Pete Carroll Talks About Spring Practice
April 13, 2007
Pete Carroll - USC Trojans Head Football Coach
Press Conference Quotes
We are real pleased that spring has gone the way it has. We have had really good fortune with the tempo of practice from the first day on and it has been maintained throughout the whole springtime. We've had an extraordinary amount of opportunities to get young guys in positions to show where they fit in and show us what they can do and how they measure up with the competition getting ready for the fall. We never make final decisions on things, now is not the time to, but we do gather tons of information. The spirit that we needed to recapture the work ethic and competitiveness on our practice field was absolutely present from the first day out there. That has made it a very successful spring. We have the makings of a very good football team. We have a very athletic team with a lot of speed. I think we have enough experience in a number of areas to give us a chance to perform at a high level. I think the competition will really increase and step up when the guys come back from their rehab from off-season surgeries as well as the influx of the new kids coming in from this class coming up, which will really give us a tremendous fall camp. I think probably more so than anyone, I am excited about what it is going to feel like on the practice field with all the guys battling for their spot and making bids for playing time and their ability to help us be a championship team. We're very positive and very upbeat about and looking forward to wrapping this thing up in the next couple of days. We have a review practice today and the final scrimmage on campus tomorrow that won't be real long because we don't have all the numbers to go a long time but we will have a good healthy workout and we'll play it like a game and finalize the work that we set out to get done here. We're real fired up about it and pleased to be taking this final step here in the next couple days.
On the depth at tailback and the lack of depth at fullback
Were working through that and it's going to shift a little bit here when we get to camp. We've been able to work it out in the past where we have guys that can fit into the positions and move around. I think we have seen a tremendous spring from Stanley Havili. He is a first flight player for us and he is going to be involved in big way because we like everything he does. He blocks well, he runs with the ball well, he catches the ball really well. He has learned the system beautifully and he is way ahead of anybody else we have had in these early stages. He was just going to be a redshirt freshman for us and we are already talking about him like he's a really accomplished kid at his position. We've has some good work from out backup tight ends in the spot as well. If need be we there are guys who can fill in some spots like we did last year with Allen Bradford and Chauncey Washington. I'm not worries about the position but of course depth is an issue as you're bring up. The tailback spot is one that is going to work itself out. As you watch through spring everybody thought we had too many guys but it turns out that's not the case. We had three guys battling here in the last week and really interestingly Chauncey's come to the front and played his best football the last year for us and in the last two weeks of spring. Also, Hershel Dennis is really looking good. He had another excellent day yesterday and he's back in the mix for playing time as well, which is a real plus for us. Unfortunately Emmanuel Moody, Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable all got banged up. C.J. was doing really well. Emmanuel had a good start to the spring but just couldn't finish the competition off. We come back to camp with some questions but I'm not worried about it one bit. I'm thrilled that we have the guys that can play the spots and it looks like depth is not going to be a problem for us. We're going to work hard to keep the guys healthy and give them a chance to show what they can do--particularly the young guys coming in, they're going to get a great chance from the first day on.
On who will be the primary ball carrier
We'll find a way, whatever it comes out like in the competition to mix the players at the spot. Everybody always thinks that you've got to have one guy but I don't believe that and we've proved otherwise. I see teams in the NFL even, talking about two-back systems. There's a lot of reason for that, to keep your guys available to you and to give you the spectrum of plays and styles that different players bring to you. We really are championing the cause of finding things that get kids doing things in a special manner and mixing that into our play at all positions. At the tailback position, it's classically illustrated by Reggie Bush and LenDale White and those days. We liked that thunder and lightning thing--that worked out great for us. Both those kids were 1,000 yard kids and hugely productive. If it comes out to take two or three guys to get that done, that doesn't matter to me. We'll figure it out and I'm really not worried about it. I feel we have some great opportunities coming up here as we get everybody back to health. This is not an inexperienced group anymore. It certainly was last year but now with Chauncey and Desmond Reed able to contribute some and Hershel able to contribute for sure, we have experience. The young guys are no longer inexperienced and we have a really cool opportunity to mix some great play in there.
