Pete Carroll Orange Bowl Press Conferences Quotes

Dec. 30, 2004

December 30, 2004

FEDEX ORANGE BOWL 2005 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

A Press Conference With: COACH Pete Carroll

COACH Pete Carroll:
Good morning. We have arrived on the scene here and we're really fired up about being part of the Orange Bowl, the buildup, the preparation. This whole process is really exciting for us, and this is something we -- as a coach and as a player you hope you have an opportunity to take part in, and now that we're here, we're underway with the processes rolling, and I'm sure the game is going to come in a flash, but right now we're trying to get settled and our football week in order. The day kind of kicks us into the full preparation process, big Tuesday practice for us, and we're excited about this and ready to get going.

I think the obvious perspective you see in this game is that this is such a great match-up of two teams that have had really successful seasons and have like strengths. We both play defense well and both have big time Heisman quarterbacks and flashy running backs and very exciting teams, so I think it makes a great match-up. We all want to see what's going to happen, myself included, and we look forward to it with great anticipation, and hopefully our preparation will be worthy of the event and make it a great game and it will be up to the billing that we're all enjoying right now during this week.

Q.
What's your philosophy practicing for a game like this? Do you scrimmage a lot? Do you have a lot of physical practice? How do you go about such a big game with so many other games under your belt?

COACH Pete Carroll:
This is a week that we're finally into game week that we would treat exactly like we would treat a regular season game. As we go back, last week was the game plan week to get it all done before we got on the road and got into an unfamiliar setting here, and we wanted to make sure that all the heavy teaching and learning was done prior to arriving here at the site.

Prior to that, the two weeks before that, we really just worked on our own football, competing against ourselves, just to keep our game sharp and hopefully not take a step backwards during the long break. We took a look at the whole -- almost a month of preparation as a competition that we're up against, Oklahoma, as they compete to put their best team and preparation forward, but as we get closer to the game, and now it is finally into the full week prior to the game, we do things exactly the same as we always do. We don't alter our plan at all in terms of who we're playing. It's really about preparing ourselves, so we're clear about that.

Even with the different days and different formula that comes out when you're on the road like this, we can get that same feeling that we have to get each day that has meaning to us as we build up for it.

Q.
LenDale White looked a little tender yesterday at practice. If he can't go for you, what does that do for your offense?

COACH Pete Carroll:
You'll get to see a lot more of Reggie Bush basically. I don't know that that's a bad thing for us. He's such a great football player that we'll have an opportunity to run him more and he'll just get a more steady diet of the football. You'll see Desmond Reed play, David Kirtman will play in that spot as well if LenDale is not ready to go.

Q.
You mentioned this briefly in your opening statement, but there's such star power in this game, especially the skill positions. There's defensive ends that are all-Americans, linebackers that are all-Americans. Just wondering if you could expound on that, go through those positions, where they are --

COACH Pete Carroll:
I think you can just about go anyplace on the charts and find guys that have done special things, and it takes I think that kind of production, I know defensively on both teams there's guys that make plays -- the linebackers are tremendously active, the defensive backs are producers and they're making big hits and making plays on the ball.

You can go across the board. That's how we've both played. Our numbers are so comparable in points allowed and yardage and all of those areas on both sides that it takes the same kind of makeup. I think each time has a little bit different setting with maybe experience. They're obviously way more experienced on the offensive line than we are. We have a very young group. We might have a little more experience in a couple areas, but we're a very young team and they might out-experience us in most spots.

To look at like our linebacking crew and compare Lofa Tatupu and Lance Mitchell and our Cody and their Cody, it's pretty fun. You can write articles and find subjects that are really fun to compare all the way throughout. I think we're just so darn similar in our makeup of trying to play really good defense and really fast defenses, we go after the same kinds of players to fill out squads. There's just a ton of similarities.

Q.
Being No. 1 going into the season, staying there the whole year, was the team able to enjoy what they did, or was there a sense of relief after every game that they won that they were still in that position.

COACH Pete Carroll:
Yeah, I worked real hard to try and not lay that burden on them, and it was a challenge all year to deal with the normal kind of wrath of questioning and issues about being the No. 1 spot and all that. I think we maintained a pretty level head about it throughout as a football team. We really tried to enjoy the wins and have a great time in the locker room and in the buildup and enjoy the accomplishments and they came by. Didn't look at it as a big sigh of relief after every game, until the last game. The last game was a little bit different in that you're trying to cap it off and finish it.

