USC's Pete Carroll, Cal's Jeff Tedford Comment On Saturday's Game
Sept. 23, 2003
USC Coach Pete Carroll
'It's good to be back in game week. I thought we benefited from the bye. We've had some good work. Competed hard. Had a good look at some young guys. I hope we've brought them farther along in preparation for the rest of the season. The bye was successful. We should come out fairly healthy and in good condition. We're pumped up the Pac-10 is finally here and we can play games that give us a chance to win a championship. It starts off with Cal, a young team that's transitioned from a good season last year and has started to play good football. They caused problems for teams last year and us in particular. They had a big-time win at Illinois that I'm sure was a boost.'
(impressions of Cal's offense)
'It's a very good offense. It's a very good system, a great style, it's one that's copied a lot around the conference and the West. Jeff Tedford has done a great job with the style of the offense and I think he's one of the better coaches we will face all year. He creates challenges for us on defense. It's a very wide-open style. They do a lot of things and make it very difficult for us.'
(regarding USC's young players' development during the bye week)
'John David took advantage of the opportunity and got a lot of extra reps and competed well. He's grown from it. The whole idea was to see how far we could take him with the other players and even up the reps. We weren't able to do that in three days time, but he did take advantage of it and did a nice job. Some other guys that benefited, Whitney Lewis got a lot of playing time, Steve Smith got a lot of time, John Drake in the offensive line got moved into a number of different spots and gave us some flexibility and he did real well. Brandon Hancock came back from injury, got back to full speed and is a real plus for us on offense and special teams. On defense, Darnell Bring got back to full speed. Dallas Sartz made some improvements. Chris Barrett has grown some and Frostee Rucker. A number of guys have benefited from it. Hopefully we'll come out with a little bit of an edge physically. We should be stronger. We've taken some days off that will help guys who worked every day since camp started.'
(regarding the Pac-10 starting)
'It's a fantastic challenge every year for us. This is what our program is built around and it's exciting it's finally started. We were fortunate last year to share the championship. Now we have a chance to go at it one at a time and see how far we take it. It's a big deal to us and we do point to this.'
(regarding things he's scouted about his own team)
'There a lot of areas we need improvement. We do a great deal of self scouting and we go about it as our opponents would go about it. So we hopefully know what they know and more if we're fortunate. You're breaking down what you did on offense and your formations and your tendencies and all of the calls on defense and the formations and tendencies to try to evaluate how effective you are and also to see what the other guys know. So as you game plan the next three or four weeks, you know what they're banking on. We're looking for consistency in all areas so we don't allow ourselves to become vulnerable. We want to tighten up all areas of special teams. Our returns can improve. We won't be satisfied with any phase, but we're happy with progress we've made but we continue to push. We pushed hard in the running game during the off week. All of our pressure stuff on defense was a focal point and we emphasized a lot of third down stuff on both sides of the ball. It never ends because we're always looking for improvement.'
(regarding hopes or plans for John David Booty after bye week)
'We're just going to play it out and see what happens with the season. He's a capable player. He can play and go out there and throw a football with all of our guys. He's still young and you have to bring him along when he does get in a ballgame to play. But for the next three or four weeks, we'll see what happens. We'll see how Matt does and if he continues to hold up physically and makes progress, he's going to do most of the playing. He's in control of the position right now. If something should happen, we'll make our choices. It depends on the game choices on how we'll do it and we have a real clear plan on how we'll go about it. But we won't just try to throw John David into the games and take snaps here or there. We'll wait and see what the season offers for us and see Matt continues to progress. We've been very fortunate that Matt has taken over the position with no previous starts or experience, so he'll keep battling and see how he does. We expect to see him get better as the season goes on.'
(regarding if he takes items that happen around the country and uses them as topics)
'There seems to be so many lessons within our little world, there doesn't seem to be a need to go outside. They do know what's going on, but if they get back to me and find me minimizing what's going on in the outside world ... I don't take to them talking about it too much. I can't help but understand that they know what's happening and every once in a while, there's a gem. Whatever can be captured for the teachable moment, I'm going to capture it. But for the most part, our focus stays with us and with what we're doing and if we take care of business, we'll be okay.'
(regarding the tailback job)
'It hasn't changed. Our feeling hasn't changed. I'm still open to feature or emphasize a guy. Right now, Hershel Dennis has played really well and is the leader of the group, the most consistent all-around player we have. But you can't help but see what the freshmen have done. Hopefully, we'll continue to mix them in there and keep them fresh and hopefully it will keep the position strong and experienced and if it starts to take shape one way or the other, we'll follow what looks to be obvious.'
