Morning Buzz: Why Can’t USC Tackle?

I asked a Pac-12 coach who watched the Cotton Bowl why USC is so bad at tackling?

“You can practice it all you want but if guys don’t have the heart to do it, it doesn’t matter,” the coach said. “What you saw (against Tulane) looked like some guys who were trying to protect their futures. They saw what was coming at them and didn’t want any part of it.

“I don’t know how much you can do about that mindset.

“These aren’t the USC teams people grew up watching. You knew you were going to be hurting after playing USC (in those days). These guys think they can play in the NFL and most of them can’t. The players run the program.”

73 thoughts on “Morning Buzz: Why Can’t USC Tackle?

    1. The culture of football at all levels has changed institutionally. The prohibition of head butting tackles, interpreted on the field by referees to mean any heavy hit, has made football into a hybrid of flag football and tackle football. This evolved even worse at USC under its former coach who placated players so they would not leave the program while they were under sanctions. But the new creation of a portal also unintentionally creates a soft environment where coaches do not want to be too tough on players who may leave (sometimes immediately). So, spring and fall football camps are no longer more like military basic training and more like players wanting to avoid injuries. Long gone is the culture of the McKeever twin brothers. Long live the memory of Marlin and Mike McKeever.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Somebody told me that Alabama exists within the portal universe too —and is still tough on players in camp….
        #Well,That’sWhatSomebodyToldMe,Anyway…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s been my experience that if players want to leave because the practices are too tough, then help them pack their bags and leave. Because you’re not going to win with those players to begin with.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. The McKeevers, gone but not forgotten. I can’t remember which one
        broke a good friend of mines sternum in practice one afternoon.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Lincoln Riley’s teams don’t need to play defense, which is why they don’t. they’ll just outscore you. It’s the Mike Leah philosophy, if an opponent puts up 49 points, the Trojans will score 52. Riley’s been coaching that way since his Oklahoma days. So I’m not sure why the delusional ass lick Fanboys are crying, because they knew what they were getting 😂😂

    Like

    1. Why so mean Mr. Herbstreit? The worst kind of person who cries “I told you so” in the face of people who are suffering. Us USC fans are suffering through arguably the worst loss in USC football history (not counting the losses to Los Angeles High School in the early 1900s) Don’t be that guy. Have a little heart. We need your sympathy not your ridicule at this difficult time.

      Like

    2. That coach hit it right on the head. The D just doesn’t hit. But I will say again that as bad as the D was, the first Utah game was stolen from us and the second was because of the injury to 80% (CW) of our team. If we had a better D we could have won both under the same circumstances. That is how good CW is. In light of the D we saw in the CFP games we may have been able to win one of those games as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the worst post I’ve ever read. They know their standing within the NFL because scouts are at USC all the time. Players can ask for an evaluation from the NFL scouting service to see their standing in regards to the upcoming draft.

    Guys play crappy because they know they can’t be replaced. Best unit on the team are the receivers. Look how hard they play! They block like crazy and avoid penalties. Why? It’s the deepest squad on the team. Look at the worst unit on the team and you tell me how hard they work?

    And who’s in charge of those units? Grinch gotta move on and Riley knows do it now or it’s Mike Stoops 2.0.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agree…but… there is something extra-specially bad about the tackling that goes WAY deeper than lack of depth and lack of competition. Grinch says all the right things, he seems like he cares…but…. his players don’t play hard for him.
      Sincere question: I wonder why that is.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So Grinch sees them tackling great in practice but refuses to do something when they can’t in a game? Or do both Grinch and Riley see the same thing in practice and tell each other “they can’t tackle our guys in practice because our guys are so hard to tackle?” Suuuuure. . . .

        Liked by 1 person

      2. last yr defense even worse, why? a hellton practiced team…this year to was a joke…1 practice /wk in full gear to tackle…LR did that.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. This World,

      I respectfully disagree with you in terms of the best unit. The best unit is the qb for now. However, you are correct about the receivers playing hard because of the competition and SC not having a defense.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I agree that alot of the issue is roster depth and quality. But the defensive recruiting class of 2023 is horrible outside of 2 great players. How can you turnaround the defense if they are bringing in poor players?

      Based on the recruiting issues alone Alex Grinch must go. The biggest problem for Grinch is that there is a perception he is not a good DC and so he is not filling up the roster with great players. You cant build a great defense if you dont get high quality players.

