April 25, 2009

Huddle Insider: D-line, Perry in control

When Pete Carroll looked at his team before the start of spring workouts, USC's defensive-minded head coach didn't know if his team would get the kind of pressure on the quarterback he wanted.

The Trojans had lost Kyle Moore, Clay Matthews and Fili Moala up front and were young and largely untested up front.

But after Saturday's Trojan Huddle at the Coliseum, Carroll's not sweating the USC pass rush. Instead, it's the quarterbacks who are sweating whenever the defensive line breaks through the line of scrimmage with a full head of steam.

"We went into spring not knowing if we'd have much heat," Carroll said. "It's clearly there."

Saturday, the Trojan defensive line sacked the quarterback a staggering 11 times, disrupting the offensive rhythm is the Cardinal's 16-10 win over the White.

Freshman Nick Perry led the way with four sacks and two other tackles for losses.

"I've just been keeping my head focused on coming out here to improve myself, better myself every day in practice, coming out here in the Coliseum, giving it all I've got," Perry said. "This is the end of spring ball, and I felt like I should leave it all on the field. That's what I did."

When Carroll announced the end of spring depth chart Friday, Perry said he wasn't pleased to be backing up Everson Griffen along with Malik Jackson. Saturday, he used that disappointment as motivation, much to Carroll's delight.

"They should. Anybody sitting behind a couple of guys should take it personal and want to do something about it," he said. "That's the right attitude. That's all we'd ever expect."

While Perry used his place on the depth chart as motivation, quarterback Aaron Corp wanted to prove to USC coaches he belonged where they put him - as the starter.

Corp completed 14-of-23 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown while leading his team to a win.

"I just wanted to come out show the coaches that they've made the right decision so far. For the most part, I think I did that," Corp said. "I'd like to have a couple of throws back, but I thought I did OK."

Corp also made a number of plays with his feet, but a couple of his passes were almost intercepted.

"I thought he played really solid. I thought there were a couple of balls we wasted downfield," Carroll said. "We should've thrown the ball away a couple of times, and we gave those guys a chance to make a play on defense. They didn't turn into turnovers, but they could have.

"We were a little sloppy with some throws today."

Freshman Matt Barkley, one of the stars of spring practices, wasn't immune to trouble during the Huddle, getting intercepted twice.

"I thought I did all right," Barkley said. "The picks kind of tarnished it a bit. I'm disappointed with those. Overall, I thought it wasn't bad. I moved the ball, but I just didn't cap it with a touchdown."

But it was never easy for the quarterbacks Saturday - not with the defensive line living in the backfield.

"Their pass rush is so right right now, it's unbelievable," senior offensive lineman Jeff Byers said. "We've got young guys who are maturing, getting a feel for things. It's kind of cool."

And while Carroll wasn't sure just how often his line would get to the quarterback heading into spring, he was confident that new defensive line coach Jethro Franklin would have them pointing in the right direction.

He just wasn't sure it would happen this quickly.

"I didn't know; I was hopeful," Carroll said. "He was such a factor for us before, that I felt it was kind of knows. He's been a big factor for us in recruiting already."

Players have embraced Franklin's consistent approach.

"I just keep it real. I have my principles, and I let them know what they are…" Franklin said. "I'll be hard and be firm, but I'll allow for them to give some feedback and to express themselves a little bit - not too much, a little bit.

"I want to make them feel that they're even more a part of this than I am. This is their team."

And their team looks loaded right now. Carroll said Griffen, Jackson, Perry, Armond Armstead and Jurrell Casey have all been standouts at times - not to mention Wes Horton and Averell Spicer, who each had two more sacks Saturday.

Jackson said it's been Franklin tapping into the young line's potential and showing them more technique, that's made the biggest difference.

"I think a lot of it is Jethro. He came in with the mindset to get us right, and we all came together and were like, 'Let's do this together,' Jackson said. "He taught us a lot of things, and there's a lot more to teach us. We'll be a very good d-line."

Franklin agrees. After all, all the ingredients are already in place.

"We're quick. We can run," he said. "We have size where we need size, and we have speed where we need speed. And, we're fairly athletic.

"That's pretty good."

Trojan Huddle reps

- Handoff to Stafon Johnson.
- Handoff to Curtis McNeal, no gain.
- Incomplete to Ronald Johnson; Brian Baucham deflection.

- Complete to Brice Butler, short gain.
- Handoff to Marc Tyler, first down.
- Complete to Butler, first down.
- Complete to Brandon Carswell, nice gain.
- Handoff to Tyler, loss of yards.
- Incomplete to Carswell, thrown behind.

- Complete to Damian Williams, first down.
- Handoff to Stafon Johnson.
- Corp scrambles for nice gain.
- Complete to Rhett Ellison, first down.
- Handoff to Stafon Johnson, loss of yards.
- Incomplete to Ellison; Marshall Jones deflection.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson, just short of first down.

- Sacked by Perry.
- Interception by T.J. Bryant; intended for David Ausberry.

Mitch Mustain
- Handoff to McNeal, loss of yards.
- Sacked by Malik Jackson.
- Handoff to McNeal, loss of yards.