(regarding how long the play of the defensive line has been especially strong under Carroll)
'I can't remember that far back. We were banged up at times in the first year. And there were all kinds of changes. We've seen the group grow together and now when we do make adjustments with subs, they hold up well. There's been a lot of talk about these guys and I think they're doing a good job, but let's see later on how worthy they are of nicknames. It's a group that's playing good hard football and we'll find out how far we can take them. I like that it's competitive and guys like LaJuan Ramsey come in and make plays and Travis Tofi comes in and makes a big sack. Frostee Rucker is a factor and we're starting to see Chris Barrett rise a bit. It's something I hope shows that we have a lot of guys who can play. We'll always keep evaluating that. How's are four-man pressure and are we able to rush the passer without blitzing?'
(regarding having four of the next five games on the road and if there's any special coaching challenge)
'It's most challenging. Going on the road in the opener was really important for us and is an opportunity to draw from, an example that we were able to handle in a difficult situation. We try to talk about, it doesn't matter where we play. It's about us and how we play. That's the theme we carry on the road any time we're on the road. We'll have to be road warriors for a while. I think we're ready for the challenge. It really is about how we hold focus on what we do. We don't make a big deal about where we go. I like that we went back to Auburn and we can see we played consistently in all areas.
(regarding facing Jeff Tedford's offense)
'I think Jeff is a cutting edge guy. He's ahead of the pack. I take that as a challenge to see if we can offset what they do. They came out flying against us last year and had us spinning. We hopefully can get off to a better start and keep them in check. They score points against everybody and have a real consistent scoring power about them. They were particularly fast starters last year. We need to step up and do a better job against them than last year ... He's innovative and continues to evolve. There's a lot of guys who've been through their system and you see aspects of it and he continues to challenge the other guys to try things that follow their philosophy but have nuances to them ... It's formations, the way they shift and adjust, the way they fake something they normally do. It's the way offensive and defensive coaches try to keep their systems dynamic and he does a particularly good job of it.'
(regarding Matt Grootegoed)
'There has been a little bit of shift you can see. Matt ends up playing more of the split end side and Champ (Melvin Simmons) plays on the tight end side more. That's something that we've found in the last few weeks that we've wanted to experiment with. We experimented with it in the Spring and in camp and it seemed like it was a good idea for us. It gives us more flexibility where we can place Matt. If you've noticed in the past, we'd spot guys around, putting them in the best position to make plays. We'll continue to move him and find spots for him. It won't look that much different to you. Matt will be in more critical spots and have opportunities to make plays. He's such a great learner, like Troy Polamaulu was, and you can do more things with him than some kids and we're trying to take advantage of that.'
(regarding how to keep the team grounded with all of the attention its receiving)
'By being consistent myself and show them whatever goes on outside will not waver our approach. If we don't have a successful outing, I won't change for that either. We've found our stride of how we do things and I think it's more about being consistent with what we do. What it amounts to is we don't emphasize what goes on outside of our reach, but we emphasize strongly what we can control. It's my job first to emphasize that and make our guys hold to that.'
(regarding getting Brandon Hancock back and if he was the biggest absence in the offense)
'Well, yeah. We were really counting on him. We thought he and Lee Webb would be the fullbacks for us and we would feature the things he can do. He's very fast and a good catcher and can carry the ball. It's really good to have him back out there and to work with two-back systems. It's a real plus.'
(regarding his philosophy about redshirting)
'To me it goes back to a competitive approach. We're trying to put out the very best football team we can and we're trying to take our players as far as we can possibly take them as soon as we possibly can. With that thought in mind, redshirting is not even an issue until it's clear that's what you should do. I don't want to approach a player and say, 'You're going to pretty good three years from now.' I want to see how far and how good he can get right now. We throw them in the water and expect them to show us if they can swim or not. We've done that in all the years we've been here and to find out how far the young guys can go to contribute to winning and playing at a high level. Within that, the philosophy is clear and they know they'll get a great opportunity and they'll get shoved out with the good guys and they'll have to sink or swim. It challenges them. I like that attitude that we take in doing that and we've had some success with that approach.
'The other side, I can't stand the thought of setting a low bar for a kid and setting an expectation that won't allow him to exceed our expectations. A good example is Mike Williams. A year ago, I thought if Mike can be all of (what we want of him) and have a big season, maybe he'd catch 50 balls. To hold him back or anybody back, is wrong. Mike went as far as anyone has as a freshman. I think that falls in line with the approach and we hope there's another kid like that, whether it be Chauncey Washington or LenDale White or Reggie Bush or Booty or whoever. We'll keep pushing it. Then it becomes clear if a guy hasn't been able to elevate or it's going to be the best decision for him for one reason or another to redshirt. Whether it's physical or emotional or whatever. It could be the competition at his spot. We're not going to commit to that any earlier than we have to ... I cant' think any other way than that. We're just trying to win. If this guy can help us win, we need to find out. One thing I'm concerned about is rites of passage and guys growing in the system and guys coming in thinking that they're hot shots because they're playing as freshmen. I'm concerned about that. So we try to do it the right way. I think Mike started two or three games last year. That's part of that thinking. But it's going back to seeing how far we can take a player and see how far he can produce ... I can't stand the thought of not giving a guy a chance of being everything he possibly can be. I want to find out what that is and surprise him maybe. And surprise his family and his coaches and anybody else. That's why John David got so much attention last week. Is he so talented that we're making a mistake by not playing him? I think we found out where that is and have a good sense of it. He impressed us and I think we know where it fits. We did that with a lot of guys.'
