I was asked by a fellow writer here at Bleacher Report to give my thoughts on the upcoming Ohio State-USC game on Sept. 12 at the Horseshoe.
My first thought turned to the Trojans' young defense and how they planned to stop mega-talented Terrelle Pryor and the rest of the Buckeyes offense.
This game will represent the first big match up of college football powers in 2009.
At the same time, the Trojans will unveil its new look defense against a highly ranked, quality opponent.
With only Taylor Mays returning as an entrenched starter, the onus will be on Pete Carroll and Rocky Seto, his defensive coordinator, to find a way to slow down Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeye offense that will be going through some growing pains of their own.
To say that USC will be fielding an inexperienced defense is somewhat misleading.
The truth is, only the linebacking corp of Michael Morgan, Chris Galippo and Malcolm Smith lacks significant experience. All other defensive players that will start for the Trojans have at least a start under their belt and some have many more.
USC’s defensive backfield, ranked No. 1 in the country by the Sporting News, is experienced, fast, and physical.
Meanwhile, the Trojans' defensive line, ranked No. 3 in the nation by the Sporting News, has a lot of experience and is extremely physical, as well as fast, particularly at defensive end with Everson Griffin.
As far as the linebackers go, they are inexperienced, but very fast and athletic.
Having attended several practices and seeing this unit up close, I can tell you that as a group, they are much faster than the heralded trio of Trojan linebackers that were drafted last year.
Against the Buckeyes, here is what will happen:
Look for USC to run its base 4-3 defense for much of the game. As will happen a lot throughout the year, expect Taylor Mays to play close to the line of scrimmage and shadow Terrelle Pryor throughout the game.
There are two reasons for this:
One, Mays runs a sub 4.3 40. Pryor can’t outrun him.
The other reason is that USC’s defensive backfield is good enough to go man-to-man without needing Mays help. Josh Pinkard or Will Harris, the other safety, can roam to spots to support the pass defense.
The Buckeyes will be breaking in two new wide receivers to replace the very productive Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline; however, both Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey are very talented and will test the Trojans' resolve if Pryor has made the expected strides in the passing game during the offseason.
On the defensive line, expect Everson Griffin, the freakishly-fast defensive end, and his cohort, Armond Armstead, to penetrate on the outside to contain Pryor while the interior line attempts to push up the middle.
Griffin and Armstead have the speed to disrupt both Pryor and the Buckeye running game. Their ability to be effective will be crucial to the Trojans' defensive game plan.
Ohio State has a very good offensive line and containment of the Buckeyes' running game that no longer features Chris "Beanie" Wells is critical to the Trojans success.
Meanwhile, the Trojans' young linebackers will have their own baptism of fire at the Horseshoe. Look for middle linebacker Chris Galippo, all 255 pounds of him, to commit to the run and support the line of scrimmage.
Both of Galippo’s linebacker mates, Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan, are extremely fast and physical. They will need discipline to stay at home and support both the run and pass defense depending on situational concerns.
There you have it.
With a tip of the sorcerers cap to Nostradamus, I offer this glimpse into the Trojans' defense a month or so in advance.
This will be a tough challenge for a young defense in a hostile environment, and I’m sure Pete Carroll and the Trojans can’t wait.