Alex Grinch to strengthen Trojans defense

With the conclusion of National Signing Day Wednesday, USC’s roster is starting to take shape. In a press conference with other USC Athletics assistant coaches Thursday, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch discussed his plans for the Trojans squad.

Players on the offensive side of the ball have received plenty of buzz, including marquee transfer quarterback Caleb Williams, running backs Raleek Brown and Travis Dye, and wide receivers Mario Williams and Brenden Rice. 

Even though the offense received high profile transfers, the defense is still looking for improvement. The Trojans have acquired some top recruits, such as 5-star cornerback Domani Jackson — the No. 1 overall recruit out of California -— and safety Zion Branch, the No. 1 overall recruit from Nevada, according to 247Sports. 

The team also picked up key transfers, such as linebacker Shane Lee, defensive end Romello Height and cornerbacks Latrell McCutchin and Mekhi Blackmon. Add on the development of young players already on the team, such as safety Calen Bullock and defensive linemen Korey Foreman, and the Trojans have potential to show up with a formidable defense September. 

Grinch has been all around the college football world, serving in coaching roles for Power Five programs such as Ohio State, Missouri and Washington State before arriving in Oklahoma, and is considered one of the top defensive coaches in the NCAA. 

Grinch, who also serves as the safeties coach for USC, has high hopes for his defense’s performance on the field. To reach these goals, Grinch and his staff look to prioritize player development this offseason. 

“What we need to do is make sure that we are enhancing the roster, number one,” Grinch said. “OK, so where are we deficient? Sometimes it is easy to identify those things, but most importantly is we got to enhance those individuals within our program right now.” 

Even as the Trojans recruited great talent across the nation, Grinch also recognizes the crucial aspect of building on these players’ existing skills. 

Grinch also addressed previous weaknesses in USC’s defense, such as tackling, and his plans to improve the team. 

“From a tackling standpoint, one of the things we try to harp on with our guys is there is no such thing as a solo tackle,” Grinch said. “[You have] to put yourself in a position to be playable on ball carriers as best you can before the play develops.” 

His philosophy on tackling involves a team-oriented, mentality rather than relying on one player. 

In a broader defensive sense, Grinch’s intentions are clear with this squad.

“How do you develop the student-athletes?” Grinch said. “How do you develop them to be bigger, faster, stronger — more explosive?”

Grinch intends to answer these questions and retool his Trojan defense before the season’s start in September.

USC will open the season against Rice at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Sept. 3.