USC-San Jose State Press Conference Quotes

Aug. 28, 2001

San Jose State vs. USC
Football Press Conference Quotes

San Jose State Head Coach Dr. Fitz Hill

How does the team look?
'I think so far so good. I've been pleased with everything. We made it out of camp with only one serious injury. Our guys conditioned well this summer and so it had a great influence on camp. We look forward to Saturday.'

What are your goals for the season?
'Because it is my first game, I want to step out on the field and know that we are going to execute our game plan, offensively and defensively. I want the team to be very prepared and execute the fundamentals of football. I want our team to take the field with a lot of confidence. I want us to know what we're doing and I want us to execute our assignments.'

What is the team's feeling after last year's USC-San Jose State game?
'They felt like they had a very good opportunity to win the football game but didn't finish. I felt like it really impacted their season and kept them from going to a ball game and accomplishing other things they wanted to accomplish. The week before the USC game they competed very well against Nebraska. They played very well against everyone on their schedule last year and our showing in Los Angeles was ultimately good for their confidence.'

Comments on Deonce Whitaker...
'Deonce Whitaker has great vision. I think he is always out to prove people wrong. Even though he's small in stature... he's big at heart. He is a pleasure to watch play. He is very confident in his abilities and you can tell that he just loves playing football. He also loves contact but we've been trying to keep him healthy so that we can have him the entire season.'

Regarding first position as a head coach...
'I am very grateful to Dr. Robert Caret (President) and Check Beli (Athletic Director) who believed in me and gave me this opportunity to be a head football coach. I'm doing everything in my power to make sure this football team is prepared. I've looked forward to this opportunity for a long time and I didn't know if it would ever come. I'm excited about the season and I look forward to coming to Los Angeles.'

Comments on USC...
'They are a very talented football team. I have a lot of admiration and respect for the USC football program. I grew up watching Charles White and the touchdowns. I grew up a fan of SC and the great football tradition. I have followed head coach Pete Carroll throughout his career. I know several coaches on the staff there. It's a great program and I'm honored to be playing at the Coliseum.'

Regarding the team busing to Los Angeles...
'I'm looking forward to spending time together like that - spending time as a cohesive group. I think it is a good change for the team. Being a former Division II player, we performed very well in any situation we were in and we used to ride 6-7 hours before a game. Sometimes I think the luxuries of a big-time program can sometimes be overblown. It was my decision to bus down.'

Relationship with Tyrone Willingham (Stanford)...
'I've talked to Tyrone Willingham several times this summer. He is a coach I've always followed and I have a lot of respect for what he's done... as I do for all coaches, white or black. I've watched him a lot and I wish him the best this year.'

What has been your focus with the team?
'We have tried to identify all the positives and all the strengths and tried to improve on those. I haven't tried to fix anything that wasn't broken. This season I want to involve more people in the offense and do more things that will keep Deonce Whitaker healthy for 12 games. The offense was fine last year so we have tried to keep things similar and not make any drastic changes.'

USC Head Coach Pete Carroll

Summary...
'We are real excited to finally get to this point. We have been working hard for a long time with one single focus - to start the season - and now it's finally here. We want to get off to a good start so this is a critical game for us. We are uncertain regarding the health of a couple athletes but all together we're pretty strong coming out of camp. It is very critical for us to get rolling and I would love to start the season off fast. We have a lot of things we want to show. We need to be fast, we need to be tackling well and we need to be blocking well. We are looking to be sharp in all aspects of the game this weekend.

Comments on San Jose State...
'We are facing a team that is very experienced. They have managed to get big wins in difficult situations. They have senior leadership. They have impact players that can change the whole outcome of a game. They have an experience runningback, an experienced quarterback and experienced receivers. There is a lot of firepower and they certainly won't back down from any situation. They are going to come in with some confidence and I'm sure they have their sights set high, as they should.

'There is no question. San Jose State has skilled people that could play with anyone in our conference. Their quarterback did a very good job last year. Obviously, Deonce Whitaker is a fantastic player. Their line is definitely the strength of their team - they're huge. We have to do a great job on defense just to try and slow them down. This is a tough group.'

What has been the biggest change for you?
'I underestimated what (college) would be like. I did not give the athletes enough credit at this level. Their responsiveness, their intensity, their attitudes and their willingness to learn - it has really made this a fun experience so far, more so than I would have imagined. Obviously, since I have been comparing it to the NFL, it has been very different and very exciting. As a coach, you want to see people respond to what you are teaching and the athletes have shown me that. It has really been fun.'

Any negative aspects?
'No, especially in relationship to where I've been and what I've done. I really have not seen any negative aspects. There is nothing more difficult than what I have experienced. I've really been on the other side of the spectrum.'

What impact will the changing practice schedule have on the players during the season?
'Practice really won't change. It is really important that we remain very strict and we prepare for each of our opponents exactly the same way. We will respect everyone who we play equally and we won't try to practice harder one week and not the other. We want to create a real consistent approach to what we do. After camp we are in real good shape. We have tailored the work load so the athletes have had a little time off before school starts but basically our routine is set.'

