Alex Grinch shouldn’t be the kind to sugarcoat. Gamers say this is among the causes the USC protection coordinator is revered. He shoots straight. Even when it means concentrating on your self.
So when requested Thursday to take inventory of what he’d completed in his first season as coordinator with USC Protection, the Grinch as soon as once more stepped into the firing line.
“The reply is, ‘Not sufficient,'” he stated. “They’re accused of getting a championship-level protection at USC. That is what you signed up for. We defended properly sufficient 11 instances. We did not play properly sufficient defensively twice, however that does not actually consolation me. We had been anticipated to have a championship stage protection and we could not do this within the ’22 season.
These shortcomings had been uncovered within the Pac-12 title loss, when USC misplaced 533 yards and a season-high 47 factors to Utah in simply their worst sort out efficiency of the season. Since then, each pointer from outdoors this system has educated on USC’s coordinator and the course during which he has taken the Trojan protection.
Grinch could agree with many of those critics. He in all probability even made some himself.
However this week, as USC ready to journey to the Cotton Bowl in the hunt for its twelfth win, and Mekhi Blackmon noticed followers clamor for his coach’s job as he scrolled by means of social media, the senior might Cornerback did not take any extra criticism.
“I communicate for many individuals after I say Grinch is a good MF Coach” Blackmon tweeted Monday.
Finally, it was Grinch’s teaching that satisfied the cornerback to affix USC from Colorado a yr in the past. Blackmon had one of the best season of his collegiate profession, changing into a first-team All-Pac-12 cornerback and a soon-to-be NFL draft decide. He says Grinch performed an necessary function on this course of.
“Coming right here modified my complete sport,” Blackmon stated.
Max Williams says he is seen many modifications in USC’s protection over the previous yr. The USC junior defenseman remembers the place the group stood final December as he watched from the sidelines as he recovered from a cruciate ligament rupture. The protection had gone haywire and misplaced its approach within the ultimate weeks of final season.
He wonders if that miserable low has been misplaced in criticism of this season’s unit.
“Some individuals do not understand the place that protection was final yr and the place that workforce was final yr due to the success that we’re having this yr,” Williams stated. “It blinds the very fact of what occurred final yr. We all know we have made a giant leap.”
These strikes aren’t all the time that simple to quantify on the subject of protection. Nonetheless, this season has produced some notable markers.
USC pressured eight extra gross sales in 2022 on its method to main the nation in gross sales margin. His protection gave up 4 fewer factors per sport and had as many sacks this season (36) because the earlier two mixed.
However the tackling was nonetheless under common. USC was nonetheless being rolled over within the run sport, and its runner-up appeared to take a step again throughout the residence stretch of the season. Excluding the 11-1 win over Colorado, USC’s go defenses have allowed for 300+ yards and greater than three touchdowns in six of their final seven video games.
“It isn’t all the time linear,” senior linebacker Shane Lee stated. “[Progress] does not all the time look the best way you need it to.”
That actually wasn’t the case at USC this season, the place the Trojans’ protection appeared to take a step ahead one week, solely to fall again two steps the following.
“For those who’re not cautious, you are simply nice by default,” Grinch stated. “It pains me to say that we spent a lot of the yr there. We’re nonetheless studying. You attempt to modify actuality to the scenario you might be in. We had the chance to play for a championship and we could not bend actuality sufficient to get this factor performed.”
However simply because USC missed a championship does not imply Grinch plans to flex along with his defensive philosophy.
“When it comes to how we follow, what we preach, what we do, we’re not going to alter something,” Grinch stated. “For those who name your self coach, you need to imagine within the stuff you coach.”
That perception paid off at his final cease, the place Oklahoma’s protection improved considerably from his first season to his second, permitting six fewer factors per sport. The distinction, Grinch stated, was the adversity the Sooners had skilled the season earlier than.
“You wish to skip steps,” Grinch stated, “and I do know trainers like to speak that approach and imagine me I am attempting to not inform a narrative right here, however that is a truth. You take a look at these applications and the way they get the place they bought to — properly, they have been by means of some issues. They performed the sport and realized that from a preparation standpoint, it wanted somewhat extra. It struggles by means of some stuff.
“Will probably be knocked down and secured.”
From the Grinch’s perspective, USC is properly on its method to step two.
“That is what this previous month has been about,” he stated. “We simply bought over it.”