Wednesday is coordinator day after practice at Spaulding and OC Noel Mazzone and DC Lou Spanos spoke to the media after practice.
Coach Mazzone was his usual jovial self with the media today, wishing the beat writers a Happy Thanksgiving and them looking for an invite to dinner. He joked he was serving pizza and beer and watching the Detroit Lions, which led to a couple comments about Joseph Fauria. Mazzone mentioned Big Joe had called him yesterday ahead of a special segment on him on Fox Sports last night.
Mazzone will be up against a couple familiar faces on the Southern Cal staff in Ed Orgeron and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, but Mazzone pointed out that having coached for 32 years, it is pretty uncommon when he doesn't go up against some he has coached with or against or knows well, and he didn't think that familiarity would be a problem. Now, Mazzone's lack of success against the Pendergast's defenses should be a bigger concern.
Mazzone's comments focused to the Southern Cal defensive line, calling them athletic, deep, and experienced, and pointed out they will be a challenge for the young "ankle biters" on his offensive line. He noted that Southern Cal doesn't need to bring a bunch of extra players to get pressure on a quarterback because their front four are good enough by themselves to apply pressure without using a lot of extra blitzers, but he did expect that their front four would run a lot of stunts. This is primarily what ASU did, and so it will be very important for our O line to keep their eyes up to quickly recognize where their D line is going, and to communicate well and pass off their man and pick up the next man when the stunts are coming.
On the positive side, Mazzone did say that he hasn't been as excited about a group of guys like our offensive line in a long time and praised their ability and effort and progress this year. But Mazzone seems to willingly accept the notion that our young players will be overmatched or that there are limits to how much they can develop or retain. I wonder if this belief has continued to limit his play calling, particularly in regards to trying more advanced blocking schemes or moving pockets, things we here have suggested as options to provide better pass protection and get Brett Hundley more comfortable and confident in the passing game. I don't expect that Mazzone is going to add anything very different for this week, so let's hope that our offense's execution starts out better this week than we have seen in some of our past games.
One advantage the Bruins will have on Saturday is that Southern Cal is not deep at all across the defense. Two weeks ago, $c only substituted at one position on defense for the entire game, meaning ten guys played every snap on defense. While that's an really impressive feat, it does give the Bruins an opportunity to put some real pressure on them by staying in a high tempo and prolonging drives. If the trogans don't want to substitute on defense, then the Bruins need to make them pay by burning out the players they have in there.
Somehow, the reporters completely failed to address the elephant in the room when no one asked about the decision to move Myles Jack to running back full time, the decisions about the play calls when Jack was in the game, or whether he would be uses on offense partly or exclusively this week.
On the defensive side, Coach Spanos talked about Southern Cal's "dynamic offense", complimenting their solid running game and their vertical passing threats, and issued his weekly statement that this will be a great challenge for the defense.
Although the Bruins will face a true pro-style offense this week instead of the read option and spread offenses they have faced lately, the Bruins will still have to be responsible for their assignments, as the trogans will run a lot of play action and use a variety of personnel packages and formations. So discipline on defense will be just as important this week as it has been previously, though the tactics of it will be different. Spanos specifically pointed out the need for the linebackers and safeties to have to be disciplined in play action to avoid getting sucked up too quickly on the run and letting their excellent receivers and tight ends get deep on the secondary.
Spanos was complimentary of the Southern Cal quarterback, noting he does a good job running the trogan offense and makes good decisions, and has the ability to move around in the pocket to keep plays alive. He is not the highly mobile QB we have gotten used to seeing in the conference, so hopefully this gives our pass rush a better chance at getting pressure this week and putting him in the ground.
One advantage for the Bruins on Saturday will be that $c does not typically go no huddle, so this will give our defense a bit more time to make substitutions and prepare ahead of the snap than some of the high tempo offenses we have faced where quick reads and setups were necessary. As opposed to a team like ASU that tries to beat a team to the snap and then further deceive the defense with ball direction, Southern Cal will try to use its highly skilled players in a variety of formations to out-execute the defense, so our players will have to step up their own level of execution this week.
And same as with Mazzone, no one asked about the decision to use Myles Jack exclusively on defense and what his role was this week. Maybe the U.C.L.A. SID asked the reports to drop the subject this week? Otherwise, it's hard to understand why no one asked either coordinator about this.
Beat Southern Cal!