Dion Bailey, who led the Trojans defense with four interceptions last season,… (Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images )
USC linebacker Dion Bailey is recovering from shoulder surgery and will sit out spring practice, new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said Thursday.
Bailey, a two-year starter who had a team-best four interceptions last season, said in December that he hoped to return to safety next season.
Pendergast, hired last month to replace Monte Kiffin as the top defensive assistant, said the Trojans would run a “52” defense. The scheme includes elements of a 4-3 and a 3-4, but could allow linemen such as Morgan Breslin and Devon Kennard to also play as linebackers.
“We’re going to be a defense that wants to play in the offense’s backfield and be disruptive,” Pendergast said during an interview with a group of reporters at the McKay Center.
Pendergast pointed to defenses that he improved as coordinator for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs and in the first two of his three seasons at California. Pendergast became available after Cal fired coach Jeff Tedford and hired Sonny Dykes.
With the departure of linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton to Nevada and the firing of secondary coach Marvin Sanders, USC has two possible openings for assistants on the defensive side. In announcing Sanders’ firing on Jan. 24, Coach Lane Kiffin said, “we decided to go in a different direction based on Clancy’s desire to oversee the defensive backs unit.”
But when asked if he intended to coach the secondary, Pendergast said “we’re in the midst of kind of figuring that all out. That’s obviously a position that I will spend a lot of time with no matter what the final structure will be.”
Pendergast said USC has “a different style of player” than he had at Cal.
“Up front, we had some really good players at Cal,” he said. “I just think there may be more of them, particularly up front, particularly the inside linebacker position.”
Pendergast said he had “a lot of respect” for Lane Kiffin.
“I’m glad I’m coaching with him,” he said, “instead of against him.”
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