On Hershel Dennis' eligibility status
He has the classic situation for this six-year appeal and so with that, we're very positive that it's going to work out. We can't call the shots for the NCAA but he has the classic two-year injury. Most likely, he'll have a chance to (come back for a sixth year) and we're really counting on it.
On using Hershel Dennis' story as an NFL deterrent for potential junior entrants
We've had examples that cover the whole spectrum of how that works out. But one thing that works out is that those guys' who keep competing and keep battling, eventually do get their opportunity. It takes on different forms and shapes and fortunately for Hershel, there is an appeal process for that sixth year. Desmond is a fifth year guy as well and Chauncey is a fifth year guy so these guys have been here for a long time. They seem like they've been around since we built the stadium here or something. But it's great to have the experience and that feel around. That savvy has shown up really quickly for Hershel, just in the last week, becoming a full-speed player out there. You can just see his instincts and see his confidence and see his sense for things and it's really exciting to see him out there. There are lessons for guys that want to come out too early and get hurt by it and guys who don't come out and don't get all of the benefits. For the guys that need all of that time to prove themselves, obviously, there's a lot of time to.
On the offensive line
It's very athletic. We have good athletes throughout the depth chart. We don't have a lot depth. We're going to need the young kids to help us out in this recruiting class and they're going to be part of this depth chart. Drew Radovich started at guard and now he's starting at right tackle. He's a little more of a mobility type of player than what we had last year at that spot. Jeff Byers returns as a starter. He started six games his freshman year. We like his athleticism and his intensity and some of his intangibles that Jeff brings. The center spot at this point would go to Matt Spanos--he's got a sprained ankle right now but he's in position to take that one. He'll battle to hold that with Jeff Byers again at center because Alatini Malu has played real well at left guard. With the flexibility of these guys and the athleticism, it gives us the ability to move some people around. We have good flexibility; we don't have a lot of depth but we should be athletic and they've been around. There's enough experience here that we feel we'll be able to do all of our schemes. It's really hard to replace Ryan Kalil. He was the centerpiece for a number of years but the leadership from Sam Baker that he brings, the tenacity and the savvy carries over to the other guys. Hopefully, Sam will give us the leadership role; he's just not in the position to help us so much as at the center spot. Chilo Rachal has played a long time and Jeff's a very good player and a very smart player so hopefully, we can put that group in an area where they play smart, make good decisions and make choices as an experienced line needs to do.
On the difference between last year's and this year's offensive line
We're faster, I think we run a little bit better and I think we are more athletic as a group. The young guys have really jumped up. Thomas Herring have had a tremendous spring and he is really making some noise out there on the practice field and improved a lot. He is 325 pounds and 6'6'' and to see that kind of athlete out there battling really gives us a chance to think that maybe during the early part of the season he might be able to get a lot of play time and really give us a great backup spot and the challenge to be a starter on that line.
On what changes will occur with Lane Kiffen leaving
There was a sense of familiarity because Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffen grew up together in our system. Those guys were both fulltime coaches for the first time here. They grew up just eat, sleep and drinking this offense and the principles here. Fortunately Sarkisian is staying here in a leadership position so that doesn't change at all. The way we handle the structure of teaching the offense and administering the meetings; everything except the exchange of the plays at the game time is really being held together, in terms of continuity because Sarkisian stayed. So John Morton is catching up. He is a fantastic coach and a gifted guy that brings us a bunch of new ideas to add to what we are doing. As the passing game coordinator, John will be in the box and talking directly to Sarkisian. Sarkisian is going to be sending and calling in the plays from the sideline with the communications though the rest of the staff and through John Morton up top. The only difference is that the play was initiated from Lane before, the game plan was guided and directed from Sarkisian in the past so that the exchange is slight. There is a little bit of mechanics part of that. We worked at great lengths this spring trying to make sure Sarkisian and John had an opportunity to work together. The rest of the system stays the same so I don't think it will be that different. The philosophy has not changed but we have gained some new thoughts from John.
On the advantages to having the plays called from the sidelines
I think Sarkisian is a gifted football coach leader. He is a great competitor with a good head on his shoulders. He set every single call for the last five years, he finalized the call. He has dealt with this process; it's just a matter of initiating the calls now. There is a little bit of timing that we are working on but other than that it's looked very much the same and I have no issue at all about things as we have gone through all of our play calling session this spring.
