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USC's Sehorn Puts the Blame on Players : College football: Senior cornerback says defensive unit didn't function as a team in loss to North Carolina.

September 03, 1993|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

USC cornerback Jason Sehorn said of the option running plays that North Carolina employed to defeat the Trojans last Sunday, 31-9:

"The option is simple to stop. That's the reason no one in the NFL uses it--it's too easy to stop."

Uh, then how come. . . .

"OK, the reason we couldn't stop North Carolina's option is because we were trying to do it athletically. We weren't functioning as a team. It was us, not them.

"And it wasn't the coaches' fault, either. Coach (Don Lindsey, defensive coordinator) kept telling us during the game what we were doing wrong. We just weren't getting it done.

"That's why we felt so bad afterward, for the coaches. The coaches worked so hard, they gave us their best, all during the preseason. And we didn't come through for them. We let them down, and we're very disappointed.

"But our confidence wasn't affected, because we understand now what needs to be fixed."

Sehorn, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior who is playing his third position in three years, now has one game's experience at cornerback. Last season, as a junior college transfer, he started at safety.

Sehorn said the much-criticized Trojan defense has put the North Carolina debacle behind it and has turned its full attention to the University of Houston offense, which could pose more problems than North Carolina did.

Saturday afternoon in the Coliseum, the Trojans will be facing last year's NCAA total-offense leader, quarterback Jimmy Klingler. He passed for 3,818 yards and 32 touchdowns, more than twice as many as any other Southwest Conference quarterback.

"We're confident we can defend Houston a lot better than we did North Carolina," said Sehorn, who had one interception against North Carolina.

"We weren't playing with teamwork last Sunday. Outside linebackers, safeties and corners all have some responsibility against the option, and we weren't working with each other."

Sehorn is one of the Trojans' most gifted athletes. Only 22, he already is a former pro baseball player. After only 44 American Legion baseball games in the summer of 1988, he was signed by the Chicago Cubs, who gave him a $40,000 bonus and sent him into their minor league system.

There, Sehorn discovered curveballs. He didn't like them much.

"I just never picked it up," he said. "I never figured out the difference between a slider and a bad curve. I could field, I could throw and I could steal bases, but I hit .182 my one full year at Huntington, W.Va., and .267 at the instructional league."

Sehorn returned home to Mt. Shasta, Calif., enrolled at Shasta College, a junior college in Redding, and began setting records as a wide receiver. In fact, he holds the national JC career record for all-purpose yards, 4,308, and the California JC mark for all-purpose yards per game, 239.

Nevertheless, when he arrived at USC in the spring of 1991 there was a surplus of experienced receivers on hand, and he became a safety on the first day of spring practice.

Last year, he had three double-digit games in tackles, finally finishing second on the team with 80 for the season. He tied for the team lead with three interceptions.

When John Robinson's new coaching staff came in last spring, Sehorn was moved again.

"Coach Lindsey told me he wanted the four best athletes on the field in the secondary, and that meant trying to get Reggie Perry (last year's backup quarterback) in there," he said.

"So I moved over to cornerback, which is an entirely different position. It's been hard to switch. I'm starting to pick up on everything, but I'm not there yet.

"Learning when to make your turnover (change directions) when you're covering a receiver--I still need to work on that."

Sehorn, who also returns kicks, gets good instruction, every day. His position coach is Dennis Thurman, 37, a two-time All-American safety at USC and a nine-year NFL defensive back.

And Sehorn works against USC's best wide receiver, Johnnie Morton, every afternoon.

"Johnnie runs great routes," Sehorn said. "He's not as fast as Curtis Conway (USC's premier receiver last year), but he's great at getting open. He makes a defensive back backpedal longer than he really wants to . . . then he gets you going one way . . . and he goes the other."

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