Other than that, it was real important to me to keep it on a game-to-game basis and not look at the whole season, not look at the No. 1 ranking and all that. We didn't talk about that at all during the season. It wasn't that much different in the last couple years. Going through the rigors of the schedule and the match-ups and all of that didn't take on much of a different flavor except for the questions that are always pointed at what's it like and how are you handling it and stuff like that. As far as we were concerned, it really wasn't that difficult in that regard. I thought it would be more of a burden, and it wasn't. We tried to enjoy it for the fact that we had that opportunity as much as anything.

Q.
Matt Leinart has had attention all year, but now he's the Heisman Trophy winner. Do you feel he'll be able to handle all that additional attention and why do you feel confident about him?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Matt really has been in the spotlight all year. If you look back to the buildup of the first game against Virginia Tech, he went in built as a Heisman Trophy hopeful and all that kind of stuff. He's had that to live with for the entire year and has done it very well. I think his experience as a backup to Carson Palmer and watching Carson deal with the whole thing, even to all of the stuff about being on Sports Illustrated and going into the bowl game as the Heisman winner, all of the issues that are -- you guys are able to write about in regards to guys in the past, and to see Carson be successful and had a handle it well has all been part of an experience that has helped him, a very unique opportunity, now looking back that he got to watch one of his best friends and helped support him and take him through, as well.

I think Matt is as well versed as you can be, and the media following when you play at SC, it's enormous, and you have a tremendous amount of opportunity to get comfortable with the media and the involvement that brings. Matt has handled it beautifully. He's a level-headed kid, very poised young man, and it hasn't been a problem for him. It has been one that he had to deal with.

We had to find ways for him to get comfortable as he went through the week. We had to keep it in order and make a structure because he could have been overburdened by it. We found a way to deal with it and he's done well, and I think he's just -- in a normal fashion there will be a little bit of nervousness. He knows he's representing something really to be proud of, carrying the Heisman in there, but I think Matt will do very well with it and I'm confident that he'll be able to handle it fine.

Q.
When you look across the line of scrimmage and see such a mirror image, does that make it easier to prepare because of all the familiarity or does it make it tougher to find a crack in the armor?

COACH Pete Carroll:
I think it makes it more difficult. This team is so well-versed in all areas. The familiarity helps in some regard, but you've still got to play against these guys and they've got great players that can make great things happen. The difficulty is being successful on the game field at the end. It's been -- it's always fun to go against coaches that have had great success and people that you know and that you've respected. To me that's always the most fun, going against guys that you're familiar with and to compete against them.

The buildup has been really a challenge. Hopefully we've challenged them, as well, but I think in the end, the fact that they're so fast and they're so athletic and they're so good, that kind of overrides the fun of the quest to try and figure out how to beat them. We'll see how it all turns out.

Q.
Early in your career you were involved in one of the most memorable Orange Bowls when Arkansas upset Oklahoma in 78. Could you talk a little bit about what you remember about that experience?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Yeah, I do remember a lot about that because it was the first time that I had in my coaching career that I had been in a big match-up, big bowl game opportunity. That was really a store I had year for me going to Arkansas and leaving California with Coach Holtz and Monte Kiffin and all those guys on that great staff, and we had an incredible year that led us to the great match-up in this game.

But even more than that, we had a big incident that Lou had to deal with and had to suspend three players prior to coming down here. Oklahoma had an extraordinary team that year with just all-time legendary Oklahoma football players, and it was just like a David-and-Goliath type of match, little Arkansas going against Oklahoma was kind of what it felt like going in.

What really was fascinating about the game was how dominant we were able to be that night, and it was really about an extraordinary preparation. Monte Kiffin had left the numbers on the board when we left the locker room in Fayetteville, and he just about called the score and the yards and the whole thing, and it was incredible he could do it. It was within seven or eight yards, the points that they would score and all that. It was just an orchestration of a great event.

It was really memorable, the first time coming out here and the way we were treated. It was kind of a magical experience for a young kid. I mean, I was just GA'ing on the staff. I had nothing to do other than carrying Monte's papers around and his notebooks and stuff like that, and it was really something special. It was a big national game because it was a shocker upset and all.

Q.
I wonder if you could reflect back on your year away from football, the year before you took over at USC and how you feel like being away from football might have helped you become a better coach after you came back.

COACH Pete Carroll:
That really was an important year for me. I took a look at what retirement is and found out that I didn't like it. It was ten months down from football that was fun. I enjoyed the time, but I realized I'm not ready to do that, and I found the opportunity to get kind of refueled and I really did have some profound opportunity to get my football in order. I had enough time for the first time in all the years I've been coaching to really sit back and reorganize my thoughts and beliefs and get ready for the next opportunity.