      Riley needs to have a replacement lined up so they dont lose the few good recruits/transfers they have coming in.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 100% —every recruiter in the Pac 12 is telling star defensive players not to get near Grinch. Whether that’s fair or not USC has to change that perception by saying “bye” to him.

        Like

  3. You see small DB’s hitting big tight ends up high. Complete lack of coaching right there. I played DB and when a guy was really big we were taught to take him at the ankles, like Eddie Meador used to do.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. That has been a pet peeve of mine for the last 15 years. Everyone going for a strip. Maybe the third guy in can try it but #1 makes good solid contact with a wrap up and turn, #2 comes in and cleans it up and finishes #3 an try for a strip. And forget about tackling in space. TCU and Georgia are excellent in space with one on ones and it is noticeable. Then you watch up and its is the keystone cops. It all started with Kiffin and the no hitting in practice and perpetuated ever since.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. …AND… it’s now such a serious defect in the program that we can’t get talent to come aboard….our competition gets to say, “you wanna be part of THAT?!”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Light at the end of the tunnel department:
        All this can be turned around in ONE day if Riley bites the bullet and brings in the biggest, bestest d-coordinator out there: Jim Leonhard.
        #SignalThatUSCCaresAboutDefense!

        Liked by 4 people

      3. Frankly, since the bidding wars for the best players and the players signing with the highest bidder, college football greatly changed. If your reason for being on the team is only $$$ and not team pride, your focus will be different. With portal, you can sell your wares elsewhere if you like…no loyalty. You can see the difference between the TRULY great players of the past and those renting space at USC. Riley talks of culture, it’s time he changes his and demands top assistant coaches and have a no excuse zone for Grinch, his buddy. A great leader puts the team first, not his buddy.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. He owes it to Caleb, frankly….. who DOES put team first…
        #..AndProvedItBigTimeInTheCottonBowl…
        #…AGutsy,AmazingPerformance…..
        #…ThatRileyWasted

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      5. Im not trying to one up anyone or say I was the first, but If y’all ever read my posts, the day Fickel was hired (knowing he would bring his own since there would be a weird chemistry to keep the interim head) (See the forced hire by Folt to keep Dante) I said the target is now freed up and we needed to grab him before someone else did. The only reason he is out of a job is not because he is not good or did’t get the job done. Its that Wisconson’s offense sucked and Crist got canned. When Jim took over they got better on offense too and the defense stayed great. He was just a victim of circumstance and he is young, energetic, has been there as a player and coach and is great schematically because he played and coached under some master defensive coaches. Why the hell wouldn’t you hire Jim Leonard if he was available. If they can poach a head coach, then you sure as hell can hire a DC with all of the credibility and non of the baggage of being fired.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. People keep saying that but what I see in the Tulane game is guys simply out of position, taking poor lines of attack, getting trapped behind blockers and not fighting through blocks and flat out not looking physical enough. The team captain on the defensive side, Shane Lee, is the epitome of all those problems.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I’d like to say “Shane doesn’t get it” [which he doesn’t]…but…. that’s not the source of our problems…..
        #….TheProblemIsGrinchSays”ShaneDoesGetIt!”

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      2. Ultimately, the problem resides in any organization or institution at the symptom level and every one or thing up the line. I.e. if it is a player or players, they are the symptoms. Then position coaches are responsible for the learning or lack of learning process. The coordinator is responsible for the schematics and the teaching format for the assistants to utilize. The head is responsible for the targeting of the coaching hires, and the schematic oversight, demand of culture, and targeting of recruiting. Admin is responsible for who they choose to place in the head spot, the due diligence to make sure that person is correct and his ability to pull in coaching talent and asses it and recruits, and supply resources to do the jobs necessary. Anyone in a structure who Throws some one below them under the bus or deflects responsibility is not a leader. Especially if it is done in public. You are responsible for everyone under you and you had the chance to improve their situation in someway. You can lay the wood to your assistants or players (or assistants to players) in the office but not in the media or public. You will loose your players and staff so quick and your season will become a shit show. See Bob Toledo. You as a big boy (or girl) and cash the big boy checks are responsible for everything underneath you. Coordinator for assistants and players, head for Coordinators and assistants and player (and even ball boys Lane Kiffin!) Its your program and you cash the checks, so own it!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. USC & Riley need to start thinking about the post-Caleb world…..
      “Without you I’m nothing!”
      —-Jack in “Sideways”

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  4. Scooter,

    Can you post a photo of Grinch with his mouth wide open like you used to do with helton? It will remind of us the pain and agony of not having a defense. Show it every time you talk about the defense.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. [Glad the moderators didn’t take that remark the wrong way —just meant it as a metaphor for futility]….

