Comments From USC Football Media Luncheon

Sept. 4, 2001


'It was good to finish off the first week. We were pleased to get that win. It was a nice start for us. Now we've got the schedule to deal with. We've got a tremendous challenge this week. They're for real. It really is a great opportunity for us. We're going to go for it in this game and find out where we sit with a team of this stature. I'm pleased with our start, but I've got to see us do something with it. We've got to take the next step. Make corrections and bring it back again this week and show the same type of intensity and take our execution up a notch and improve in a lot of small areas and we'll give it a go.'

Re: play of defensive line. 'We're coming along. The tackles played well. Bernard Riley and Ryan Nielsen played very well. Lonnie Ford was active. On the other side, Kenechi Udeze and Shaun Cody are learning the other spot. They're very young and raw and we need to bring them along in a hurry. Some things happened in the game they saw for the first time and didn't react as well as we'd like them too. On one side, you can understand it, but we also have to improve. All in all, it was disappointing we didn't get to the quarterback. They're style and the way their QB played and got rid of the football made it difficult, but I was still disappointed we didn't get to him more.'

Re: progression of WR Grant Mattos. 'From what we've seen from him, there were no surprises. I was thrilled he was able to make the plays he was capable of making in game conditions. But he's shown us nothing but that kind of ability. He's a natural catcher. He's tough, he's got creativity about how he gets to the ball in terms of his routs, but also in making his plays. (At) 220-something pounds, he's a big receiver and you can take him in the middle and we can expect him to be effective. We really needed him to come through and it was obvious without his big plays, we would've struggled.'

Re: development of FB Charlie Landrigan. 'We see him, as the season develops, becoming an integral part of our offense. He's a very good blocker and an excellent receiver. He's got great hands. He's one of our better guys that way and he also contributed a lot on special teams. He's a very important part of our team.'

Re: Kansas State's punt return specialist Aaron Lockett and its special teams in general. 'This guys fantastic. We'll try to figure out a way to (contain) it. We're certainly not just going to kick it straight down the middle. We'll try to make it a little harder on him. But it's not just one guy. As their coach said, they had guys in the past who led the nation. They've been the best punt return team in the country for a long time. It's the system as well as the player. But this guy has great speed and loves doing it. It's a big weapon for them.'

Re: his first day at the Coliseum as head coach. 'It was a very good first day. It was really fun to be there and to do things for the first time in so many different ways was special. The players were extremely excited and the fans responded really well. It was a great first day. We look forward to putting on a big show the next time we go out and hopefully we continue it.'

Re: the offensive line. 'I thought we did well. To run for the average we did and to protect the QB, we did well. A couple penalties got us in critical situations, but other than that, the guys played well. It was good to see (Faaesea) Mailo in there. He'll play more this week and it gives us help depth-wise. Norm (Katnik) did a nice job at guard too. It was a good, positive first day.'

Re: Sultan McCullough. 'I thought he took advantage of his opportunities. I thought we blocked well for him. But he got out in the open and made big plays out of his opportunities. We made a couple great calls and executed a couple big plays really well. The statue play was just about perfectly executed and the counter we ran was beautifully done as well. He owes a lot to the guys up front. But he broke into the clear and finished the plays off perfectly. We're really pleased with his first go-around. He finished strong in the fourth quarter and ran tough at the end. It's something we'll need and count on. And he did a good job taking care of the football. It's a huge aspect of our philosophy and our success and he's the key player that will have his hands on the ball in difficult situations. He showed he understands what we're all about and what we stand for as far as taking care of the football.'


Re: memories of coaching at USC and his days in Southern California. 'I was awfully young at the time and enjoyed my experiences at USC and at Indio High and Foothill High as well. I think all told I was out there for nine years and had three children there. We have some fond memories. Had an opportunity to meet some great people and coaches as well. Craig Fertig was assigned to keep me occupied so I didn't get in anybody's way out there. I learned a lot from him.'

Re: some keys to the turnaround of Kansas State's program. 'I think just special people and hard work as much as anything. I've been fortunate to be around some very fine people. People that support the program well. We have a wonderful administration and have quality coaches and players. We have a fan support base that is extremely special. I think basically just being around people that genuinely care.'

