USC football questions: 3. Can Todd Orlando ignite the defense as a whole?
As previously mentioned, USC football struggled quite a bit last season on the defensive side of the ball. The Trojans conceded almost 30 points per contest last season and were often victims of the big play. That’s why bringing in Todd Orlando as the defensive coordinator was one of the top priorities on the offseason to-do list — and he now has plenty of work to do.
And also already talked about to this point, we’re likely going to see the defensive line play a pivotal role in any turnaround that USC is going to be able to pull off in the 2020 season. But you can’t think that the group up front is going to be the only group that needs to rise to the occasion for the defense to make a big-time leap forward.
The other spot that needs to take a big step forward is the linebacker corps. Palaie Gaoteote IV, among others, has the ability to be a star at the position and it is all upperclassmen that will start at linebacker this season. Having said that, they were rollercoaster performers last season and need to play like experienced veterans now.
But the best news for the Trojans as they question the linebackers and, to a lesser degree, the defensive line, is the upside and reliability of the secondary. Safeties Talanoa Hufanga and Isaiah Pola-Mao are All-Pac-12 caliber performers and there’s a deep group of corners with them. They will be the leaders but we’ll see if that’s enough to turn the defense around in a meaningful manner.