        Like

    1. You fu@king a$$hole! Why would you bring up an honorable man who just took a 2 win team to a Major Bowl game??!! Let him be! You child molesting, bingo playing sonofabiatch!

      Like

      1. Clay, is that you? 😛

        Dude, chill. Pasadena didn’t say anything bad about Clay. If you’ve been on this blog for a while, you know which photo to which he’s referring. Wolf used it far more often than any of us wanted. Heck, it was such an unflattering photo, I’m sure Clay didn’t care for it either.

        All Pasadena suggested was posting a similar photo of Grinch.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. …”wrongfully terminated’s” reply did seem a teeny bit overripe, So Cal…..
        #…’SpeciallyThe”BingoMolester”Part….

        Like

      3. What’s funny is, we all know Clay is an honorable guy (but not great coach).

        USC placed such a high value on that, they kept him at least 2 years longer than they should have. Sheeeeeesh!!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Keep in mind that USC still has alot of players left over from the Helton era and didnt really recruit that well in turning over the defensive players last year.

    This is a roster issue and a cultural issue. I would be looking at what is going wrong in recruiting. Why is USC not getting ANY four or five star defensive line players? And why are they getting none of the top cornerbacks or safeties in the country? The players with the most seniority on the team are some of the worst tacklers and overall players on the field. Aside from Tuli, the rest of the leftovers need to go.

    I think SC has decent talent in the secondary that is not getting developed enough, but a real lack of talent in the front seven on defense.

    I really hope we get that transfer from Texas A&M.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. If you fire Grinch ….and make a “statement hire” for Defensive Coordinator…. players will sign up…..
        #Otherwise,MoreOfSameIn2023…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard people say “if a particular school’s defensive coaches are widely regarded as big fucking jokes that particular school has a hard time getting 5 star defensive players”…..
      #…Well,That’sWhatI’veHeardPeopleSay,Anyway……

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  6. “These guys think they can play in the NFL and most of them can’t. The players run the program.”

    IOW, same as it was with Gomer. Not that he’d do it, but Riley needs to figure out who’s already got one foot out the door and “invite” them not to return.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My end of season post (until better bait is dangled by Mr. Wolf)…

    At the beginning of the season,
    I had us at 9-3 or maybe 10-2 with a miracle vs UCLA or ND.
    To be one (egregious–maybe 2 in total) Roughing the passer calls from being 12-0 and playing in Vegas was beyond my wildest dreams in August. Stumbling into the CFB playoff at 12-1 possibly?
    What a great season. Better than Pete Carroll’s first year, no?
    Every single Trojan fan I’ve listened to who knows anything ABOUT football predicted that the defense would be the problem, and in 13 of 14 games the defense struggled terribly. Impossible to watch them.
    (Interestingly, Rice was a pretty good FB team this season with a strong offensive unit all year).

    The offense can be expected to put up 42 PPG next year.
    Caleb and Co will be spending OTA’s building chemistry.
    The run game will be fine. Raleek still will not be the every down back.
    I suspect that the O-line will be good again.
    When one looks at how horrid the USC offense was in 2021 (without London, esp), it is amazing that Riles put together the #1 (or 2) offense in America in a few months.

    Here’s to “hoping” that Riles can do the same with the Defense in 2023.
    There is already some young talent on D–Bullock, Raesjon, (maybe #0), Domani, Bryson, Gentry. Bring in a great DC and some Portalizers.
    If not, then USC will not be an 11-1 team next year and you all will have a ton to gripe about. We all know how special a talent is
    #13 Caleb W. Can’t waste his talent in 2023. I know Riles understands this.

