Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
USC assistant Jethro Franklin isn't terribly long-winded -- as you shortly will find out in this Q&A -- but he's good with a defensive line and he's awesome on the slip-and-slide.
Franklin out-slipped and out-slided offensive line coach Pat Ruel this week in two rounds on the Trojans rain-soaked field, which served as a tiebreaker between the offense and defense for the day. So things weren't too uptight during Notre Dame week.
Franklin is in his second tenure at USC. He was the D-line coach in 2005, and also coached the position for the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans.
Despite replacing three starters on his line -- only tackle Christian Tupou returned from the record-setting 2008 unit -- the Trojans presently rank among the national leaders in all major defensive categories and are getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks -- see 21 sacks through five games vs. 29 all of last year.
Franklin and his line have their eyes set on chasing down Heisman Trophy contender Jimmy Clausen on Saturday. Seemed like a good time to check in.
Five games into the season, what's the biggest surprise for you?
Jethro Franklin: The biggest surprise? I don't know. We've still got a ways to go. I haven't had a chance to reflect on it in that manner. I don't know. I just take them one at a time. I'd like to answer that one but I really can't.
Has the defensive line exceeded your expectations?
JF: Well, we're making progress. As long as we can continue to go up the ladder and not take any steps backwards then I'm satisfied. So far, we just keep plugging away and improve week-in and week-out. We look forward to doing things right, finishing plays and basically not having any steps backwards on the ladder of success.
Who's playing well?
JF: They are all playing hard. I would say they are all playing with pretty good consistency. We just have to continue to improve and don't let anything that is sub-par or any thing that is just OK -- we've got to continue to get better.
If there was one thing you could improve coming into the game at Notre Dame, what would it be?
JF: We can always improve on our effort. That's something we can always improve on. We can always improve on assignments and being consistent and doing things right. We can always improve on our technique.
Notre Dame has put up some good offensive numbers: Is this the best offense you guys have faced this season?
JF: They're doing a heck of a job over there. We respect the heck out of those guys. We know in order for us to do what we want to accomplish we've got to go out there and play our hearts out. We've got to play our best performance so far.
What does the return of defensive lineman Armond Armstead mean for you guys?
JF: He was our starter going into camp. Anytime you can get your starter back it means a lot. He's a starter for a reason. Because he's the best at that position when we were competing at that position. It means a lot to get him back.
Is Everson Griffen starting to reach his potential?
JF: Yeah. In order for us to be as good as we can possibly be defensively, he's got to be doing everything he can, everything we ask him to do, to make that happen. We still have work to do.
You've been an NFL coach and a college coach, have you decided which you like better?
JF: I like them both. I enjoy coaching. I enjoy helping players reach their full potential and working with players who want to compete to be the best. I was fortunate enough to be in places like Green Bay and Tampa and Houston and you see players that that was very important to them. It's equally important to these guys here at USC. I really enjoyed myself here the first time. And I'm really enjoying myself here now.
What's the biggest difference?
JF: The kids go to class in college. These guys have to go to class all day, or most of the day. In the NFL, you get them in the morning and you've got them all day, all fall, 24-7. School work is such a big part of college. We get actively involved in what they are doing academically. And also recruiting. Recruiting is something that is never-ending in college football.