Q & A: McDonald Post-Scrimmage

T.J. McDonald

The Trojans held their second and final scrimmage of fall camp on Sunday in the Coliseum. The defense came away with the win. USC senior safety T.J. McDonald answered questions following the intra-squad game...

The Trojans' defense recorded four interceptions and a fumble recovery during Sunday's intra-squad scrimmage.

Senior safety T.J. McDonald hauled in one of the picks.

On the defense…
We did good! The young guys stepped out and did good, you know out here in the Coliseum its always exciting for them to come out here and play in the Coliseum. It's some of their first times out here and they did a good job. For the veterans out here we just come out and run all of our assignments. There's stuff that we've got to fix and we're going to fix in the film room, but for the most part it was a good day.

Where the defense stands with the season less than two weeks away… Yeah, we're where we're supposed to be but we still have a lot of work to do. And there's a lot of hype around everything and we're not buying into any of that we just have to keep our heads down and keep getting the job done.

What he saw from the strong safeties…
We're real deep at safety right now whether it's Jawanza [Starling], whether it's Demetrius [Wright], Josh Shaw, Gerald Bowman played great today. There's a lot of guys who are stepping up right now and we're just going to see how it works out right now. Jawanza came in from last season as a starter so until someone tells me differently, he's a starter, but I don't know how it's going to turn out. All the guys are competing great right now.

On being more disciplined this season…
Definitely. Everything is slowing down for everybody. Everything is slowing down, we're able to ask questions that we may not have asked and may have come up before because we're understanding more stuff we're able to do more things as a defense. The coaches are able to throw more stuff at us because we're more experienced at everything. We're excited with where we're at, but we still have a lot of work to do.

Tallying four interceptions in the scrimmage compared to 9 all of last season…
Yeah, that's one thing we've been trying to enforce is get turnovers. The higher the turnover ratio, the better the team. We're trying to make sure that we take that into our hands as a secondary and as a whole defense make sure we're stripping the ball, just trying to get the ball out however we can, because we know our offense is going to put up points. For us if we get the ball back in their hands we'll make ourselves a better team.

Executing takeaways…
You can talk about it all you want, but it's execution that's going to fuel emotion. As a team, not just as a defense. The more we execute it fuels the whole team and we play better and we can go out with guys who are more into it, guys who are more eager to get on the field. Turnovers are a big part of the game, its something that can change a game. So that's one thing that we've been talking about. And now that we're doing it it's a good feeling.

Who stepped up at the scrimmage…
Just some of the new guys Gerald Bowman did a great job today he stepped up, stepped in there. He's been coming in, he's new here, but he did a great job today, got his hands on some balls got tackles in the backfield, and did a great job. Everyone really was just on their stuff. You really could see the focus before we even came out here. When we walk into this Coliseum it's just like a game no matter who we're playing even if it's ourselves. So we did a good job.

Awareness of where the plays are…
That just comes just to show our film preparation, and the positions our coaches are putting us in, and just how more experience I think for everybody, I think I speak for the whole defense when I say that everything is slowing down. We were able to go out there and play and not think too much and where's this guy at or where's my assignment at or where's my help coming from. You just go out there and play football because you know you can trust the guy next to you. And that just comes from practicing hard and film preparation and our coaches putting us in good positions.

If any schemes have changed this season…
A little bit of stuff, a little bit of tweaks here and there, and that just comes from just getting a year better, and them being able to throw more things at us. And being able to move around. I think the thing is just disguising it, it's hard for a quarterback to know where we're coming from, if we're blitzing, what defense we're in. And with that confusion brings turnovers. Anytime you confuse offense up a little bit and you bring turnovers you're going to be a good defense.

On his leadership role…
I've been just a little bit of everything. I'm just trying to be there for them. I don't really have to do too much you know these guys are great guys. They're a great group of guys. As a secondary they're always asking questions, always coming up to me test me up, test me up, just wanting to know, just wanting to get better. So I'm just always there to offer any help that I can. And be there and make sure everybody stays on all their assignments make sure that we take care of our business and not have to do too much. If they come to me and they need help, I'm always going to be there. And they know that.

On what he helps teammates with…
Playbook, if they need help just on the field, they're getting frustrated, or they need someone to talk to, in the film room, and watch some extra film. I'm always watching film so they get in there it was kind of cool. We had a night off and I was watching film and all the rookies came in and just said even though we had the night off they came in there and watched film and it just shows their dedication and their want to get better.

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