    Great season for the Trojans. Fight on!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The offense [and Caleb in particular] was WAY better than I thought it’d be, Bourbon.
        #ButTheDefenseWasWAYWorse….
        #ForSomeMysteriousReasonPlayersDon’tPlayHardForGrinch…
        #…AndThat’sNotGonnaChangeIn2023…
        #….Riley”Connects”W/TheOffense,GrinchDoesn’tW/TheDefense

        Like

  8. Defense, tackling, and being physical are a mind set. I think the number one problem with Grinch is that he has players that he believes are great players, but they’re not. I’ve seen this before as a player and it can really damage team chemistry, because you get players questioning why certain players are playing and others are still on the bench. You want to motivate a player into playing hard? Threaten their ass with bench time. But then that’s hard to do when you don’t have any depth.
    The other item that I’ll call out Grinch on is that this defensive unit really fell off the latter third of the season. If you look back at Pete Carroll’s teams were at their best at the end of the season. If this entire debacle is not a wake up call for CLR then USC will never get to the elite level.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. AS A FORMER USC LB AND CAPTAIN, I COULD NOT WATCH THE DEFENSE! IT WAS EMBARRESSING AND PITIFUL. THEY NEED A TOTAL REVAMP OF THE DEFENSIVE STAFF AND THE DEFENSIVE PLAYERS. YOU WIN NATIONAL TITLES WITH THE DEFENSE, ALTHOUGH GEORGIA LOOKED POROUS ON DEFENSE AND REALLY LUCKED OUT AGAINST OHIO STATE. I THINK USC’S GAME PLAN WAS TO HAVE A TRACK MEET OUT THERE AT THE COTTON BOWL. THEY LOST IN THE FINAL TURN. BOB JENSEN #51 LB

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL! I thought I was the only one, Bob.

      Like most people, I generally use commercials to hit the head, freshen my drink, grab a snack, etc. But during this game I treated Tulane possessions as commercials. It was hard to bear.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Bob calls ’em as he sees ’em…..
      #..And,AsUsual,He’sRight…
      #…TotalRevampTime…
      #[btw,ShootoutsAreOkayIfYouCanWinThem…ButWeDon’t]

      Like

  10. btw, BEFORE the season began & after examining the way things shook out in Fall Camp, Scott presciently said “looks like USC is planning to win games 63-62…”
    #OurProblemInThePac12ChampionshipGame&CottonBowl?
    #WeDidn’tScore63

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  11. Before we continue to smoke hopium that LR knows what the problem is and is addressing it aggressively, it’s wise to look at the body of work (scores particularly) of the LR years at Oklahoma. It’s a shootout philosophy that unfortunately hasn’t and never will result in a championship. Balance, trench work, and an aggressive mindset are always the requirements, regardless of how the rules soften the game. We knew what we were getting, but because CH had buried SC football into the ground, we were elated at getting anybody with some semblance of organization. It’s not gonna change. Next year’s schedule will open the window further.

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  12. Hot off the AP wire, USC Defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch, has formally submitted a “Resignation Letter” effective January 6th.

    (my bad, I thought it was April 1st)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. well that is sheer BS…every practice report I read this year, people actually there watching SC take to the practice field stated ‘1 time / week SC was in full practice gear for full tackling’…the collision stuff; the rest of the time it was helltonesque shorts and shells…no wonder they can’t tackle.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I get it. Lincoln Riley needs to understand that Alex Grinch has become Clay Helton and a serious liability. The problem is that he’s not going to bring somebody who may do better than him so that the media says “if it weren’t for the new defensive coordinator. . .” and that means he will keep Clay/Alex Helton/Grinch. If Grinch would just add more weight and experience to his defense then this would not be so scary but. . .he’s struggling to connect with Southern California defenders. . .he’s struggling to bring in the best players from the rest of the nation. . .no one else wants to hire him!

    Bartender! More alcohol, quickly!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. The DC needs to go out and bring in great players and then let them compete. First they have to get the players. If SC gets a real good DC, with that offense, they can get to the playoffs almost every year or every other year.
    It’s important to the defensive players who there DC will be and also their position coach. You get the right DC in there and if they perform well on the field defensively the great players will come because the offense will always be good under LR.
    But they won’t come if they think that you will have a poor defense even if the offense is great. Once you get the players then you just let them compete. You say that they don’t want to get hurt……Fine…..you get enough great players competing and the ones who don’t want to get hurt will get a nice seat on the bench where they will be safe.
    But if LR decides to keep Grinch, he’s sending a signal to the great defensive players. The message is “please come to SC even though we don’t care about defense”. The defensive players are all thinking….”if he doesn’t care about defense, then who is going to be developed and prepared for the next level”?…..only the offensive players.

    Liked by 1 person

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