Kiffin Looking Forward To Utah

Lane Kiffin met with the media after USC's practice on Monday (10/1/12):

T.J. McDonald has shown how extremely versatile he can be this season

Opening Statement: “We’re still cleaning things up, it’s good to have the extra time, today’s Thursday (as it relates to a normal game week) and we’ll have another Thursday tomorrow. We’ll play again after having some time off and we’re excited for what will be a very entertaining game in a place that will be rocking when we go in there. It’ll be a good test for us.”

T.J. McDonald’s unique skill set, using him in the box and on the edge: “It is unique. We did some similar things with Eric Berry a few years ago in our one year with him. It really came from watching T.J. block kicks and how well he rushed. We would beat people’s protection. We just thought what if we put that kind of speed (on the edge). When this came up our ends were beaten up like they still are, so it allowed us to get some reps there with some speed and he can obviously drop and do all the things in coverage as well.”

Which coaches came up with it: “The defensive side.”

Utah’s recent run struggles: “They replaced some guys on the o line and White wasn’t healthy. We anticipate them being full strength after having this extra time just like we have. I’m sure they’ll be healthy and ready to go...”

Utah’s transition to the Pac 12: “I think they’ve done well. I think that’s talked about to much, changing conferences and what that means. They had a game that I’m sure they felt they should have won. It was a non conference game, it had nothing to do with what conference they’re in. I don’t really put to much into that, especially early in the year. If there is anything to it, it’d be a conversation for later in the year when you’ve had more competitive, more physical games, when you get to that eight or ninth conference game of the year.”

How helpful is the Pac 12 conference championship to the conference: “Well I think it’s big for the T.V. contract. You add a game on a national stage, Larry put in on a Friday, a different time frame. From that standpoint, I think that’s the big part about it. I don’t know that coaches are that excited about it. There was something to winning this conference before, it was unique because we’re playing nine conference games, other people don’t do that. So, I don’t know that coaches love it, but it’s good for the conference and good for the T.V. contract.”

Does the extra game help the Pac 12 division champions move up or hold their spot: “Not really. It could go the other way. With it not being neutral site, one year it’s going to come down to two really highly ranked teams that didn’t play each other. All of a sudden you’re going to be deciding off the slightest margin where that game is on a short week of rest. That’s a lot of factors that could decide a game...”

Utah’s new quarterback: “I thought he’s thrown the ball well. There’s been a couple of times were he could have really helped them out by making some plays on the outside. From an opponent’s standpoint, you like seeing a back up when you get ready to play, but when you watch him, he’s not really a back up anymore. He played a lot last year, 6-3 as a starter, but he’s played a lot of ball.”

Kiffin said USC had its best defenensive performance against California with Dawson back in the lineup

On Nickell Robey’s play: “I think he’s played great, they just don’t throw at him. You’re seeing with him something similar to Robert. If you take him away, it’s hard to get opportunities, it’s hard to get numbers. We need to play better at the other spot and force them to throw the ball to him because right now no one’s throwing it to him”

On Lamar Dawson: “We’ve played our best game on defense last week. He’s made ten tackles the last two weeks and has played really well. He’s playing physical and he’s finally getting comfortable. He’s in his second year, he’s been hurt in both seasons, he’s missed time, so it’s almost like he’s about to finish a full season. We’re really excited about his development and the way he’s played the last two years.”

What needs to improve at the second corner: “We need to cover better, we need to tackle better, and make the play when the play’s there. It’s no secret, we haven’t played well there all year. It’s unfortunate for Nickell because every time they throw the ball it goes the other way all the time. We’re working on it.”

Is the talent there for the second corner spot: “Yeah I think so, we just have to be more consistent. We can’t miss the tackles and we can’t let the guy off the line of scrimmage so quickly in press coverage. It could have been worse, they missed a couple of those. It’s been changing our games because we’ve been doing a lot of things well. Stopping the run, playing better pass defense from our other safeties and corners.”

Is Torin Harris rusty and will he come around: “I do. Torin’s missed a lot of time. We probably played Torin too much too soon. If you go back to that Syracuse game, he played seventy snaps or something. We can’t do that because he had been out for so long. I think after he gets some extra conditioning in, he’ll continue to improve.”

What are the challenges of playing different defenses than expected: “It’s a guessing game going in. These guys are like that. These guys in the first quarter of our game last year played different coverages than they did the rest of the year. So we don’t know if they’re going to do that again or are they going to do what they do against everybody else. You just have to be ready. It's like having a separate section on your play card. When they do this, this is what we’re going to go to... The easy part is if they play normal defense. We just run our offense. The harder part is when they do unique things and take away those guys.”

Other defensive positions that need to improve: “I think in general the safeties are playing really well, the three linebackers, especially the last two games, have played great, the defensive line has come along. We need more depth at defensive line, especially at defensive end. We need to get more production out of them, but really it’s the other corner spot, and really two corner spots when you count playing nickel.”

Has the safety spot been an example of a better rotation this year: “Yeah, we have Drew in there some, we have three safeties at times, and Demetrius has played. It’s been really good for us and it’s helped us on special teams.”

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