I was really clear that if I had another chance to be head coach it was going to be my last chance, and I knew I had to get my act in order and give it my best shot, so it was a very meaningful time for me. I had a particularly important opportunity when -- to get ready for the jobs that were coming up and getting organized for interviews and all of that. I went through a process of reorganizing my thoughts and belief systems that it made a difference. It's made a big difference in the way I do things now. Without that opportunity, I don't think I would have been as in order as I am now about what I'm doing. So it was a very important time. As I look back, it was a really special time.

When you coach and you're on that treadmill that you're just flying all the time, you don't get the opportunity to reflect and to reorganize and to put your mind on the overall picture of how you want to do this job and kind of run your life, and it was just a very meaningful time for me. I had a lot of fun with it. I realized I don't want to do it. I don't want to be retired, but the other side I think I came out with a very clear thought and wound up with an extraordinary opportunity at SC to kind of revisit how to be head coach. It was very fun for me.

Q.
A couple weeks ago some kid from Oklahoma said some things about Leinart or something. Do you use that stuff? Do you discount it? Do you talk to your players about not engaging in that sort of thing?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Well, over the course of the years there's been times when stuff like that comes out, so it's not a big deal and we don't make a big deal about it. It's competitive. I can't tell you that some guys it doesn't juice them up a little bit. We don't do that. You don't see our team making many comments like that, but comments and thoughts can be turned, as the media can do, and sometimes they're not reflective of what you say or what you really meant, so we take them really with a grain of salt.

But in the classic fashion, we don't have a bulletin board where we post stuff but that's the kind of stuff that would go on a bulletin board when it comes around. Does it have a big impact? No, I don't think so at all.

Q.
Who are some of the coaches that you've either played for or worked under that have kind of influenced your style and how you've patterned yourself after?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Going all the way back to the start I had a high school Coach Bob Traubman that I worked for years in his camps and he kind of got me started. Eight years in a row going to football camp kind of got me started from the time I was 13 years old. I go way back to there.

As I came through my years, everybody had some influence in one way or another. One of the great guys that influenced me that I don't talk about is a guy name Bobby Cope that passed away a few years ago that mentored me through my college coaching years.

I really had a really great fortune that first stopped with Lou Holtz at Arkansas, really got things jumpstarted for me, how to approach college football on a big scale with fantastic coaches on that staff. Monte Kiffin has been on that staff and has been a great friend of mine for years and has influenced me tremendously through all I've done coaching defense and remains that kind of a friend.

I've really had a really favorite time when I was with Bud Grant at Minnesota, although it was really only one year coaching with Bud, but it was consulting, and he kind of took me under his wing and had a tremendous influence on it, about competing and how to go about it. He was a great person and I had a great opportunity to hang out with him, so he kind of kicked me in the butt and gave me some direction.

Then I think the years at San Francisco when George Seifert was the head coach and we had great teams and Bill Walsh returned as a consultant the last year I was there, to be involved in that program and have those guys to use as resources to uncover how they had done it and had that great run for all of those years and had affected so much coaching around the NFL and college football from guys who had been through there and part of that lineage, that was really a significant time for me about reorganizing thoughts and approaching and all that.

I think those guys really had it going obviously, so that was a big time for me, to just grow as a coach and understand how to get organized and be in a position of leadership and have a real plan in mind. They were fantastic with that. Those are some of the highlights.

Q.
When you arrived at SC, what was the first thing you found out you needed to get done?

COACH Pete Carroll:
I needed to get to that first press conference because they were after me. That was my first challenge. Really as a coach there, the first thing was to instill a real regard and respect for team and the power of team, just in real classic fashion, how to put something ahead of yourself and put the individual in a following position to what team was all about and playing together and the power that you can generate by guy who decides to be committed to that kind of an approach. That was really the main emphasis and impetus of getting this thing started.

Q.
I know the game is several days away, but I'm curious about the thoughts about a couple of the keys, a couple things that will be important come game day.

COACH Pete Carroll:
You're really trying to help those Oklahoma guys, aren't you (laughter)? For us it's always about -- the general key for us is to stay focused on doing the things that we always do to get ready for a game and not get distracted by the match-up and the hype and the buildup of this game. That's the challenge that we take into every week, so that's the first thing. As far as the football is concerned, it'll always be about taking care of the ball. In a game like this somebody is going to knock the ball out and it's going to be on the ground and we've got to do our part to ensure that we're not the ones that give up those opportunities and that we can maximize getting that ball.

