Moving forward after this week’s traumatic event, USC now turns its attention to No. 24 California, whose balanced attack has the Trojans stepping up preparation on both sides of the ball.
The Golden Bears’ pro-style 3-4 defensive alignment is an approach that takes special preparation, but for former Denver Broncos quarterback coach and USC’s current quarterback coach, Jeremy Bates, preparing for the attack is something he’s done before.
“Their 3-4 is something new, it definitely changes the focus a bit on the offensive side of the ball,” Bates said. “There are many different ways for [the defense] to blitz and pressure the quarterback. In the [NFL] the Patriots and the Chargers run it especially well.”
Coach Pete Carroll also marveled at California’s 3-4 — although complex in formation and execution — mentioning how well the Golden Bears were able to run a defense so intricate and advanced while also running a successful offensive attack.
“The more we look at them, the more we realized how balanced they are as a team — they do everything well,” Carroll said. “They are the lowest penalized team in the conference this season. We’re going to have to stay disciplined.”
Led by quarterback Kevin Riley and running back Jahvid Best, the Bears’ offense features both a strong running and passing game which will put extra strain on the Trojan secondary.
“Our secondary is good, they tackle well and cover well. If Jahvid gets loose, they’ll be our saving grace,” Carroll said.
“Their whole offense is dangerous,” senior safety Taylor Mays said. “They always play us really tough. They know that they can take a shot against us, and they’re not intimidated.”
Almost three weeks removed from the injury he suffered against Ohio State, freshman Matt Barkley continued to show improvement during practice.
“Without a question it was the best day for his arm motion,” Carroll said. “It’s still not 100 percent, but even from yesterday to today, he’s better.”
Practicing for the full week knowing he’d be the starter for the first time since before the matchup with the Buckeyes, Barkley impressed quarterbacks coach Bates yet again with his improvement.
“Matt is getting better everyday. He’s throwing better than he’s thrown in the past two weeks,” Bates said.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Nick Perry, the Pac-10 sack leader, returned to practice Wednesday after he was forced to sit out of practice Tuesday due to a knee bruise.
“It’s [a] great return. He couldn’t even move yesterday,” Carroll said. “It’s a bruised knee. We just have to hope that it doesn’t get banged on, but I’m sure he’ll play on Saturday.”
Junior wide receiver Ronald Johnson also returned to Howard Jones Field yesterday for the first time since he broke his collarbone, but was restricted to running on the side field for the day.