On the competition at safety
It's a very competitive spot. I have always talked really highly of Josh Pinkard and his ability, flexibility and the range of his play because he can play safety and corner. He's in great shape right now and he could all but play right now, but we want to give him the next three months to finish his rehab. He has been out there everyday working on his stuff and doing what he can do. He has great competition ahead of him. Taylor Mays had a terrific freshman season and has had a great spring. He is faster than ever and he is a very good learner so that gives us two great guys at that spot to battle is out. Kevin Ellison will come back at the other safety spot and we've got some great competition from the other guys that are here. It's going to be a really cool spot to watch. It is one the highlighted spots to see how it turns out. Likely we will play those guys in rotation if everything holds true to form. They will all play and keep us fresh and we'll do some special things with those guys.
On the possibility of moving Josh Pinkard to Cornerback
He is going to play at safety. We feel really good about our corner position. When Terrell Thomas and Kevin Thomas get back out there we will be really deep. The two young guys have done a great job. Cary Harris had a great spring and Shareece Wright really came along and has done a great job as has Vincent Joseph. Those guys have had the kinds of springs that allow them to be right in the mix to play and to be regulars in our defense. They could start right now for us and we'd be okay. Those guys will be getting playing time, they'll be fitting in and out; they'll be fitting into the sub-packages and all that stuff. We feel great about the level of play that they can uphold when they come in the game.
On this defense possibly being one of the best since his arrival
Well, we'll see. I don't know. You can't tell that. So much of defense is the intangibles and you go back--I think the best defense is when Lofa Tatupu and Shaun Cody and Matt Grootegoed were all playing together. I think that was the best group we had. Those guys that I just mentioned to you--Mike Patterson was there too--were a group of phenomenal, savvy football players. They take you beyond the normal playing structure of a defense. Whether our guys now--Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga, Kevin Ellison, Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson--and those guys are able to do that, we'll have to wait and see how productive they are. I've got to tell you--I couldn't be more pumped up about this group. This is a very, very fast, athletic, smart and tough bunch of guys with an attitude. With great leadership from Nick Holt and Kenny (Norton Jr.) and Rocky Seto, this is a very good defense and a defense that we have extremely high expectations for. How far that takes us or how far that measures up, I don't know, I can't tell you. These guys are all pushed at their positions too. Guys like Thomas Williams and Kyle Moore and with Josh Pinkard coming back and Kevin Thomas and Cary Harris and all those guys that can also plays these spots, the competition will be on the whole time. Their biggest days will be Tuesday and Wednesday during practice during the season to prove that they're worthy of playing. That will help us battle and hopefully, keep our level of play at a real high rate. We're really pumped up about it and we've had a great spring. We've done a lot of stuff with these guys because they're smart and they can handle it. This is the most scheme that we've had available to us. We have more things and the things that we did last year carry over to this year and have grown again this year so I'm really looking forward to it. It's been a fantastic group of guys to work with. We need to get the ball better than we did last year. That's a big factor for us. We didn't hawk the football as much as we have in the years past. Really, that will be a big indicator as we go through it--if we're able to take the football away from our opponents. That's really the factor when we have our best groups, that's how we're playing. You remember the big spell last year for about four or five games, we didn't get the ball at all. That concerned me--that it was something we need to improve on and we've worked very hard at it this spring.
On Michael McDonald returning to being the holder on extra points/field goals
During practice, when the offense is working on their stuff or players are working on the offense or the defense, Greg Woidneck is sitting there and able to work with the kickers. So we tried real hard to see if we could elevate him to be the top holder because he would get more practice time. But Mike is just so gifted at it that we know he can do it and unless that changes in fall camp, we'll still let that be a competitive situation. But Mike MacDonald is an excellent holder.
On losing the fake extra point/field goal play without Mike MacDonald as the holder
Oh no, Greg Woidneck has a really good arm. Yeah.