Tailback situation...
'The question mark regarding the tailbacks is whether Malaefou MacKenzie will be ready or not. He looks real good and he has had the weekend break, but we need to make sure that he is confident and he is able to protect himself and perform at a high level on the field. Obviously Sultan McCullough is our starter but we will definitely use MacKenzie consistently. If MacKenzie is not available, then Chris Howard has shown us that we can give him the football. After that, we have a couple guys that we will take a look at. We have pushed Darryl Poston in, Miguel Fletcher will give us some play there and we will also use Charlie Landrigan.'

How tough was it to get to know each and every player?
'It has really been important to me. You can't get them all early so I tried to pick out certain players - the guys that people listen to - and tried to find out where they were coming from first. I assembled a group of those kinds of guys early and met with them. I've just been trying to work my way through the roster. It is really important as a teacher to understand your students, so I have to have interaction with all of them. By now I feel I have a pretty good pulse on what's going on, but you can always learn more.

Frank Strong and Matt Grootegoed...
'It is really important for us to be very fast. These two guys have just added to that. They have responsibilities to attack the line of scrimmage and the quicker they get, the better off we are. It has been an exciting summer to watch them and they are just going to continue to get better. I expect that they will improve dramatically in the first two, three weeks of the season.'

Which area do you have the most confidence in? What has been the biggest surprise?
'We obviously have an excellent quarterback. We have a big-time tailback. We have guys who can catch the football coming out of the backfield spot. These were really the things I was counting on and they have done nothing to disappoint me. Carson Palmer has done nothing to let me down. I think he is really in control of the offense and we are really expecting him to be the deliveryman here. The biggest surprise is our secondary. I think it is going to be a really good group. We have depth and we have playmakers. Everyone in the secondary can catch the ball and hit the field for us. I am real anxious to see them perform, especially against San Jose State.'

Concerns...
'I think the concern is still at linebacker. Making sure that these guys are up to speed and prepared. And our concerns with the kicking game will not be put to rest until they have a chance to go out there and perform.'

What are the players' attitudes towards San Jose State?
'I don't think it matters who we play first. This team is ready to play football and ready to get out there. San Jose State obviously grabs your attention because there's no question as to how good they are. They beat TCU last year, they knocked off Stanford and they had a tremendous opportunity to knock of SC on the road. We just want to play great football and it does not matter who we are up against.'

Goals...
'It is really important to us that we approach the season wanting to win every game. We want to play them one at a time so that we can get rolling. I want to see us play real good football so that we can really find out how good we are. I don't think they played real good football last year so you never saw what this team was capable of. If we can do that then we will be well prepared for our conference.'

Regarding how the team will enter the field...
'We are doing a lot of things differently and it is important that we make changes. There are also important things this team has to recognize. I want them to clearly understand that they have a responsibility to what they represent. I want them to be connected to the people that we represent. Walking into the Coliseum is a very special experience and I want them to see that.'

How do you address taking care of the football after last year?
'You address it in every way you can. I have tried to teach them to understand the significance of the football and what it means in regards to your ability to win games. I want them to understand that everything about the game has to do with taking care of the football. Our play is based around the philosophy that it is all about taking care of the football.'

What has been the fan reaction?
'I have had nothing but extremely positive support from the people I have come in contact with... and not just from the alumni at Trojan functions. The support has been wonderful and I think people can sense that there is a new energy around this team. I hope our fans can see it when we play.'

Regarding the new offense...
'We are going to ask our guys in these first few weeks to do things that they have done over and over again so that they have the best opportunity to perform at their best. It will take time to implement everything. It does not do us any good to have a great idea that we can't execute. We've touched base with all the concepts that are necessary, both on offense and defense, but all of these concepts are not available to us yet. That is really going to take some time until the players feel comfortable using it all.'

'The best players don't win - it's the players that play best.'

Comments on special teams...
'I have a lot of respect for San Jose State's special teams. They are experienced and that is one aspect of their team that has not changed. It will be a great test for our guys. We have a lot of good players on our special teams but they will be tested on Saturday.'

Regarding injuries to Faaesea Mailo, Malaaefou MacKenzie and Matt Grootegoed..
'We will be able to make a decision in the next couple of days. I can not say conclusively. We are going to take it a little slow with some of these guys, especially since they have missed the last two weeks, but we are going into the ballgame expecting that they will be on the field with us.'

Status of the No. 2 quarterback...
'Right now we are real pleased with both Matt Cassel and Matt Leinart. There isn't a clear-cut No. 2 and we have told them that we are thrilled that they are making such great progress. They both have their own strengths so it may be a gut feeling I go with if I have to choose. They both have performed well at camp and Matt Leinart has been a real surprised seeing how he has been able to catch up with the rest in such little time.'

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