Best Quotes: USC Football Introduces Its New Assistant Coaches
USC football's assistant coaches - eight new faces and one familiar - each took a turn at the podium during the team's introductory press conference Thursday. The three-hour affair marked the first time Lincoln Riley's staff spoke publicly since the head coach assembled the crew.
Here are the best quotes from each coach's media availability:
Grinch briefly shared Thursday how he would describe his scheme.
"As I would describe it, a single-gap approach. We use the term downhill. We want guys playing in the opponent's backfield and have an opportunity for guys to be competitive in coverage, impede receivers ability to run the route that is called. And so we want to, as best we can, not cover grass, but instead cover men. So that's the back end approach. And ultimately, what we want is the space and speed game that is college football, and obviously that same thing in the NFL, but to make sure that from a personnel standpoint that we have the necessary speed to be very competitive. That would take away the space that so often offenses are trying to take advantage of."
The defensive coordinator also shared his strategy for success.
"What is so critical to an organization, from a success standpoint, is having a standard within the walls. A standard from a development standpoint, a standard from an academic standpoint, a standard by how people live their lives. And ultimately, holding a group to that and then competing at a high level each and every Saturday."
Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
USC's offensive line returns veterans in center Brett Neilon, guard Andrew Vorhees and guard Justin Dedich. Henson shared the mindset of the group heading into the 2022 season.
"I think the older guys in our program understand what's at stake and how much work it takes to win. Winning is hard. It's not easy. They understand that the common denominator of winning all of the time is the work, and they're doing that right now."
The Trojans' offensive line coach also gave some insight on the position group's newest addition. Virginia tackle transfer Bobby Haskins joined USC this offseason and is expected to battle for the team's starting spot at left tackle.
"Bobby is going to be an integral part of our next year. He's obviously very athletic. He's played a lot of football in a good conference, a Power-Five conference, and been very effective. I looked at him at the last school I was at and really liked him. When I heard that he was coming to 'SC and I was taking this job here, I was very excited about it. Now after meeting him in person, pertaining to him fitting in, I love his attitude. And he has come in, he's already like one of the members of the team. And that's just because Bobby wants to be -- he wants to have brotherhood. He understands the team concept, team camaraderie. And he's done an absolutely unbelievable job of that."
Assistant HC/Outside Wide Receivers/Offensive Passing Game
Simmons stressed the importance of blocking as a wide receiver and how it ultimately contributes to team chemistry.
"Well, if you won't block, you won't play. It's honestly just that simple. A part of our standard is competing with each other and playing for one another. And if you're not going to be a guy that's going to play for your teammate when you don't have the ball, you're probably not going to be a guy that is going to have a chance to get on the field to get the ball."
Simmons also shed light on how Riley's offensive staff expects to divy up duties among its receivers. USC has traditionally featured versatile pass catchers that are not bound by one certain designation on the field.
"Well, that's something that actually is a never-ending, always-moving target. We will move guys around. They'll be multifaceted in that aspect. And really during practices, what it really involves is [inside wide receivers coach] Dave [Nichol] is on one side of the field, and I'm on the other side of the field. We break it up into more so on how we meet. The x's and the z's meet with me and the y's and the h's meet with [Nicol]."
Prior to his coaching career, Nau spent four seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006. He shared what he believes is the key to championship football.
"Culture over everything. Culture of discipline, culture of positive chemistry. Everybody bought in. Be on the same page. Unselfish players, coaches. Everybody that's in the building pulling the same weight, pulling the same direction. That's more important than any scheme. And I think the players and the coaches, as well as everybody, is seeing and feeling that from Coach Riley's program right now."
Nua also shed light on what needs to happen in order for USC to bounce back from its 4-8 season in 2021.
"We take it one day at a time. Trust the process and the plan that coach Riley has put in front of us. And then help enforce it, help live it … It's a brick-by-brick thing. We've got to suffer the pain of discipline right now or we're gonna suffer the pain of regret later."
"What's gonna bring the success in the room is going to be the habits that are developed that people aren't seeing. Everybody gets a chance to see what happens on Saturday or Friday night. But the games and the gains are going to be made prior to that."
McDonald shared his philosophy on playing time for his position group.
"It just depends. I've done it all. In 2018, I had Zach moss, and Zach was the guy. Zach was going to get almost 30 touches. But then you fast forward to last season, we had a 1000-yard rusher. There was also a guy that had almost 700 yards rushing and had 100 receiving … So depending on what the makeup of this room looks like, is how it's going to be used. If there's a dude, then there's a guy. If there's two guys, there's two guys. Whatever it takes to win the game at the end of the day. As well as, situational football is football, and being successful in those situations is everything. So getting a chance to see what these guys can do at the end of the day, and what roles they do fill. We'll see what our room is made of."
Inside Linebackers/Associate HC for Defense
Odom shared what he envisions for his position group.
"I want them to be tough, hard-nosed guys … but also being a take-charge guy. Being the heart of the defense. Whenever something needs to happen, they need to be the catalyst in order to make that happen."
The inside linebackers coach also praised Alabama transfer linebacker Shane Lee.
"Shane Lee, transfer guy from Alabama. In initial talks with him, the thing that stuck out was leadership ability, intangibles, experience, being in that program for three years. I mean, the way he talked and the way he carried himself in the recruiting process was pretty unique. And it's something that I think he's going to bring a ton of value, not only to the linebacker room, but to our whole defense and team in general. Like I said, he's got great experience, started for [Alabama] as a freshman, had some injuries throughout the rest of his career. But he needed a change and we're happy to be able to provide that for him. Excited about his intensity. Like the way he carries himself. Comes from a good family. He's a very, very focused, driven dude. So, excited about Shane.
Defensive Backs/Defensive Passing Game
USC's secondary will be composed of new faces in 2022 and Williams drove that message home Thursday.
"You look at all five spots in the secondary, there is not a starter that returns. The competition level will be extremely high. And that's what you want, because you want practice to feel like a game. And that's what those guys are going to do. Everything is going to be evaluated. Everything is going to be graded. And that's not just what they do on the field, but that's also what they do off the field. And that's what you want. Competition brings out the best in everyone."
Outside Linebackers/Nickels/Assistant HC for Defense
"Our big thing defensively is we want to be adaptable to whatever we're getting, and not be pigeonholed into being out-personneled or out-packaged by a team. So there is a lot of carryover to play into positions in his defense. Our safeties have to know nickel. Our nickels have to know corner and etc, etc. And so we do that so it can always, in our mind, be an advantage defense."
Tight ends coach Zach Hanson
Hanson discussed how following USC's head coach to Southern California was an easy decision.
"If Lincoln Riley gives you a call and asks you to be a part of the staff, it takes about 10 seconds to figure out that you're going to come be a part of it."
The tight ends coach also discussed what he will be looking for from his position group.
"Championship teams, you've got to be able to run the ball. So we need guys that can block. But we also need guys that are dynamic out in space and can go make plays. They have to be smart, they have to know the whole offense: run game, pass game, everything."
(Note: Offensive line coach Josh Henson joined the press conference via Zoom, while inside wide receivers coach David Nichol was unable to attend.)