On his comfort with the kicking game as spring comes to a closeDavid Buehler had a great camp. He's kicked his tail off. He's got great height on the ball. He's been very consistent even though he's worked with a very inconsistent mechanism from the snapper-holder with different guys rotating through there and without Will Collins as the snapper. We couldn't put Will in the full-speed drills but they've worked together quite a bit. But when we get into the full-speed, full-line drills, we've had backup guys trying to fight their way through the snapping and it's been shoddy at times. But David's hung in there really well and in the long run, it's probably made him better. There's no question about his leg strength. He's going to be a really good kicker. Now, when we get to camp, there's going to be some guys to come in to challenge him and he hasn't had much of a challenge in the spring. There'll be a couple of kids coming in here that will be battling for that spot. As always, we'll open that up to competition and see what happens with the other guys too. David kicked the ball really well throughout the spring so he looks likely to hold that spot until somebody can take it away from him.
On incoming freshman and who has a chance to break through
As always, the philosophy is really clear to the players coming in and to the players in the program. The new guys coming in get a great shot. We throw them right to the front and put them in with the first group and rotate them in as soon as we can get them on the practice field. We want to see how they handle it and see where they fit in. It's kind of a discovery process for us to see how developed the young kids are and how adept they are at picking things up. Can they handle the physical aspects of the game and all of those things that go into that. I think that's been part of the reason that we've been able to find so many kids that can play in the first semester when they get here. I think we had like sixteen kids last year that were freshman that played in the first camp here. I don't know where it's going to come from but certainly, we're going to take a look at all of these guys. I'm interested in seeing what the returners can do and see what they can give us. Joe McKnight and Ronald Johnson have been highly productive return guys in their high school days. They're very flashy and speedy guys and we'd like to see what they can do as well as what they do from scrimmage. The Z receiver spot is a brand new spot over there that Vidal Hazelton and Travon Patterson have been working at and Brad Walker. We're going to take a good look at the young kids coming in over there and see what Ronald Johnson can do. For sure, the running backs are going to get a great shot to show us what they can do. We know we can play the freshman at that spot and immediately if you need to. Just across the board, we're looking for guys. I can't wait to see what Chris Galippo can do--one of the top players in America last year. Everson Griffen is a very, very exciting player for us. He's a guy that brings a speed dimension that we haven't hard here since we've been here at the LEO spot. So we're anxious to see how he fits in. This is a kid that played tailback at 260-something pounds and loves playing defensive end and rushing the passer. It's a rare instance that we have a guy like that so we're just going to plug all these guys in and see how they take it. A big statement about that is about all the guys playing these spots--they know that they're coming and they've worked real hard to position themselves and they'll be ready to hold their spots too. It's really going to be fun.
On playing freshmen out of need in the past
Each year, it's helped the story of recruiting about our freshmen coming in here from all over the country and finding spots or taking spots away from guys who were incumbent starters and seniors. The great story when Mike Williams came in here and Kareem Kelly had been one of the all-time leading receivers in the history of the school and had caught a ball in every game and I think probably started all but maybe two or three games in his senior year. But Mike caught 81 passes or 80-something passes playing from that same spot and had a phenomenal, historic record freshman season. From that point on, it kind of started the belief from outside the program that young kids can come in here and do things and play in a big way and play a big role. Often, the story is when you're an out-of-state kid, you can't come to another state and play there. They're going to play the home state kid. That's just isn't the truth and isn't the reality here. All those stories and the approach have added to it and it's worked out just beautifully for us. We've had guys at almost every spot that have been able to play in starting positions as freshman. All three of the linebackers that are starting for us right now, Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing all played a lot as freshman and were contributors in a big way and started some games and all of that. The story is quite clear and I'm thrilled about it because it just gives us a whole added boost and dimension to our roster as these guys come in. It helps us in more ways than just them playing--it pushes those guys that are playing those spots. Competition is a beautiful thing--it brings out the best in the fellows. It's a nice deal.
On Swim with Mike and Will Ferrell's involvement
We've always supported this event. It's a great event. It's one that started years ago with a dream somebody had about helping some kids out and it's really grown and become a fantastic event. Our players, we support it in every way that we can. The players have a big relay race to raise money with the cheerleaders and all that. It just came up this year, that one of the guys that's going to be there has been kind of poppin' off a little bit. He thinks he's a race driver, he's an ice-skater and the next thing you know, he's going to be a basketball player and all that. A challenge has been issued so that's all I can tell you.