Re: quick run-down of KSU offensively and defensively. 'I'd anticipate we'd be a team, offensively or defensively, that will play very hard. Play within the rules very aggressively. Defensively, we have decent speed at Div. I level. I don't think we have the speed that (USC does), but we run pretty well overall. We're replacing some starters from last year, but I haven't seen any major concerns at this point, outside of playing a first game, with regards to personnel. Offensively, I'd like to think we'd be a balanced team similar to USC. We'd like to think we can present similar balance.'

Re: special teams and Aaron Lockett. 'Aaron's a very talented young guy in many ways. He's a quality person. He's a captain. He's had a great deal of experience in the program and comes from a strong football family. Was not a punt returner previous to (2000) and we utilized him as a backup and was nervous when David Allen got hurt last year in our opener against Iowa and was out for a few games. David of course was the punt return leader in the nation and Aaron was a little uncertain of himself. He was thrown into the fire and very quickly he attached himself to it and became a talented player and became the leader in the nation this past season. He's a good leader on the team and a quality young man. I love to see him excel in both categories.

Re: first-year starting QB Ell Roberson. 'Ell is a youngster that's been here for 3 years, so he's not brand new to what we do or how we do it. He's gained from his experiences. He was very close a year ago today to being our starting quarterback but Jonathan Beasley held onto it. He's endeared himself to the spot. He's got some talent. The downsize is he hasn't played a tremendous amount of football on Saturdays at Kansas State but his experiences have been plentiful in regards to what we do and how we do it.'

Re: Kansas State's schedules in recent years and the decision to play USC. 'Our scheduling has always been up to question for some, but that doesn't concern me. We've always tried to schedule in a manner that would best suit our team at any given time. That's been the nature of how we've scheduled. USC is the strongest team we've scheduled as far as non-conference schedule is concerned in my tenure. It's great. For me and for our players it's an honor to do it. Such a grand tradition at USC, it makes any youngster motivated by the game of football excited to play.'

Re: Thoughts on USC. 'I was impressed by the first venture with San Jose State, which I know to be a fine team. Offensively, I was impressed with the balance and the execution with a lot of things. It's easy to understand that Sultan McCullough is a tremendous back in a lot of ways. You can appreciate not only his speed but certainly his ability to have vision. He's not just a straight-line burner. He moved around well and seemed to see creases well. He's able to put his pads down and run aggressively as well. He's the complete package. I was impressed with the new guy there (Grant) Mattos. Everyone probably wants to call him a possession receiver and he's every bit of it, but I'm quite certain he can run as well. He was a big third down player for you. I was impressed the way he flew around and dove around. We know about your wide receiver (Kareem Kelly). He's been a talented young guy and has some speed. We saw him last year and we were impressed with how he caught the ball and his escapability and speed. And, of course, Carson Palmer, I've always read he's an extremely talented young guy. Anyone who opens a ballgame up 9-for-9 has got to have some talent. Our guys can't do that in pre-game warm-ups. He has some quality gifts. His range and ability to see is great. Defensively, I'm impressed with the speed of the defense and how aggressively they play. It appeared the adjustments they made were made well and it appeared to me they were well coached and there were not a lot of escapes.

Re: Special teams at KSU. 'We have a coordinator for each individual group. So we have six coordinators for special teams. Each one does a nice job. We've been a decent special teams unit over the years, but it doesn't mean from time to time we haven't struggled. But, like Pete, both of us recognize the special value of special teams. Particularly, and it's true over 11 games, they become so significant in early games. You see a lot of games won and lost via the kicking game. It'll be awfully important. We spend a lot of time on it. Most of us require a great deal of time for youngsters and coaches to spend on the kicking game.'

Re: Changes on the offensive line 'We haven't had the luxury of having a quality 2-deep in the OL over the tenure here. We've got a lot of players who have athletic ability that it becomes important for them to be more than 1-dimensional players. Almost to the man, most of the guys on our line, not to the man, can play 2, maybe 3 positions. We have 3 starters on the line that can play center, 4 that can play tackle, 3 can play guard. It's just a matter to fortify our depth.'

Now on Pac-12 Network
4:00 PM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder