arguably their most complete performance of the season -- a 50-6 victory over Colorado -- Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin is well aware that the team has a tough stretch coming up, starting this weekend with the Wildcats and their potent spread-option offensive attack.
“I think we have a lot of concerns,” Kiffin said. “We’re always trying to improve regardless of who we’re playing, just like last week. And obviously we need to fix penalties, we need to do better on third downs and now we’re going to have to step it up even more on defense. We’re going to play some great offenses, including this one -- the No. 5 offense in the country at their place -- so we’re going to have our hands full.”
More on the Wildcat offense
It’s safe to say that first-year Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez has made a dramatic impact in reshaping the look and output of the Arizona offense in his short time in Tucson. Led by quarterback Matt Scott and running back Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona averages 352.3 yards per game through the air and 196.4 yards on the ground.
“I think it’s amazing what they’ve done in one year,” Kiffin said. “I think it speaks to Rich [Rodriguez] and his system. To come in the first year of a system, and completely change a system offensively, and then put what they have -- 600 yards I think in over three games, and 50 points in over four or five games -- is really amazing.“
Of course, Scott is the player who really makes the Wildcats’ offense tick. Ranking fourth nationally with 374.3 yards of total offense per game -- 336.4 passing and 37.9 yards rushing -- the Trojans have to be prepared for his dual-threat talents as a signal caller.
“I think he’s really fast, I think he throws the ball really accurately, I think he’s a really good player,” Kiffin said. “And then you put him in that system [and] he’s really dangerous. Just look at the numbers. You start looking at their explosive plays and the reel goes forever, and obviously he has a lot to do with that.”
Arizona’s “unusual” defense
USC quarterback Matt Barkley and the Trojans’ offense will face a different look than they’ve seen before on Saturday, as they go up against Arizona’s 3-3-5 defense, which Rodriguez first started using during his time at West Virginia.
So far the results have been mixed at best. The Wildcats rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 in almost every major defensive statistical category. They have shown improvement in recent weeks however, particularly in regard to the team’s pass rush -- they sacked Keith Price four times last weekend after compiling a total of just six on the entire season heading into that game.
In either case, the unique set certainly gives Kiffin and the offense more to prepare for this week.
“Nobody else does that, so it is something new and we’ve obviously had to prepare for it,” Kiffin said. “This is really just something that they do that’s very unusual. Most people don’t do that in college or the NFL, so it’s new to us and to our guys. I think our guys did well today.”
Walker or Tuerk?
With the status of left tackle Aundrey Walker still unknown after going down with an undisclosed injury against Colorado, Kiffin wouldn’t say too much about the situation at left tackle, only to comment on the job that freshman Max Tuerk did last weekend and that the position looks to be in good hands regardless of who plays there on Saturday.
“Max took a lot of reps today, just like he did last week and just like he did in the game,” Kiffin said. “He played half the game last week and did a really good job, so whoever is there will do good.”
No update on Williams
Kiffin also declined to comment on whether or not Pac-12 officials have come down with a decision in regard to a possible suspension for Leonard Williams for his ejection from last weekend’s game for throwing a punch at a Buffaloes player.
“I don’t think that I’m allowed to say that…I think that’s confidential,” Kiffin said.