Junior defensive end Kyle Moore is ready to have a break out season.
After switching from a traditional 4-3 defense to a hybrid 3-4 in 2006, Moore contemplated a transfer. With less reps to fight for on the defensive line, his future at USC seemed limited. However, Moore stood tall and accepted the challenge.
Now in his third year at USC, the Georgia native is excited about the Trojans return to a 4-3. This spring, Moore has the opportunity to solidify a starting role at weakside (Leo) defensive end.
"My mind set coming into spring was to win," said Moore. "I want to win as much as possible in one-on-one drills, team drills and everything else I do.
"Last year was about getting stronger and faster, but this year is about winning and making plays."
In order to win more battles in the trenches, the 6-foot-6 270-pound junior has bulked up this offseason.
"I'm about 15, maybe 20-pounds heavier this year, so they (offensive linemen) can't move me like they did last year," laughed Moore. "They use to push around off the edge last year, but they can't do that now. I feel good at this weight."
While he only played in six games as a freshman, Moore had more tackles in 2005 than he did in 2006. In addition to getting bigger, Moore also hopes to improve his five tackle total from a year ago by developing his technique.
"I'm trying to improve on my speed-dip and rip move the most," said Moore. "I'm tall, so I'd like to be able to perfect that dip move. I'm also working on the chop club, the push pull and the hump.
"With the hump move, you reach the level of the lineman and then come back inside. Coach (Nick) Holt wants to see more of that from me this year."
Fortunately for Moore, the transition from strongside to weakside end is fairly clear-cut.
"The main difference is that you only have one guy to go against at Leo," said Moore. "Leo is usually one-on-one with the tackle, whereas strongside gets the tight end and the tackle.
"Leo is easier because there's more space to make moves. You can also get off the ball quicker and use your speed."
With the traditional 4-3 back in place, the Trojans will need Moore to become more of a pass rusher. And while there isn't much depth at defensive end this spring, Moore knows that in-coming freshman Everson Griffen will arrive on campus ready to compete for a starting job.
"That's how it always is," said Moore. "The coaches are going to bring in guys every year, so you have to up your game. You have to show them that you deserve to be a starter. Of course, at the same time, you have to help the young guys out because they don't know how to play the position.
"You have to teach them, the way guys like L.J. (Lawrence Jackson) and Frostee (Rucker) taught me when I first came to SC."
Overall, Moore has been impressed by the defense's performance after the first week of spring football.
"I feel pretty good about how things are going," said Moore. "We have the best defense in the country, but we have to play like it. People have expectations, but we'll be okay if we just play like we know how to.
"We'll just continue to work hard, and we will be the No. 1 ranked defense in the nation."