That's been by far the key focus of our football, our actual football, taking care of the football, again, and it's the No. 1 emphasis of our program and it will be again in this game. That's something that we've always strived to be really good at. I think we'll probably be the factor in this game, as well.

That and I think in a game like this, it's going to be a game -- players are going to make things happen in a special way. Their quarterback can do great things, running back can do great things, defense can do great things, and we're going to have to withstand those moments and stay focused and hang in the game so we have a chance to win in the 4th quarter and not be overwhelmed by whatever can happen early. That's just the mindset that we need to take into a game like this and every game that we play.

If we're strong about that and continue to play well through the end, we'll give ourselves a chance to win.

Q.
So often in a national title game, even if both offenses are high-powered it becomes low-scoring. Do you see that happening?

COACH Pete Carroll:
That's the way I always see it happening. I try to hold that focus throughout until it isn't true. It quite likely could be. You've got high-powered offenses but you've got defenses that have worked for a month to get this thing in check. Both defenses are able to do that.

I've always felt that no matter how high-powered an offense is, the defense really in these kinds of settings can maybe be the biggest factor, so we're going to try and keep that game down to a roar if we can offensively and give ourselves a chance to be close enough in the 4th quarter to have a chance to win it. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the game was pretty tight.

On the other side, there's not an offensive coach on either side of this game that doesn't think we're not going to score points and put up big numbers. It's on the parts of the defensive guys to keep that from happening.

Q.
I was hoping you could talk about Norm Chow a little bit and how important he's been these last few years, and what are your theories on why he's never gotten that head coaching spot and do you think you're getting close to losing him now to one of those spots?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Norm has had an extraordinary career in college. He's got so many great highlights and record-setting teams and individuals, and he's been nothing but about winning the whole time he's been coaching college football.

I think the focus on Norm's impact always goes to the quarterbacks and the great ones he's had and the great passers he's developed and he's done it exactly in that fashion at SC. I think the guy is as clear-cut a legacy as you could ever want. He's a quarterback-maker.

Norm has been offered head coaching jobs since we've been at SC. Each year he's had an opportunity to be involved and for one reason or another it hasn't worked out right from his perspective or the other school's perspective, and he'll be a head coach when he wants to be. I think he's got plenty of clout and impact to do that.

I don't think he's a guy that -- he's not just chomping at the bit to be head coach. He's doing what he likes. He's running an offense. He's very comfortable with that, and he's not a guy that lives for that head coaching opportunity. He'll take it when the time is right and it fits.

I've understood that since the first phone call I had with Norm that that would be the situation he'd be in, and I don't have any problem with the fact that people come around knocking on the door or calling him or whatever. He deserves that, and his work shows that he's worthy of that. That's part of what goes along with being successful, that we're going to have people come after our coaches, and I expect that to happen and just have to be well prepared to handle it and adjust and make the decisions to keep us moving forward and maintain our continuity. I don't worry about that.

Q.
You mentioned in your year off, you talk about your reorganizing your thoughts. What changed in your philosophy? And also, the enthusiasm that the players say they really like about you in practice, did you find that didn't jive in the NFL?

COACH Pete Carroll:
That's two totally different questions there. Really I'll give you the story again. I've told the story a few times. There was a moment when I was reading one of John Wooden's books when something hit me about belief systems and the power of knowing exactly what you want to get done, and Coach Wooden had been so successful for years but it took him until the 17th year to win his first National Championship. Once he won that one, he won 10 of the next 11 years, once he figured out exactly the way it needed to be.

This is my perspective, I haven't asked Coach Wooden to explain this, but once he figured it out, he nailed it. It just was a moment when I just realized, I won't have 17 years to get this thing figured out. I'll be kicked out and coaching back at Redwood High School or something, but I needed to get it nailed.

Really to me it's about the phrase of belief systems, really knowing what you feel about stuff so that you can carry your philosophy through the times when you're challenged and you need to adjust and all that. I just tried to figure that out as best I could and become really clear with what I thought was important, and I had enough time in that off season to get it worked out, and I've tweaked since then.

I didn't have it nailed at that point, but I did have the significance of knowing what you believe in and what is important to you is really the essence of figuring out how you can best do your job. It's meant all the difference to me. I'm much more settled from the point of how I'm going to do things and handle situations and coach and lead and mentor and all those things.