(regarding how it is to be a first-year coach and dealing with the scrutiny after a slow start)
'I think coaches in general are judged so quickly. It's light-speed judgments and often too quick. I think what's challenging for a new coach is to hold on to your approach and philosophy when you are under fire. The most difficult part of that is knowing what your philosophy is in that situation. It's really hard. I have great compassion for guys getting this job done. And I've been in situations where you're a first-time head coach. New York couldn't get any more difficult. It's a big challenge and difficult. You have to be strong and need good support around you and need people who believe in you. We were highly challenged in our first year and were playing so miserably. It was easy for me to see this could change since we were playing so poorly. Just a little bit of hope happened and we picked up speed and momentum.'
California Coach Jeff Tedford
'We are very young and have played some close games and I feel like it's a learning experience every time we go on the field. And I think playing five games already has helped and it has hurt in certain areas. It's helped in giving us experience in certain situations: travel, Thursday games, early games, East games where we play early. All those different things are learning experience for young teams. So I feel like the guys are working hard and playing hard. They play every down and always looking to be in the game no matter what happens. But there are young mistakes that are being made, but we're learning each week.
(regarding switch in QBs from Reggie Robertson to Aaron Rodgers)
'Coming in, Reggie was the incumbent. He was the backup last year who got some snaps. He had a grip on the offense. Aaron came in in fall camp. We ask the quarterbacks to do so much, Reggie had a step up in the beginning and really played very well in fall camp and didn't do anything to do his job. And he really hasn't yet. But we felt Aaron has a little more ability to put the ball around the field and gives us a better chance to win. By no means is Reggie the scapegoat for any inefficiencies we have or lack of success in a couple games because he's played well, but we feel Aaron has a little more ability to give us a chance to win.'
(regarding TB Adimchinobe Echemandu)
'Last year, his name was Joe Echema, so I still call him Joe. He's a guy who's overcome quite a bit. Had some academic difficulty two years ago not because he didn't do well but because he didn't take the right class. He was inelgible for a year and didn't play. But he's already graduated. Last year in the Spring, he was probably playing as well as anyone on the team and was someone we were leaning on, but blew his knee out on the last day of practice and missed all of last season. So it's been a long road back with his knee and he's worked very hard and is a very committed and dedicated young man and it's nice to see him back.'
(regarding the defense)
'The defense is very young. We lost nine starters off the defense and it's very young. We're playing with some junior college kids who haven't been in the program except for fall camp. We've had some injuries where we have young guys playing. They're playing hard, but it's a situation where they've battled and battled and we've given up some plays. But they're learning every week and I think they're getting better each week and they'll gel and we'll get better in the future, but we're young.'
(assessment of the Pac-10)
'Very strong. At least what I've seen. USC stands alone as far as being a powerhouse. Ever since midseason last year, they've caught fire. They're such a well coached team and have so many great players and are so explosive on both sides of the ball. I haven't seen the rest of the conference to know. But USC is really something special.'
(thoughts on USC this year and if last year's game in which Cal held a 21-3 lead plays into this year's game)
'Well, no, not really. Last year was last year. It's a whole new team. Last year's game has nothing to do with this year. We have to do our best to get prepared to play a good football team. Our guys are looking forward to the challenge, but we realize they're very talented and we'll have to play our best to compete.'
(regarding last year's game and the impact of Kareem Kelly's disputed TD catch)
'I think for the game, it probably changed the momentum. I forget what the score was, but it changed momentum a bit. But that wasn't why we lost. There were a lot of other plays. They did a great job in the second half shutting us down and did an excellent job on offense as far as controlling the ball and running and throwing control passes. A call is a call and you have to overcome those things sometimes. But it changed momentum.'
(regarding WR Geoff McArthur)
'He's worked very hard. He was another who had an unfortunate thing happen to him. He put his arm through a window and was out a year and he was hampered by injuries most of the season and tried to play through them. But this year he's been very solid and been very dependable. He's worked hard and has had some big games and both quarterbacks have done a good job finding him.'
(regarding Rover Donnie McCleskey)
'He's a tremendous player. He's a guy who can play all over the field. He's done a nice job in coverage, coming after the QB, has a lot of tackles. He just plays solid and every week leaves it all out on the field. He's a tremendous competitor and a great team leader even if he's only a sophomore. He played last year as a true freshman. Even though he's looked at as the guy who has the most experience, he's only a sophomore. He's a great competitor and someone we rely on for great leadership.'
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