Trojans key in on speed to stop spread

first_imgPerhaps no player embodies USC’s recent defensive transformation more than sophomore linebacker Dion Bailey. In part, that’s because of his size.Speed kills · Three sophomores anchor USC’s linebacking corps. Dion Bailey (18) and Lamar Dawson (55) combined for 106 tackles in 2011. – Daily Trojan file photoBailey stands at 6 feet tall and weighs 210 pounds, which is roughly the size of the prototypical wide receiver or defensive back, not the standard linebacker. He’s smaller than most at his position — so small that USC might not have even offered him a scholarship 10 years ago. But he is quick: His motor rarely stops running, and he can cover a lot of ground.A converted safety, Bailey starkly contrasts some of the Trojans’ recent All-American linebackers, such as Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga, who were each at least two inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Bailey.But Bailey represents the latest trend in college football and at USC: prioritizing speed over size.“We do that on purpose,” said Scottie Hazelton, the Trojans’ linebackers coach. “We get speed guys in there, because when teams go to the one-back or the spread stuff, you need a guy like that to run outside the box. The days of the big 250-pound linebackers are gone.”As the season opener on Sept. 1 against Hawai’i nears, USC’s defense has evolved to emphasize speed as a way to stop spread offenses, which are increasingly common throughout the Pac-12 and college football.The spread is an umbrella term that describes a variety of wide-open offenses that range from the zone-read option installed by Chip Kelly at Oregon to the Air Raid offense triggered under Mike Leach at Washington State.There are variations, but the unifying principals are these: no huddle, shotgun snap, one running back, no fullback and four or five wide receivers.The goal, first and foremost, is to spread defenders across the width of the field to give running backs and receivers more space. This is why hybrid linebackers in the mold of Bailey are so common nowadays, smaller but more comfortable in pass coverage and closing in to tackle a player in space.Defenses, especially out west, have adjusted in the hope of slowing down teams that utilize the spread system, most notably Oregon. And it’s easy to grasp why: The Ducks have won three consecutive conference titles while averaging more than 40 points per contest in each of the last two season — the first school in Pac-12 history to do so.“We’re getting more speed on the field,” Bailey said. “We’re not playing in the SEC, you know, ground and pound. We have to be able to run sideline to sideline. That’s how we’ve built our defense.”Naturally, the Trojans’ top two strongside linebackers are now converted defensive backs in Bailey and senior Tony Burnett, who moved over during the spring.“Really, your linebackers are becoming defensive ends, your smaller [defensive] backers are becoming your inside backers and your safeties are becoming outside linebackers,” Hazelton said. “It’s the way of the world.”Hybrid defenders give schools an advantage in that coaches don’t have to change schemes. They’re not tossing aside playbooks and changing philosophies to combat the spread. They’re targeting different types of athletes.“You have to recruit differently,” said USC defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron. “More speed. And it’s not just speed. These guys have to make plays in open spaces, because the spread teams’ll create one on ones.”Initially, teams combated the spread by instituting “Nickel” or “Dime” packages that would bring in an extra defensive back, or two, as in the latter case. This strategy, however, would mean their defenses would be vulnerable against a good running game or a balanced spread team.So for USC, which has utilized a 4-3 defense for the last decade, four down lineman and three linebackers, it doesn’t need to dramatically switch schemes. It’s just using different players such as Bailey, big enough to inch close to the line of scrimmage and stop a bruising fullback, and quick enough to stay with a speedy wideout 20 yards down field. And it can disguise coverages, too.But this defensive makeover, so to speak, hasn’t occurred overnight.Two years ago, USC posted its worst statistical season since 1955, giving up 400 yards per game — a program worst. And through the first five games last fall, that average mark improved by just 20 yards per contest.“Oh, we were still new to the system,” Bailey said, trying to hold back a grin. “Our first year, we were extremely bad. Our second year, we were just trying to turn it around. We had a lot of new guys. Now, we actually have some experience.”The Trojans certainly do have some experience with eight returning starters back on defense, including injured senior defensive end Devon Kennard, who tore a pectoral muscle in late July and could miss most of the season. The entire back seven returns, highlighted by preseason candidate for the Thorpe Award as the top defensive back and All-American free safety T.J. McDonald, who chose to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior season.And then again, there’s also Bailey, who along with sophomore linebacker Hayes Pullard, who last year led the team in tackles with 81.“We have all the guys in place,” McDonald said. “We have to keep doing what we’re doing, but I think we’ll be that shutdown defense that everybody is asking for.”last_img read more

