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USC realized that in order to get better results, the process must also improve

One of the things we wrote last year about Alex Grinch at USC was that the Trojans were not Georgia. They had not arrived. They were still in a building phase on defense. They couldn’t rise to Georgia’s standard in one year. They had to develop an identity. They couldn’t think they were more advanced than they actually were.

Here’s what we said after the 2023 season opener against San Jose State:

“It stands to reason that at a program which has established an elite national championship standard on defense, it’s a lot more reasonable to teach concepts at a high level. Players have demonstrated they can absorb information, process it, and execute the plan on Saturdays.

“USC isn’t nearly as advanced in its ability to process defensive concepts. One could say USC isn’t advanced at all. Why would Alex Grinch try to include so much complexity in the equation this early in the season, instead of developing a steady, slowly escalating build?

“This could be intentional, but even if it is intentional, it just doesn’t come across as the right sequencing for USC.”

It seems Lincoln Riley learned a lot about improving process and not thinking solely about results. We’ll explain this point below:

GRINCH AS ONE GUY

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

Alex Grinch had a lot of authority over the 2023 USC defense, and in retrospect, it was too much authority. Riley’s 2024 approach is manifested in a collaborative model with the new defensive coaches working together. Putting too much power in one person’s hands did not serve USC well last year. Riley adjusted.

COLLABORATION

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

Defensive coaches coming together on personnel and scheme decisions should put the best players on the field in the best positions to make plays. Grinch’s personnel decisions, most notably with Tackett Curtis, did not put USC’s defense in position to succeed.

TAYLOR MAYS

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

Imagine a world in which Taylor Mays was more involved in the 2023 USC defense, the way he was in the Holiday Bowl. The Trojans might have fared a lot better.

PROBLEM SOLVING

. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

When we followed USC football the past two seasons, we wondered if Alex Grinch could solve problems on defense. What is new and exciting about 2024 is that it seems it’s less about D’Anton Lynn figuring things out. It’s more about the whole defensive staff figuring things out. Lincoln Riley realized it takes a village, not just one man.

D'ANTON LYNN OPENS UP

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

D’Anton Lynn admitted last week that his NFL experiences left him underprepared for certain aspects of college coaching and high school player evaluation. Lynn knows he doesn’t know everything and that he will need help. This is new at USC under Lincoln Riley.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire