Advertisement

The multiplier effect: Why USC’s defense will be miles better in 2024

The USC Trojans added some defensive help on national signing day, but that’s just a small part of a larger story inside the USC football program.

In recent seasons, the arrival of top defensive recruits such as Domani Jackson and Tackett Curtis was greeted with a lot of fanfare and excitement. It was hoped that those and other top recruits would bolster a sagging USC defense which was horrendous under Todd Orlando and did not get much better in 2022 under Alex Grinch. Yet, as we saw in 2023, defensive improvements did not occur.

It was always hard to drum up excitement for elite defensive recruits in the Alex Grinch era because no one was sure if those defensive players would develop. The one main exception proved to be Bear Alexander, a player who really did live up to the hype in 2023 with his consistent energy and a disruptive defensive presence. Bear Alexander did his best. Not many other USC defensive players could say that last season.

USC fans have to ask themselves as signing day brought in a couple new defensive players: Will this time be different? We think so. Let’s discuss why USC’s defense should be a lot better:

ISAIAH RUBIN OFFICIALLY SIGNS

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Rubin officially signed with USC on Wednesday.

“Me and my pops growing up watching SC games,” Rubin said. “He’d been to the SC games when he was a little kid. Me and him, we just have that connection with SC and just wanted to make it happen,” he told TrojanSports.com.

Rubin officially singing puts to rest any worries he would leave. USC can now consider him a firmed-up part of the 2024 class. That’s an addition we shouldn’t lose sight of.

JADYN WALKER

New linebacker coach Matt Entz helped deliver this linebacker to USC. It’s exciting to not only get some help and depth, but to see one of the new defensive coaches making an impact on the trail.

RATUMANA BULABALAVU

USC needed more pass rushing help. This addition fits the bill.

SHAUN NUA

 Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Shaun Nua developed Bear Alexander. Now he can develop Ratumana Bulabalavu. Nua was the one defensive staffer from the old regime, in 2023, who made real progress in developing players. Prospects with potential should be able to evolve under Nua’s tutelage in 2024.

MATT ENTZ

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Grinch could not develop Tackett Curtis or other USC linebackers such as Mason Cobb. Matt Entz should be able to do a lot better with the players he has.

DOUG BELK

 Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Doug Belk gives USC a fresh voice in the secondary and a chance to develop a unit which performed very poorly last season.

DONTE WILLIAMS GONE

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the reason USC’s secondary should improve this season is that Donte Williams — an ace recruiter — could not “coach ’em up” well enough on Saturdays. This is addition by subtraction, part of the multiplier effect we are referring to at USC.

ALEX GRINCH GONE

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This is the ultimate example of addition by subtraction. Scheme, personnel, rotations, adjustments — Grinch fell short in every area. Now we have a far better staff in charge of the USC defense. This should create exponential growth and improvement.

TAYLOR MAYS

 Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Retaining Taylor Mays on staff is huge for USC. Mays cleaned up the secondary in the Holiday Bowl against Louisville. He obviously knows how to teach the game to young players. He has a bright future as a coach. He will hopefully stay at USC long enough to rise to secondary coach in a few seasons if another defensive staffer leaves for a head coaching job. Then Mays could be USC’s defensive coordinator by the end of the decade. That would be the best-case scenario for Lincoln Riley and the Trojans.

D'ANTON LYNN

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

D’Anton Lynn can put the pieces of the puzzle together and create a defensive scheme which will unleash the full potential of new defensive recruits. Lynn transformed UCLA in one season. Let’s see what one year can do at USC.

ERIC HENDERSON

 Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC fans are tweeting out Henderson’s favorite hashtag, #DAWGWORK, all the time. Trojan fans are loving the impact Henderson is beginning to make with recruits and in terms of reshaping USC’s internal football culture. Henderson is, like the other new defensive staffers, a rock star. Lincoln Riley’s commitment to defense is real, borne out by hiring such excellent position group coaches. Henderson is a gem.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire