We’re all aware of the No. 1 issue when it comes to Lincoln Riley-coached teams: defense. Now, Joel Klatt is once again calling for one of Riley’s defenses, along with Alex Grinch and USC’s incoming transfers on that side of the football, to step up.
Klatt reemphasized the need for the Trojans to just play basic defense during an episode of his show this week. He noted how much of an issue it has been for Riley’s team and additionally said that it will essentially be impossible to achieve their goals if they play defense like they did a year ago and in years past.
“You have one thing to fix at USC. One. Defense. If you can’t play defense? You will not go to the playoff. Not in that conference, not against a team like Washington, not against a team like Oregon, not against a team like Oregon State, and not against a team like Utah. You won’t,” said Klatt. “USC was absolutely allergic to tackling last year. Allergic! Like an allergic three-year-old that’s got a nut allergy and it’s a birthday in a classroom. That’s how allergic they were to tackling. They had a peanut allergy to tackling. It was atrocious.”
“This has been a pattern for Lincoln Riley, right? I mean (Oklahoma), with Baker Mayfield, goes to a playoff game and lose to Georgia like 54-48, or something like that, in that Rose Bowl in overtime? This has been a pattern for Lincoln Riley,” Klatt said. “So this is as much on Lincoln Riley as it is on Alex Grinch or any of these defensive transfers.”
USC’s defense finished 94th in the country by giving up 29.2 points per game in large part due to their well-noted tackling issues. It’s nothing new with Riley, though, as, in his six seasons as a head coach, only once have one of his teams finished in the Top-50.
Of the Trojan’s 14 transfers overall, eight play on the defense including DLs like Bear Alexander and Anthony Lucas. With the extra focus on that unit, Klatt is now asking the bare minimum from them as he just wants to see them be an average defense, if not a tad better.
“All these guys come in, right? First year fixers, new faces. If USC plays just competent defense? You don’t have to be a world-beater. You don’t have to lead the Pac-12 in defense, you don’t have to be second in the Pac-12 in defense, you don’t have to be third in the Pac-12 in defense, you don’t have to be fourth in the Pac-12 in defense. But you can be fifth,” said Klatt. “That’s fine! Just competent. If they’re competent, they can go to the playoff. That’s all, that’s all.”
The jury is still out on USC taking a big enough step in a positive direction to reach their postseason aspirations. However, if they can, Klatt has no doubt that they can be right there in the mix.
“If USC just plays competent defense? As long as you don’t have a peanut allergy to tackling? You can go to the playoff,” Klatt said.