- Incomplete.
- Pitch to C.J. Gable, huge gain.
- Pitch to Tyler.
- Handoff to Tyler; Perry tackle for a loss.
- Complete to Gable on swing, loss of yards.
- Jordan Congdon 29-yard field goal is good.

- Incomplete to Ellison; great rush from Taylor Mays.
- Handoff to Stafon Johnson, short gain.
- Complete to Williams, good yard after catch for first down.
- Complete to Travon Patterson; big hit from Jones.
- Incomplete to Jordan Cameron; deflected by Kevin Thomas.
- Complete to Ellison in the seem, big gain, 40-plus yards.
- Complete to Cameron, eight-yard touchdown.

- Complete to Butler.
- Complete to Butler, great diving catch.
- Fumbled exchange with D.J. Shoemate; Bryant recovers.

- Scramble for short gain.
- Complete to Patterson.
- Handoff to McNeal.
- Scramble for short gain.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson, first down.
- Incomplete to Williams; Thomas deflection.
- Handoff to McNeal; Chris Galippo forces fumble and offense recovers.
- Complete to Patterson, first down.
- Sacked by Averell Spicer.
- Handoff to Stafon Johnson, stopped for a loss by Jurrell Casey.
- Incomplete on screen, lots of pressure.
- Joe Houston 44-yard field goal good.

- Incomplete deep to Butler; Baucham deflection.
- Sacked by Perry.
- Incomplete to Ausberry, broken up by Baucham.

- Incomplete to Cameron; nearly intercepted by Thomas.
- Complete to Cameron.
- Complete to Cameron, first down.
- Incomplete to Cameron deep.
- Corp scramble.
- Handoff to Stanley Havili, first down.
- Complete to Patterson.
- Complete to Cameron, first down.
- Incomplete, clock play.
- Incomplete to Patterson deep.
- Houston 37-yard field goal.

- Complete to Cooper Stephenson, first down.
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Sacked by Wes Horton.
- Incomplete to Scott Stephens.

- Complete to Ellison, big gain, and first down.
- Sacked by Everson Griffen.
- Flag, offsides on Griffen.
- Complete to Patterson, no gain.
- Complete to Williams on third-and-long, first down.
- Incomplete, thrown away.
- Pitch to McNeal.
- Handoff to McNeal.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson on fourth down, first down.
- Sacked by Spicer.
- Incomplete, overthrows an open Williams.
- Complete to Patterson for nice gain, first down.
- Incomplete to Ellison.
- Handoff to McNeal, loss of yards.
- Incomplete, thrown away, great coverage.
- Congdon 23-yard field goal is good.

- Handoff to Gable.
- Incomplete to Brandon Carswell.
- Intercepted by Nick Garratt, pressured by Perry.

- Complete to Patterson, big catch on the sideline.
- Complete to Stafon Johnson.
- Intercepted by Jones.

- Flag, offsides.
- Complete to Shoemate.
- Sacked by Wes Horton.
- Complete to Butler.
- Handoff to Tyler, nice run.
- Flag, offsides.
- Handoff to Shoemate, nice gain.
- Handoff to Shoemate.
- Handoff to Tyler, four-yard touchdown.

Mustain (after onside kick)
- Complete to Shoemate, big gain.
- Handoff to Gable.
- Complete to Carswell.
- Handoff to Gable.
- Complete to Carswell on fourth down, first and goal.
- Incomplete to Carswell; Bryant deflection.
- Sacked by Perry.
- Complete to Gable.
- Sacked by Perry.

Extra Points

• In his final practice of the spring, freshman Matt Barkley threw a pair of interceptions while working with the Cardinal and White teams. Barkley finished a combined 12-for-20 for 124 yards.

Barkley replaced Corp on the Cardinal team in the second half, and Mustain took over the White team, leading them on a potential game-winning drive before a pair of Perry sacks ended the game.

"I threw the ball 23 times in the first half, and based on the other guys numbers, they wanted to even things out a little bit," Corp said. "That's just how it worked out."

• USC stopped its scrimmage to show the selections of Mark Sanchez and Brian Cushing in the NFL Draft on the scoreboard.

• Carroll praised Brian Baucham, saying the redshirt freshman cornerback will be fighting for real playing time this fall.

• Carroll also said Marshall Jones has been a difference-maker in the secondary this spring.

"When he's been out here, he's been very productive," Carroll said. "He's kind of come out of nowhere coming out of the safety spot, but that helps us depth wise. He's been physical, and he's made big plays for us."

• Aaron Corp said he spoke with Sanchez via text message prior to the game, and he hopes the newest member of the New York Jets won't big time him now that he's taking his game across the country.

"I'm thrilled for him," Corp said. The fifth pick, that's got to be worth some money."

Corp added that he's glad Sanchez is headed to the NFL on Saturday instead of leading the first-team offense in the Huddle.

• USC ran 110 plays in front of a crowd of 22,565.

• Curtis McNeal ended his spring on a disappointing note, carrying eight times for seven yards. He also fumbled once.

• Marc Tyler continued his late spring push, rushing for 44 yards on seven carries with a touchdown.

• Travon Patterson, playing as the third receiver on the No. 1 offense, finished with seven catches, best on the team.

Butch Lewis, Michael Morgan and Joe McKnight were among the Trojans who didn't dress for the game.

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