March 11, 2009

Defensive line shaken up

The shape of the USC defensive line, decimated by the departure of four starters, is beginning to take shape a little more than two weeks before the Trojans begin spring practices.

During a players-only workout Tuesday at Howard Jones Field, Armond Armstead took reps in 11-on-11 drills at strongside defensive end, and Derek Simmons moved back from offensive guard to defensive tackle.

Armstead said the change wasn't necessarily his idea, but he's more than OK with making the change.

"It was the coaching staff's decision," Armstead said. "I was shocked as much as everyone else, but if they trust me and feel like I can play the position and they tell the team I can play the position, I feel like I can play the position too."

Armstead's no stranger to playing defensive end, starring for Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove on the outside of the line.

"I played my whole high school career over the tackle. It's nothing all that new to me," he said. "I was head up on the tackle and responsible for both gaps. It's a lot like playing the six technique against the tight end. I can play both."

Armstead said he wasn't sure why defensive line coach Jethro Franklin and the Trojan staff moved him outside.

"They didn't tell me why. I guess they just feel like I can play the position," he said. "I'm trusting in them. I know Coach Franklin will get me right and get me ready to do the job."

The move really opens up the competition at defensive tackle, where Averell Spicer, Simmons and incoming recruit Hebron Fangupo will likely compete.

Spicer, Christian Tupou and Jurrell Casey are the leading candidates to start at nose tackle.

Everson Griffen, Malik Jackson, Wes Horton, Nick Perry and Armstead are the ends on campus for spring ball.

Armstead said he knows there will be some challenges in moving outside, where the game moves quicker than at tackle.

"I'll have to learn some new techniques and stuff like that," he said. "That's going to be probably the hardest thing I need to learn, but I think I can handle it."

Armstead said he can't remember being outrun to a play. Maybe it's his speed or maybe it's the angles he takes, but Armstead said he's ready to test his athleticism against tackles and tight ends.

The switch might not stick, but either way, Armstead feels he'll become a more valuable member of the team by becoming more versatile and knowledgeable.

"I'll just be able to learn more about our defense overall," he said. "If you learn one defensive end spot, the other's not too different. I know both tackle spots already.

"Knowing more can't hurt."

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