Whicker: Improving Kiké Hernandez not just a band-aid for Dodgers

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Dodgers’ Justin Turner looking rejuvenated on defense LOS ANGELES — Back in the days of open schoolyards, and back when kids played on them at their whim, there was No Labels baseball.You ran onto the field and your position was wherever you stopped. Who cared? Usually, the tall left-handed guy played first. Everything else was up for grabs.When Kiké Hernandez was 19 years old in Lexington, Ky., the second baseman was Delino DeShields and the shortstop was Jiovanni Mier. Both were first-round picks. Hernandez was a sixth-rounder. He wasn’t playing much and, worse yet, he watched kids from Houston’s rookie leagues come up and play in other spots. Finally, he approached Manager Rodney Linares.“Throw me out there in left field,” Hernandez told Linares “I won’t disappoint you.” Still, it took some extra work with the roving outfielder instructor to solidify his case. Sign up for Home Turf and get 3 exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.“I’d been DH-ing,” he said Monday. “I didn’t like it. It was like pinch-hitting three or four times a night. I’m a high-energy guy.”The years went on and Hernandez learned more about hitting, and he got traded to Florida and then to the Dodgers. But he had finally nailed his position: Ballplayer.This season he is the only major leaguer to play at least one game at seven positions, everywhere but catcher and pitcher. He also played seven positions in 2017. Only Andrew Romine of Detroit played more.Ben Zobrist, here with the Cubs, is a hero in the movement. In 2009 at Tampa Bay, he played seven positions and has won two World Series (Kansas City and Chicago) doing so.“Teams are grooming players to do that in the minors,” Hernandez said. “It’s huge for a team. It’s like you have two players in one.” Hernandez also has 13 home runs. Six are against right-handers, who had him spellbound for a few years. He and Chris Taylor, another Dodger transformer, have smoothed out Dodger life without Corey Seager, the resident shortstop and one of the few Dodgers who fits one pigeonhole.He is 26 and he possesses an identity. Just because you’re a moving target doesn’t mean you can’t be a regular.“What’s fun is to be able to show off my defensive ability everywhere,” Hernandez said. “My goal this year was to become elite defensively in all seven spots. The middle infield is better for me because the outfield can be a little boring. It was a matter of not necessarily accepting the role, but coming to terms with it.”One can expect baseball to become more positionless. The inability to live without 12 or 13 pitchers makes it necessary, especially in the National League. Thirteen pitchers plus eight regulars plus a backup catcher leaves the manager only three spare bodies. There are no one-note utility men, not anymore.Besides, the incessant defensive shifting puts all infielders in the margins, where it comes down to catching and throwing from unfamiliar spots. Hernandez has made just four errors and only one in 108 innings at shortstop. He also came into Monday night ranked sixth on the team in plate appearances.Hernandez actually has given the Dodgers dugout voltage since he arrived in 2015, part of the Dee Gordon trade with the Marlins. But he has been more relaxed and effective the past two seasons, after his father Enrique responded well to treatments for multiple myeloma. Both of them were at the Rose Parade in January, and father threw out the first pitch to son Monday night.“He’s my hero,” Hernandez said. “He’s been in remission for two years. If he can survive cancer, I can survive not being an everyday player for a few years.”Related Articles Dodgers’ hot-hitting Corey Seager leaves game with back injury center_img Dodgers’ Dave Roberts says baseball’s unwritten rules ‘have changed, should change’ Dodgers bench slumping Cody Bellinger for a day Enrique was a coach and a scout for the Pirates. His son was around future major leaguers throughout. He knew what he wanted to do as a grown-up, except he was late growing up. He was 5-foot-5 as a junior in high school in Puerto Rico and then grew 5 inches the next year.A Houston scout named Luis Sola, who also signed Carlos Correa, was intrigued with the way the ball yelped off Hernandez’s bat and recommended him.“I was hitting the ball harder than anybody but the trajectory was low,” Hernandez said. “It was frustrating. I had to hit my way to the big leagues. Nothing was given to me. I just had to let everything take its course.”He also hit right-handers better than lefties as a minor leaguer, although as a big-leaguer his OPS is .874 against lefties, .610 the other way. This year the figures are .837 and .750, primarily because he’s seeing right-handers more often.On Tuesday the Dodgers gave out Hernandez bobbleheads. They’re even more lifelike when you move them around. Whicker: Dustin May yet another example of the Dodgers’ eye for pitching last_img read more

Great Race officials are looking for videographers and video equipment – especially Go-pro cameras

first_imgSubmitted to Sumner Newscow — On Saturday, July 25 will be the 25th running of the Great Race.  We have special plans scheduled for this year’s race.Darlene Ferguson, an organizer for the event, is looking for video cameras, and folks to video the race, and Go-Pro cameras that can be used the day of the race to be put on the race participants so we can view the entire race from the team’s point of view.If you want to help or have equipment you can loan out for one day, please call or email:Darlene Ferguson at 620-326-7448,  ext. 214 at the office; 620-326-3975 at home, at 316-305-0484 or cell; or [email protected] Follow us on Twitter. Close Forgot password? Please put in your email: Send me my password! Close message Login This blog post All blog posts Subscribe to this blog post’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Subscribe to this blog’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Follow the discussion Comments Logging you in… Close Login to IntenseDebate Or create an account Username or Email: Password: Forgot login? Cancel Login Close WordPress.com Username or Email: Password: Lost your password? Cancel Login Dashboard | Edit profile | Logout Logged in as Admin Options Disable comments for this page Save Settings You are about to flag this comment as being inappropriate. Please explain why you are flagging this comment in the text box below and submit your report. The blog admin will be notified. Thank you for your input. There are no comments posted yet. Be the first one! Post a new comment Enter text right here! Comment as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new comments Comments by IntenseDebate Enter text right here! Reply as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Cancel Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new commentslast_img read more