Forward of his debut spring as USC’s defensive coordinator, Todd Orlando talked a giant sport. He was going to rebuild the tradition of USC’s protection. He wished extra toughness, extra physicality, extra accountability. He talked about taking the Trojans to “a darkish place.”
Then, after one follow final March, spring was canceled due to the pandemic. The lack of follow time was particularly damaging to Orlando and the protection, he admits. When USC lastly got here again within the fall, that tradition change needed to be set on quick ahead.
“Spring is all tradition,” Orlando stated. “As soon as that’s taken away from you, you get into fall camp, and also you go midway by the wintertime, and it’s like, ‘Are we going to coach tradition when we now have a sport in 4 weeks?’ So we take the primary two weeks to do it, and it nearly harm us. You’re going by some issues and educating them be robust, however at the back of your head, you’re considering, we now have a sport in two weeks.”
There’s no such hurry this spring. USC has 13 extra practices, eight of which might be full contact, to fortify the tradition he hoped to implement final offseason.
It’s uncommon, Orlando stated, to get a second probability at laying that basis.
“You solely bought one shot at it, while you are available as a brand new man,” Orlando stated. “If it’s not set in stone, it’s exhausting to repair. You possibly can’t come again. You possibly can’t do issues tender and are available again a yr later and say, we’re going to harden up.”
That’s to not say that USC’s protection appeared tender in its first season below Orlando’s tutelage. The Trojans allowed 39 fewer yards and three.4 fewer factors per sport than in 2019. The protection compelled the identical quantity of turnovers (16) in six video games because it did in 14 the earlier season.
It wasn’t good, however the seeds of a powerful tradition had been planted. Now, with a full spring at his disposal, Orlando is hoping they’ll develop.
That course of might be particularly vital for USC’s seven newcomers on protection. Orlando stated he deliberate to first observe how they slot in with their teammates and acclimate to the tradition already in place. Solely after that time will he actually be capable to consider the place they stand by way of USC’s protection within the fall.
A minimum of this yr, he has the time to spare.
“That’s what spring soccer is all about,” Orlando stated. “Fifteen days of simply going at it and doing issues that defy human nature.”
From receiver to nook
No place was deeper on the roster than receiver when Joshua Jackson signed with USC forward of the 2020 season. So when the teaching workers got here to Jackson with a suggestion to change to cornerback, the previous Narbonne Excessive star didn’t hesitate.
The transition has been surprisingly clean up to now.
“He’s simply had pure actions for the place,” Orlando stated. “Once you get a man that skillful with the soccer, that’s an enormous benefit. When the ball goes up, he can reverse himself and go after the soccer, simply pretty much as good as a receiver can.”
At 6 toes 1, Jackson additionally has the dimensions that cornerbacks coach Donte Williams prefers in his cornerbacks. Chris Steele, additionally 6-1, is at present slated to begin within the boundary nook function, whereas the sector cornerback function vacated by Olaijah Griffin could possibly be up for grabs this offseason.
With alternative nonetheless out there, Jackson might work his manner into the rotation shortly.
“I’m actually, actually enthusiastic about him,” Orlando stated. “When Donte will get him an opportunity to indicate him the finer factors of the place, he’s gonna be rattling good.”
This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Occasions.