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UCLA Football: Previewing Southern Cal - Part 3 - Defense and Special Teams

We take a look at Southern Cal's defense, led by their aggressive defensive line.

Robert Laberge

As discussed in Part 1 of the preview, the Southern Cal defense is ranked 59th nationally in total yardage and 40th in scoring defense. They give up about 148 ypg on the ground and 242 ypg through the air, which is good for 48th and 73rd nationally. However, they are dangerous when the defensive line is able to pin their ears back and rush the passer. Southern Cal has 37 sacks and 79 tackles for loss on the season, which is tied for 4th in the country in both categories, and have forced 28 turnovers, which is good for 6th in the country.

UCLA will be the fourth spread offense in a row that Southern Cal has faced. Arizona and Oregon combined for 1,318 yards of offense and 101 points, but Arizona St. was held to only 250 yards of offense and 17 points. The Trojans also tallied 7 sacks against the Sun Devils after only totalling 3 against Arizona and Oregon. What changed? Southern Cal made Arizona St. one dimensional, holding the Sun Devils to only 71 rushing yards, while Arizona and Oregon had fairly balanced numbers.

Defensive Line

Southern Cal gets a lot of their pressure from their strong defensive line. In fact, the defensive line has 32 of the team's 37 sacks. Defensive end Morgan Breslin (Jr., 6'3 250 lbs.) has been very good in his first season for the Trojans and leads the way with 9.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Wes Horton (6'5 255 lbs Sr.) starts on the other side and adds 5 sacks and 6 tackles for loss.

Inside, George Uko (6'3 275 lbs So.), Leonard Williams (6'5 270 lbs Fr.), and Antwaun Woods (6'1 305 lbs Fr.) form a strong group of interior lineman. Uko and Williams technically start, but all three will see plenty of action. On the season, Williams has 6.5 sacks, Uko has 4.5, and Woods has 3.


The linebacking corps is young, small, and fast. All three starters are sophomores and weigh 235 lbs or less. Hayes Pullard (6'2 235 lbs So.) and Dion Bailey (6'1 210 lbs So.) are both essentially safeties at the linebackers spots. In fact, Bailey leads the team with 4 interceptions. They play on the outside around Lamar Dawson (6'2 235 lbs. So.), who is replacing Chris Galippo in the middle.


The secondary is the least talented group on the team, but they have started to play better lately. T.J. McDonald (6'3 205 lbs Sr.) and Jawanza Starling (6'1 195 lbs Sr.) start at safety and will be responsible for the deep halves. McDonald leads the team with 81 tackles and also has two interceptions.

Cornerbacks Josh Shaw (6'0 190 lbs So.) and Nickell Robey (5'8 165 lbs Jr.) are unspectacular, but they don't need to be in Southern Cal's defensive scheme. They won't be asked to do too much and won't be left on islands in coverage. Robey plays bigger than his size, as evidenced by the fact that he has 42 tackles from his CB spot. Torin Harris (6'0 190 lbs Jr.) will see plenty of action at the nickel spot.

Special Teams

Andre Heidari handles the placekicking duties and has done a solid job. He is 8 of 11 on FG attempts and has made all 35 out of 36 of his XP attempts. Of course, the defense will have to defend Southern Cal's fakes, as well. Kyle Negrate handles the punting and is averaging about 42 yards per punt.

Marquise Lee handles the kick return duties, and Robert Woods and Nickel Robey split the punt returns. Lee is averaging close to 30 yards per return and has scored one touchdown. Neither Woods nor Robey has done much on punt returns.

That concludes the Southern Cal preview. Fire away with additional thoughts, comments, and favorite stories about the crosstown rivalry.