USC-Auburn Press Conference Quotes

Aug. 26, 2003

Football Press Conference Quotes
USC vs. Auburn - Aug. 26, 2003

Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville

Team Rundown...
'It's been a good camp. We had several weeks of good contact. We made it very physical. The one thing we wanted to do was bring our younger players along and you can't do that without good contact. We had two scrimmages. It's been hot and humid, but that's part of it and we challenged our players to push through it. We had a good season last year where we improved after a slow start, and we have a few of those players back so there's a good foundation. Overall it's been good. We have not had any major injuries to the first two units and we've made some improvements. Now we just need to play a ball game. That way we can see where we are and see what we need to improve on for the season.

Thoughts on high ranking...
'When I thought about it I realized that that was the reason I came here. I've been an underdog so many times. I've been a head coach eight years and an underdog every one of them and we've handled it pretty well. We've been pretty competitive all those years. This is the first year here at Auburn where we've had all the players that we've recruited and we've made progress. We're excited that people have begun to recognize that we have made improvements. We do have talent, we do have a lot of good players and we do have depth for the first time. Because of this we have a chance to be a little more consistent than we have in the past.

On linebackers Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas...
'I coached linebackers at Miami for seven or eight years and coached players like Ray Lewis and Jesse Armstead. I don't try to compare those guys at all because every player is different, but these guys are very special. Both of them have a tremendous work ethic, great attitudes and tremendous instincts about playing football. There are some positions on a football team where you can basically get by with your athletic abilities, but linebackers have to have instinct. You have to understand what the other team is trying to do to you and how to get that over to your teammates as the quarterback of the defense. Both players have a lot of athletic ability, speed and height. They will both be tremendous athletes at the next level. Thankfully they chose to come back and play with their teammates for one final year.

On quarterback Jason Campbell...
'Jason is a product of our system. We've tried to bring him along slow even though he was forced to become a starter in his second year. That season we had some guys that decided to go elsewhere because of the coaching change and we were down to only Jason, who was coming off a redshirt season. He started a few games, including the game after 9-11 in Syracuse, N.Y., which was not a very good experience. Jason got off to a very shaky start and had some trouble that year. Last year I decided not to start him because we had put in a new offense and I felt that (then-senior) Daniel Cobb was the best one to go with because he could go through the trouble and growing pains of the new system in his final season. Midway through the season Jason took over in stride and became a good football player and a good quarterback. At this level it's just hard to pick up an offense unless you're in it. Now after three coaches and various position coaches, he really has started to pick up on things.

On four running backs...
'It's great to have. When I got to Ole Miss about eight years ago I figured out very quickly as a young head coach that you've got to have a running game. You have to have a running game to lean on. We were not that deep when I got to Auburn and we started really recruiting at the position. Our coaches have done a good job of selecting great players and getting them to come here. Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown (top two on depth chart) are two special guys that are very physical and can run outside and inside. And I'm not sure that Tre Smith (No. 3) isn't better than both of these guys. He's a young kid that came in as a freshman last year. Brandon Jacobs (No. 4) is a big guy with speed, quickness and size, but he has a lot to learn. He'll learn from the other running backs and hopefully he'll get better as the year goes on.

Looking back on last year's game against USC...
'I thought it was a good game for both of us. A lot of people have asked me if I was happy that we started against a good team, as opposed to playing a game you know you can win, but I thought it was good decision. Last year we played a very good opponent that we knew was going to be tough to beat. Coming out of there we found out very quickly where we needed to make changes. We made those changes and very steadily we improved. If we had gone out and beaten someone real bad we may have not known that we had these mismatches or problems. It was a great game for us and we enjoyed our trip. That's what we're telling our players this year. Let's go play and if we win, we'll move up in the polls. If we don't, then we'll try to work our way back up. I'm sure coach Carroll is saying the same thing.

On keeping the running backs from getting frustrated...
'You never really know what your chemistry is going to be like on a football team. If you have good chemistry, then you're going to be successful. To me, chemistry means being unselfish and knowing your roll on the team. If you're only going to carry the ball three or four times, then you have to know your roll and do it to the best of your ability. You have to be supportive of your team. I don't think we'll have any problems with these four guys because they're good friends. They understand what they are getting into and they understand that they're going to have to play their role. Everyone will get a chance to be successful because there are going to be times when some guys will get beat up and run out of gas and we'll need the next guy to step in. We've tried to go through seasons with one or two running backs and have not made it through the year. Every year defenses get bigger and stronger and the people that take the punishment are your quarterbacks and running backs. You need depth there and I wouldn't trade these guys.

Differences between the Coliseum and Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium...
'It will be every similar. Kickoff was about the same time so the lighting and the feeling will be the same. People around here really get into football, as they do in Los Angeles. But being in Los Angeles kind of reminded me of Miami - there is so much going on that the focus is not just on the football game. Here, at Auburn, everything is built around the university and our football season. There will probably be about 25,000 people outside of the stadium who won't be able to get in because they don't have tickets. Jordan-Hare Stadium is a fun place. This is where I played my first college football game as a head coach when I came here to play Terry Bowden in 1995. It's a fun college atmosphere. People get into it and they enjoy watching good football games. They appreciate that a team like USC is coming here because a lot of time you can't get the big names to come here, or to the SEC and play. It has been a good two-game series and whether we win or lose, I wouldn't trade it.'

USC Head Coach Pete Carroll

Team Rundown...
'This is a really exciting time for us. After so much talk, thoughts and dreams about the next season, we're finally there. We have such an eye-catching match-up with a terrific Auburn team and it is a big-time challenge for us. We're excited about it and the opportunity that is awaiting us. Now we have to put our best foot forward and see if we can win this football game. It will be a great indicator for us to see where we are at this time and how far we've come. Have we captured the intensity and the focus that we banked on last year with a solid football team? We'll find out where we are. It's really exciting and it's going to be an interesting environment for our kids to be in and play in. We'll benefit from this for the rest of the season because it is a tremendously difficult road schedule we have ahead of us. This is a big event and we're excited about it.

'Auburn is a fine football team. They have excellent players in key spots and returning starters in the right spots. They have a huge impacting running game and enough linemen coming back. The ball carriers really draw your attention. The quarterback played great at the end of last season. He has great stature and speed and now he has experience behind him. They have a very intense defense led by some terrific football players at the linebacker spots, including an excellent front seven. We thought we saw the best last year and they're improved now. It will take everything we got to be successful. We'll find out what happens.

On Auburn's potential weakness in the backfield...
'They are moving some people around because they lost a couple of good guys. They've shuffled their safeties and corners to try and find the right mix, but if you ever had to develop a young secondary you would want to do it with the front seven like they have. We're going to go play the game and look for our opportunities. Their corners are big and physical and they'll match-up well with our guys, so I don't think they'll have a disadvantage there. They have a number of different ways that they can play us and we'll just have to wait and see how that is. Right now it's really not about them, it's about us. We have to get our game right and play sharp and efficient football. Auburn is going to try and do everything to prove that there are no weaknesses so I expect them to be very solid.

Biggest surprises and concerns coming out of camp...
'Coming out of fall camp our biggest surprise is that the seniors are back and ready to play in the offensive line. We struggled all through camp without Jacob Rogers, Lenny Vandermade and Norm Katnik, and to see those guys just barely make it back and be ready to go is really a treat for us. In order to help our young quarterbacks and running backs, we need a lot of continuity up front like we had looked forward to. That's a real plus. I think Lofa Tatupu has been a great surprise for us now that we know we can count on him to be a real leader in our front seven. The other bright spots have been a couple of the young freshman running backs. Steve Smith has also had a great camp and he'll be in there playing. We'd like him to fill the role left by Kareem Kelly. We also know that we have running backs -- Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Chauncey Washington - that are going to play. They're coming in to this game ready to play. They've given us hope in a position where we had no one, aside from Hershel Dennis. The freshman class has really given us great depth and we have an opportunity to really prepare them for the future.

'And the same aspects we're hopeful for, we're also concerned with - the young guys. It's different playing on your home field, as opposed to going to Auburn for the first game. There are going to be some surprises for them and we'll have to see how they respond.

'But I feel good about a number of aspects. We just have to rely on some guys to grow up fast. We should be able to rely on our defense to play well week-in and week-out.

On Matt Leinart's replacement of Heisman quarterback Carson Palmer...
'It's about as drastic as you can go. Carson Palmer had a marvelous year and really benefited from the system and the players around him. What we want to have happen is to have our starting quarterback again benefit from the system and the players around him. Hopefully we are able to transition with a young guy. He's a bright kid who knows our system very well. He's been around the whole evolution of it and has shown that he knows what's going on. Now he has to settle into a game and carry that out. At one time I would have thought that Brandon Hance would have been our quarterback because of his in-game experience, but he's just had so many hardships on the physical side. Matt Cassel is right there and he will be the first guy to go in for us. Matt is a system guy. We have some great guys in the backup positions and it's even more amazing that Matt Leinart won the position over all of this. We know he can play, we just hope that he will do so despite the distractions of the game.

'Right now we are not thinking about rolling guys through. We just want to see how (Matt Leinart) fits. We know exactly how we will use the other quarterbacks and in what order they will play, but right now we just want to play the game to win and see what happens. We're going to go with our starter and support him.

The importance of Shaun Cody...
'He is a very important player for our football team. I really think that Shaun is one of those guys that helps other players play well because of his sense of the game. He has his own personal confidence. He is a very strong, competitive kid and I think he makes the other guys feel that way also. I would have never thought that we would have upheld our level of play without Shaun last year. It was a real credit to the guys around him. We are really pleased to have him back and he makes us all feel better. He knows what's going on and he knows his position extremely well.

On the Auburn game-day experience...
'There's nothing quite like a game there. There are some fantastic rivalries around there and the games are enormous events. The players will be isolated from that to a certain extent, but when they get to the stadium they'll see what it is all about. It is a rare opportunity for us and a unique experience. It will be great and very memorable. It is a very unusual part of American cultural and I think it's wonderful.

Is SC back?...
'We enjoyed a great off season for the Trojan Family and there is a lot of excitement building through our fans and our recruiting. Things have gone well up to this point, but we have not recaptured all of it. To do so you have to do something over the long term. We have to come back and be successful and put together another great football season. We have to show that we can put things together week-in and week-out. Somewhere down the line we'll look back and see that we have accomplished something.

'This is a new team and we're starting all over again. We've tried to take that approach and expect that our work ethic, focus and quality of players will take us back to where we were. It will take us about three to four weeks to find out exactly what kind of team this is. You have to be consistent to be good. To win this game would be great, but it does not mean anything until we can put some wins together. I think we're pretty level headed about that.

'You're looking at three, four or five years before you can look back and see that you're doing something good. The Rose Bowl is our goal, and if more happens after that, then that's great. That's our marker. I want to see us become a strong program where people can count on us every week.

On the potential humidity...
'We had some tremendously hot days during camp and I think that helped us prepare. As long as the temperature and humidity is the same on both sides of the field, then I'm okay. Hopefully we'll be hydrated and well prepared. We are really trying not to make a big deal of it.'

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