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Mike London impressed with Southern California's team speed

Virginia Coach Mike London spent a good amount of time during his Tuesday press conference talking about what he's seen on film thus far of his team's next opponent, No. 16 Southern California. The quick summary: The Trojans are big, fast and athletic.

More specifically, London discussed several of the key elements for his team as it prepares to face USC for the second time in program history. The Cavaliers are hoping things go better this time around. The 52-7 thrashing USC delivered to Virginia at Scott Stadium in 2008 wasn't fun for any of the Cavaliers involved.

While USC is not playing for any sort of postseason berth -- not after the NCAA laid the hammer down this summer and severely sanctioned the Trojans for indiscretions involving former football player Reggie Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo -- the team remains one of the most talented in the country.

"They have great, great skill players," London said. "You look at a program that has star-quality players. High school all-Americans, first, second and third team. I know there's a lot of talk about who's playing and who they've lost, but the quality of talent that they have is indicative of the fact that they are one of the top programs of having players in the NFL. It's [437]. It's a program that's won 11 national championships."

London said that when he watched film of USC's season opening win at Hawaii, the Trojans' team speed stood out. "Even the waterboy was athletic and fast," he said.

Speaking of speed, London said his players will have to try to match USC's as best they can. That means players like sophomore strong-side linebacker LaRoy Reynolds and sophomore weak-side linebacker Ausar Walcott will need to have big nights. Against Richmond on Saturday, Reynolds tallied a team-high eight tackles, three of which were for a loss.

"It helps being fast, absolutely, because they have some tremendous players," London said, mentioning tailback Marc Tyler, wide receiver Ronald Johnson and quarterback Matt Barkley. "We're going to have to play fast in all aspects, and if you make a mistake you're going to have to play fast to hopefully try to correct the mistake.

"But the thing that they have is they have speed. So we're going to have to limit as many mental errors and alignment errors and things like that that sometimes happen in a game like this because you get caught up in where you are and you're surroundings and who you're playing with instead of just playing the game."

Barkley, a sophomore, completed 18 of 23 passes for 257 yards and five touchdowns against Hawaii. Johnson, a senior, caught three of those touchdown passes. He finished with seven receptions for 59 yards. As for Tyler, a junior tailback, rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

But USC's speed is not limited to its offensive players. The Trojans' defense is anchored by a defensive line that features defensive ends Armond Armstead (6 feet 5, 295 pounds) and Wes Horton (6-5, 260 pounds). Against Hawaii, Horton tied for a team high with six tackles. He also recorded a sack and two tackles for a loss. Armstead registered three tackles.

With DaJohn Harris (6-4, 305 pounds) and Jurrell Casey (6-1, 305 pounds), USC is solid at defensive tackle, as well. Casey tallied four tackles and a sack against Hawaii.

Virginia's offensive line held up pretty well against Richmond's pass rush in the opener, but the test will be much stiffer against the Trojans.

"On the drop-back passes where you have to provide a cup for the quarterback either to step up into and make sure there's no movement or push-back into his face, we can get better at that," London said. "We're going to have to get better at that, because USC's got two big inside players that can just bull rush and take you back and all of the sudden put you in the quarterback's lap. They've got two outside rushers that are tall and athletic that can collapse the pocket."

The Cavaliers experienced a great deal of success running the ball against Richmond -- 205 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, four touchdowns -- but London knows those yards will be more difficult to come by this weekend. The Trojans allowed Hawaii to rush for 129 yards and one touchdown last week.

"I do know this -- you're going to have to be able to take some time off the clock against Southern Cal," London said. "It's a team that plays fast and tries to capitalize on the things that you don't do. We need to make sure that we can keep the clock running with the running game and short passes that are caught. Keep the clock moving; keep the chains moving."

By Steve Yanda  |  September 8, 2010; 10:02 AM ET
 
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