The other question was about style in the NFL. You know, I'm not coaching any different at all. I'm just better at what I'm doing and I'm more clear about my message that I'm trying to convey, and I think I'm better versed and better at doing it so the guys who have to hear it and have to learn, I facilitate that process. I think when I was a head coach in the NFL, I'm doing the same approach, same philosophy and the same enthusiasm or whatever you want to call it or energy, and I can't change that. That's who I am. I'm not tailoring anything that I am to the level that I'm coaching at.

But I'm better at it. The signal and the messages are more clear.

I think like in all positions where you lead and you have a chance to be in charge of something, the best way to do it is the way you know how to best. You can't do it like somebody else. You can't try to imitate somebody or you're going to fail and they're going to break you down and find that you've got holes in your approach. You have to do it authentically to who you are. If you don't, you're going to screw it up.

I think you can be effective wherever you go and I think I could take my approach down to anything I was going to do and it's going to have a chance to be successful because I'm going to do it the best way I know how and do it well. Until you figure out what that is and what you're doing, it's a mess. It's hard being a head coach. This is a very difficult job if you don't know what you think. I've been through that. I found that out.

Q.
Could you talk a little bit about your corner backs and particularly in terms of match-up against some taller receivers that Oklahoma is going to present?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Our guys are what they are. They've faced guys throughout the schedule, Justin Wyatt is having a terrific year, playing left corner for us, and Eric Wright has elevated himself to start in his red shirt freshman year, and he's about a six footer. Justin is about 5'10', so those guys are -- they have what they have. What we will do is mix our coverages and make sure that we don't get locked into any one style of playing that allows your opponent to take advantage of it, as we always do, and not give them a real sure target at any one time.

It doesn't matter how tall your guys are or how big they are, I think you have to do that anyway.

They're very skilled and they're very deep at receiving. They're really adept at making plays at the ball, and we're going to have to be very aggressive at the point where the ball comes in and those guys will catch the football and make plays. It's been a highlight of the team that we don't hear much talk about, but Clayton has been phenomenal at just making things happen. When it looks like a guy wouldn't make a play or it may be in question, and all through the cranks their guys can do things, catching and running, getting the football and doing things on rhythm with normal route-running.

We're extremely challenged in this match-up because they're so good.

Q.
I wonder if you could talk about the running style, maybe the ball carrying style of Reggie Bush, compare and contrast with Adrian Peterson?

COACH Pete Carroll
: Both guys really have a style. Adrian has a real classic style, got great speed. He has terrific strength and size for a guy that's that fast and he just slashes and it's very hard to bring him down. He's not easily knocked off his feet, runs through tackles, has real long legs and steps out of tackles extremely well and then has the great burst to finish.

One of the things that's cool about him is he is so consistent in his effort as he runs, from the time he started the season all the way through the end of the season. What you saw at the beginning, you saw at the end. He is a naturally gifted football player with a great intensity for such a young kid. He's going to be an all-timer, however many years he plays. He'll have great numbers and he'll play in the NFL forever. It's in the cards for him.

Reggie has a different style and he has such extraordinary speed and explosion. Reggie has a remarkable ability to change direction at top speed. His lateral movement is just phenomenal. His vision to make big plays out of nothing, he can see things before it's happening almost and create opportunities to run also makes him a guy who is kind of the big little guy at times. Sometimes he'll lose yards in his attempts to make his big plays, so these two guys are really different style.

Adrian is much more down field, Reggie is a really flashy broken field type of guy. Both are extremely exciting guys to watch, and really fun guys to -- Reggie in particular is a fun guy to have on your team.

Q.
Did Dave Wannstedt talk to you about making the transition from coaching pros to --

COACH Pete Carroll:
We did talk quite a while back after he left the Dolphins and had a nice visit. He was curious about it and kind of wondering what to expect and that kind of stuff. Really kind of innocent fashion, what was it like and all that kind of stuff, kind of cute questions about recruiting or handling the kids and that kind of thing.

At the time he was just kind of feeling his way, probably getting his direction set on what he was going to do and all, but I was flattered that he called and it was kind of fun to talk about it.

Q.
Back on Coach Chow for a second, can you explain y'all's working relationship? Do you turn the reins over to him and get out of his way or how exactly --

Pete Carroll:
That's really not how it's been. We have worked together throughout the time we've been there. As a matter of fact, early on we didn't as much because we were both trying to get stuff going, but once we got organized we spent a tremendous amount of time together. I felt like early on knowing that Norm's stature and other coaches that were coming onto our staff, other guys would be leaving, and I didn't want to be in a program that was beholden to an individual, if he left we'd lose something.

I really dove into the offense between years one and two and really had one of the most fun opportunities to kind of get my stuff in order offensively so it would be USC's offense and not anyone's offense. The goal of our program is to see how long we can maintain a high level of play, and to be beholden to a guy's system would not allow that to happen.

I dug into it and we created an approach and a philosophy that would be SC's offense, so Norm has been incredibly easy to work with and compliant in dealing with me and my craziness and the way I do stuff and coming out and making it hard on him at times because I'm doing the defensive thing and working to make sure we're getting what we had set out to do done on offense. I couldn't have asked for a guy to do a better job of helping me be a part of the philosophy and the theory behind what we're doing.

It really has been something I'm very proud of in our years because we really did restructure what we did offensively in the time I've been there. I like our offense, the flexibility and the multiplicity of it and our ability to adapt to our individual players' strengths. Something Norm and I both believe in in coaching that you should do in general and we have the opportunity with different style parts to Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart and Mike Williams and Stevie Smith all the way back to Sonny Byrd and LenDale White and Reggie Bush and Justin Wyatt, we've been able to have enough flexibility to adapt what we're doing to the strengths that they brought, and I think it's accelerated our ability to find the potential of our kids and how they can help our football team win. It's been a real important approach to us and it's worked out quite well.

You can just see the difference, how we use LenDale and how we use Reggie and how we use our tight ends. We really try to style things to their strengths. It allows them to perform at a high level sooner, and we've seen a lot of young kids play in our program because of that.

Anyway, it's been one of my favorite aspects of being at SC is being able to factor into what we're doing offensively and putting it together in an order that I can believe in and will be able to sustain what we do -- have to deal with losing coaches and all.

Q.
What difference, if any, does it make to have had guys who have played in a national title game before, and along those lines, does it make a difference just having familiarity with this particular game in South Florida?

COACH Pete Carroll:
I think all of that helps us as much as it can. I mean, I think -- I tried to make a big deal about playing in the Virginia Tech game, because it was going to be a huge crowd and a bowl game setting, and in my mind it was going to be very similar to the game we could possibly be playing at the end of the year, this one we're in. Fortunately it's turned out that way. As a coach you try to use those teachable moments to try to strengthen your resolve and give you reason to be confident, and I think all of that is what makes the season really a benefit to being in this position that we're in because we've tried to stage each opportunity in a manner that we could learn from it and grow from it and become more confident.

Well, the same thing goes from being here now. We've been here before. As I mentioned, we played in the game at the Rose Bowl last year that had tremendous impact and we survived that and worked our way through the season with our new team and had our ups and downs to make it through our season with great opportunities to learn.

Now we come here in a setting where we are familiar with playing in the Orange Bowl. We are familiar with where we're practicing, staying, and all of those things I think add to our comfort and going through the process to minimize the distractions and maximize the opportunity to make the most of it.

All of those things have helped. They help if you use them. If you don't go back and reflect on how these things could strengthen your approach and confidence, I think you miss it, but we've tried to -- I've tried to make sure and maximize all of the things that have given us the opportunity to be where we are and to be strong about this chance that we have and to perform well in these conditions and situations.

Q.
Grootegoed and his size has thrived at linebacker for you, and I want you to talk about why that was. And also, when you got there, you moved him from safety to linebacker. Is that kind of a good example of your defensive philosophy?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Well, I hope it's a good example of just our philosophy in general, trying to find spots where guys can do their best and don't get stuck on pigeon-holing guys. Really what happened with Matt, and he played safety through the first spring, and when spring was over, I made highlight films of all the players, what they had done, that showed their abilities and talents, good and bad. It was more of an evaluation film than a highlight film. Matt's film was about four plays long.

I called him in and said, 'Matt, you're supposed to be this great talented high school player, best player in Southern California. I can't find it, where is it?' He didn't know. I was asking for some answers that I couldn't find, and he was out of position. He wasn't in the right spot. He's an extraordinarily instinctive guy that needs to be close to the football.

When you play safety in our system, sometimes you're close but sometimes you're not. You're deep middle and all that, and it took Matt too far away from the football. If anybody from the NFL said should Matt be a safety, absolutely not; in my experience, he's a linebacker. He's a very gifted, savvy, instinctive, tough, play-making kid that needs to be as close to the football as possible. That's really what it was. It fits his nature and his mentality, and he has obviously excelled in the switch.

The fact that he's 220 pounds, he doesn't hit like that. He doesn't play like that. He's got extraordinary strength and explosiveness, and he plays beyond that. It's really a special aspect of what he's all about as a football player. Anyway, that's what that story is all about.

