USC Football: Key Defensive Players for 2013

Amy LamareSenior Analyst IFebruary 4, 2013

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 19: Defensive end Devon Kennard #42 of the USC Trojans celebrates after the Trojans upset the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. USC won the game 38-35. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens and John Harbaugh on winning the Super Bowl.

With national signing day on Wednesday, much is on the minds of both Trojans fans and USC coaches. When national signing day is over, the end result will have all USC fans looking ahead to the upcoming 2013 season.

With or without USC’s targeted and sought-after new recruits, there are plenty of current, experienced Trojans players who figure to make a difference on defense in 2013.

Let’s take a look at a few of them. Deeper evaluations will take place as spring practices get underway and new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s scheme is put in place. The new defense will naturally dictate that certain players are more suited to the new system than others.

First and foremost, redshirt senior defensive end Devon Kennard returns from a pectoral muscle tear that sidelined him for the entire 2012 season.  Kennard brings much-needed experience to the defense.

Also returning from injury is redshirt freshman linebacker Scott Starr, who injured his neck in September and missed the rest of the 2012 season. Starr was highly recruited by USC and, at 6’3” and 220 pounds, brings size to the line.

Sophomore linebacker Dion Bailey showed flashes of brilliance in 2012, grabbing several picks and becoming a fan favorite for his all-out beast mode style of play.  It is rumored that Bailey will be switching to safety, opening up a spot for an incoming linebacker, a position that USC greatly needs (via Reign of Troy).

Junior defensive end Leonard Williams is an electric player, logging 64 tackles, one interception, 13.5 tackles for loss (46 yards), eight sacks and four passes defended while playing in all 13 games. What dogged Williams all season was a tendency to commit too many penalties. Williams is talented, but he needs to work on discipline.

Sophomore defensive tackle Antwaun Woods showed promise in 2012 with 16 tackles—four and a half of them for a loss—and three sacks in 13 games. Woods is a monster at 6’1” and 311 pounds and, with development, could turn into a stellar pass-rusher.

Redshirt junior defensive tackle George Uko played all 13 games in 2012 and racked up 31 tackles (nine of them for a loss), five sacks, one pass defended and one fumble. He also had one touchdown. Uko has shown improvement in each year with the Trojans and should thrive under Pendergast’s system. Uko will be one of the more experienced players on USC’s defense in 2013.