New USC defense puts Leonard Williams back in comfort zone

LOS ANGELES -- Here are a few observations after attending USC's second practice of fall camp Sunday afternoon:

Defense in attack mode

While Monte Kiffin was criticized for being far too passive last season as the Trojans defense melted down, new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is definitely taking the opposite tact with his new 5-2 alignment. Almost every live snap saw five, six or even seven players blitz, smothering the offense.

Head coach Lane Kiffin told the Los Angeles Times that Pendergast, the former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator who spent the last three seasons at California, was hired because of his track record for quick turnarounds.

"We obviously didn't want something that took years to develop," Kiffin said. "We wanted to get it fixed now."

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the new scheme could be sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams, who was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and made numerous Freshman All-America teams after posting eight sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss as a defensive tackle last season. Williams is now working as the five-technique, lined up outside of the tackle, where he played up for Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland.

"I just played it all through high school years and that was my first time ever playing football and it was all I was used to," said Williams, who looks like a leaner Shaun Cody during his time at USC.

Williams comes in at No. 25 on NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah's Talented Top 50.

Leader emerges in quarterback battle

Reading the tea leaves at quarterback, redshirt sophomore Cody Kessler looks to have an edge in the competition to replace Matt Barkley. Kessler worked almost exclusively with projected starting center Marcus Martin and took the first reps in all the key drills.

Freshman stands out

If you don't know the name Su'a Cravens yet, you will soon enough. The freshman safety is working with the ones and delivered an interception on an underthrown Kessler deep ball, with Cravens effortlessly coming from the middle of the field to the far sideline and extending to pull in the pass. Cravens, a five-star recruit from Vista Murrieta, Calif., looks to be the next in a line of first-year stars for Kiffin that has included Williams, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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