Q.
You mentioned Mike Williams a little bit ago, and I was just wondering, do you expect him to be on the sideline Tuesday, and what effect has there been just having him around to whatever extent he has been around practices and games, and how proud are you of the way he's handled this fall as opposed to say the guy at Ohio State?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Well, first off, Mike was an incredible -- incredibly productive player for us in the two years. I don't think there's anybody that's ever had more numbers in his first two years as a received in the history of college football. For us to have played without him this season, I think we never have imagined that we could play without Mike because he had been such a factor in building the program and getting our winning ways going.

Fortunately we were able to do that and handle that. Mike has not been part of the program other than early on when we were still awaiting the verdict from the NCAA. He really kind of backed out and I think in really classy fashion. He didn't want to try to take any of the limelight, which he would have done had he been around, so he gracefully bowed out and has stayed away and has stayed connected but he's done it from afar. I don't know if he's coming to the game. I haven't heard from him this game. I would think he might be around.

I think Mike is a remarkable young man, and he has the ability and the vision to kind of figure out how things are going to fit together as he looks ahead and looks down the road. He made a big mistake in missing this football season, but he still has had a perspective in a way that he does handle things well. He's dealt with this in a classy fashion and he has let the young guys on our football team have their space and hasn't tried to take any attention away from them at all, and I think in that regard he's done a great job.

Particularly when you think of a young guy who was one of the focal point guys in college football, and he could have been on the cover of magazines all year long and all of that. He had to deal without that all year long, and he's done it very well. I know he's working out hard getting ready for his opportunity in the NFL and he's going to try to maximize this time to try to make it as far as he can and to compete to do that, so I think Mike has handled it as well as he could.

I'm sick about the fact that he missed playing this year. I think he only could have bettered himself by doing that, and the decisions that were made didn't allow for that to happen, so I'll always feel bad about that because I failed at making it clear to him that this would happen the way it did, and we kind of knew that.

On the other side of it, he's going to make the best of it and have a chance to play in the league and he'll do well with it and somebody is going to get a heck of a football player.

Q.
Given the uncertainty with Mike going into the season, the injury to Smith, did you foresee Dwayne Jarrett having the impact that he had over the course of the season? Did you think it was going to be down the road?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Well, in recruiting, this is exactly what we had hoped would happen. We had seen it happen before with Mike when he was a freshman, and these are very similar athletes, very talented, big kids that could have a similar kind of impact on the game. This is what we would hope would have happened for Dwayne. Whether it did or not, we just had to wait and see. As soon as we got him on the practice field you could see he was he was a gifted receiver. He's got extraordinary hands, great catching range, confidence in his ability. He'll make tons of great plays through his career and be highly productive.

In one regard, we didn't get the ball to him as much as we had dreamed we do in the situation without Mike because Mike caught 70 balls or something his first year, and I think Dwayne has had 50. He's had a tremendous touchdown impact, big play impact, has been a big player for us all year.

As we enter into -- we go through our recruiting philosophy, we look for this to happen. We expect this to happen with the guys that we recruit. We talk that way to our guys because we've validated that it will and it will continue to happen. You don't know which guys it's going to be, which guys can handle the situation in the quick transition they have to make from high school to college, but Dwayne has done a remarkable job for us.

If you had said to me going into the season, okay, you're going to play without Keary Colbert, without Mike Williams and Steve Smith is going to miss seven games and you'll be able to win all your games, I never would have expected that. I was expecting Steve would have to catch 90 balls and be without Mike and the loss of Keary Colbert. How our guys found a way to contribute and did what they we needed to do and we were able to rally without those guys and find a way to put it together, so it's been an interesting year to see how this has unfolded.

Q.
If Mike had been able to play, given Dwayne's reported homesickness, do you think that he would have been here? Do you think he would have still been in the program?

COACH Pete Carroll:
I think it would have been easier for Dwayne if Mike has been there. Mike would have -- I know he would have taken him under his wing and would have been a kid from Florida, East Coast guy, as well, I think it would have made it easier for him. I think there's a lot of Dwayne early on that we couldn't avoid. He was deserving of the opportunity, worthy of playing in that spot. There was a lot of pressure on him.

Imagine as a kid, he's homesick, trying to struggle to maintain stature in the program and we're playing against Virginia Tech 91,000 fans opening game and he's got to catch the first ball. It's all you could put on a kid. It was more than you could expect a guy to handle. But he did it, survived it, made it through and has had a wonderful season. I know that he's grateful that he hung in there and figured it out, and the support and the direction that the guys gave him. Mike included, in helping him figure out that this was the right thing for him to do will always be rewarding to him.

Q.
To some degree last year you were where Auburn is now. Do you feel for them at all?

COACH Pete Carroll:
I totally understand what it's like in that there's only two teams that can play in this game. You know, I really didn't have a problem with it. Everybody thinks I'm harboring these deep, serious feelings that we got a raw deal. That's just the way it is. There's two teams, and the system didn't work right in my opinion, and maybe in Tommy's perspective the system didn't work right for them. They deserve to feel that. I think that's just part of it. There's nothing you can do about it. There's only so many spots and you've got to fill them with the system that's at hand, and we need to continue to work the system to make it as close to flawless or flawless if we can do it and that's not going to happen so there's always going to be issues. You either live with it and make the most of your opportunity or you complain and you might make a mistake and misstep there along the way.

I'm sure that they're fired up about their game and they're going to do everything they can. They weren't the only team that had a hard tournament with the results of the BCS and the whole thing. I understand it absolutely, but our way of doing it, we're going to maximize what we have the opportunity to deal with, and fortunately we were able to do that in the Rose Bowl last year.

Q.
I have two questions that really have nothing to do with each other. The first question is what you think should happen to the BCS in the wake of AP pulling out, and the second question is probably in the last three weeks a half a dozen coaches have cracked the $2 million salary mark. Just your thoughts on the escalating salary question.

COACH Pete Carroll:
I understand so little about the BCS process. What would the AP do after they pulled out? They're still going to have a poll. Why wouldn't they use it anyways? I have no suggestions for the BCS. I don't get it. You're coming to the wrong place. I don't know how to help them.

Next, on the thing about escalating salaries for coaches, we see this throughout big-time sports, whether you're in the professional ranks or the college ranks. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that guys do something like this and coach and get paid as much as they get paid for doing something so much fun and that they love doing, but it's a beautiful thing, I guess.

Is it out of whack or is it out of balance? Yeah, I think it is sometimes. I think it's crazy to imagine that guys that are playing this game at a professional level and can get paid as much as they do, but the system allows it so that it happens.

It's the same thing for college coaches. With the incredible amounts of money that the NFL coaches are making that just happened like with Nick and the guys that get to move on, in relationship I guess these numbers are just trying to continue to compete, and you've got to pay what you've got to pay to get the guys that you want. It's certainly not a bad thing for the coaching world.

Q.
One of your assistants is a local guy here, Dennis Slutak. Could you talk about the job that he's done?

COACH Pete Carroll:
Slu has had a fantastic two years for us. He is a great worker, he's got a great future in coaching. Dennis has a real knack for organization, and when you work with and feature special teams, administration and organization, and the discipline of all that is incredibly important, and Dennis has done a great job for us. I will be real excited to watch him go through his career and continue on. He's got some real highlights coming up.

Q.
With these two evenly matched teams, there's a very good chance that it could come down to a kick at the very end and coachStoops has benched DiCarlo in favor of two freshman who have never kicked a field goal before, and Ryan's had his roughest year statistically of the three, do you have any concern if it was to come down to that and what do you tell him if you're down by two?

COACH Pete Carroll:
I'm always concerned about the guy kicking the ball. To Ryan's credit, if you look at the games that have the biggest build-up to them, he's kicked his best. He's come through for us and really had a terrific career. He's finished the season on a high note and really been on the mark, had a great year kicking off for us.

So I expect that he's kicking the ball well in practice. He has throughout the build-up to arriving here in Miami. I think he's going to make all the kicks and do what we need to do to win the game, and the decisions will be dictated by all of the conditions and situations that exist at the moment.

If we have to kick the winning field goal and we need an extra point to win the game, I'm going to count on him to make his kicks because he'll do it.

Q.
When you took the job at SC, was Norm Chow the first guy you wanted to talk to for the coordinator's job, and also, how much had you guys crossed paths or whatever before coming to SC?

COACH Pete Carroll:
I didn't know Norm at all other than his reputation from the BYU days, but there was a few guys that I put calls out to figure out how I was going to do that. I talked to three different guys at the time. But it was a real competition to get Norm.

The thing that Norm had done that was so obviously he had gone to NC State and in one year's time was able to get Phillip Rivers to be a great football player in his freshman year. I thought that was a real indicator that it wasn't just the system and being in a comfortable setup at BYU. He was able to go to a new setting like I was going to ask him to do and be highly productive and win and generate great players for the quarterback spots, so it was a no-brainer for me, and he had proven and was obviously worthy and has come through.

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