Pete Carroll Discusses USC's 2007 Season Opener

Aug. 28, 2007

USC Head Football Coach Pete CarrollPress Conference--Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Opening Remarks
'Welcome back. Here we go...I don't know if you feel like it has just flown by, but for me it has taken forever to get to this game. We are really excited about getting the season started. There's a lot of buildup and a lot of talk. We've had a tremendous process to get to this point. The team has worked really hard. The guys are together and anxious to play. There's always a rumor about playing around with each other at this time, but this really begins game week for us officially yesterday. It's just fun to have the atmosphere that the first game brings. We're really excited about having a chance to open up at home. It's been a lot of years since we've had this opportunity. It's great for the young guys who are really pumped about it and the first time in the Coliseum. I know the fans are going be all jacked up and pumped about it as well. So, we look forward to a tough start. We want to play real well and see if we can get the season under way on a really good note. I know there are a lot of questions about individual positions and who is playing and who is starting. Not all of that's sorted out quite yet. We have a lot of choices and options with guys depending on their health and we are going to figure some of those out as we go. I'm not real concerned about it because we have guys that have really competed hard and that have earned playing time. We will see a lot of guys in rotations until it becomes more clear to change that. Obviously, I felt very comfortable playing all the guys and I am going to do that again this year in a number of key spots so we can't wait to get this thing on. I'm jacked up about (Idaho head coach Robb Akey) getting his first game under his belt with a new staff, new program from Idaho. They are looking forward to a shot at us, and it's going be fun for them and fun for us so we can't wait to get the thing going.'

On having fun at the Coliseum
'I think this is about as much fun as you can have as a college football player at the Coliseum and for anybody. There are people who look forward to this opportunity as our kids do, as well, and they will do anything they can to maximize this chance. I sure don't see any other side to it than that.'

On whether or not USC has anything to be afraid of
'You know...I don't think it's about fear. It's about performance and really what we are up against now is how well we can prepare and get ourselves ready to do the things that we are counting on. It doesn't matter who we're playing or where we're playing. That's always how we look at it. This performance thing is really up to us. That's why practice is so important...that's why this preparation process and the middle side of things getting ready for the game, being able to take all of this preparation to game time is what we're really looking for. It wouldn't matter who we're playing.'

On handling the media in Los Angeles
'I like handling it well. It's been a great trail actually. This has been an extraordinary opportunity in this media center and it's always a bit more fun for me being in California for whatever just feels more comfortable to me and the media in general has always felt like I'm always more comfortable with them than the challenges of the East Coast. It has been a good challenge. It's something I like to do make sure that we handle it well with the notoriety that we've had and the hype that we've had. We have been challenged to do this in a fashion that we can be proud of from the kids to the coaches to myself. We have a real way about it that I hope that we come across with a lot of respect for the media...we know you guys have a job. I just don't like your job description sometimes (room laughter). It's something that we want to do well and it is very important to all aspects of the university and the program.'

On the health of the tailbacks
'It looks like it's going be a tough game for Chauncey Washington to make it back and I'm expecting C.J. Gable to go in this game. He's had the preparation that's allowed him to be healthy this week. Stefan Johnson is going to play. He's in good shape. He's had a tremendous camp. We will get Allen Bradford, Broderick Green, and Desmond Reed...those guys are all ready to go. Joe McKnight's going to work out today for the first time in full pads and see how he does. That's kind of where our focus is on those guys and see how they turn out. If things turn out as we see it today, C.J. Gable will start the game. He's been out there, he has the most experience of anybody really that has carried the load as the number one tailback. We will start there and then we will let the other guys play and see how they do...just as we have done in the past. I really don't have my mind set on that we have to have one guy or two guys. We like our guys' talents, we like the different things that they bring and we are going to allow them to show it and hopefully as we go through the early part of the schedule...we will get a sense for how we can use our guys most effectively.'

On if Joe McKnight is cleared for today's practice
'He's cleared to practice today. He's cleared, but it's not full speed stuff today for him. He will be running around for the first time in awhile today.'

On freshman Everson Griffin being a co-starter in a season opener
'C.J. Gable started last year so it has happened for us. Everson has had a tremendous impact early on. This is a fantastic athlete with a great motor. He's learned a lot from the first week to the second week he's made great improvements and he's got a chance to help us and right now. Kyle Moore has had a terrific camp as well, but we would like to use both those guys so we'll see how it goes. Again, like other positions, as the competition unfolds, we will figure out who is the most effective guy and if that is obvious. He deserves a chance to show what he can do from what he has done in the camp.'

On taking previous experience as a No. 1 team and applying to current team
'I hope we understand what it's like. You know, I don't mean to make light of the fact, it's a nice acknowledgement from the people that do these polls or whatever, but it doesn't really amount to much until we start standing up for ourselves and start winning football games. There is a pitfall here, I think, if you allow it to let you think you're something that you're not and we have to figure out as we go. We have to prove to ourselves what we're able to do every week we go out there. This is an extraordinary opportunity to start the thing off right. And so, here we go, you know. In the first game, if we can get that one and get a couple games going and start to put something together then maybe there's something to the rankings. You understand how I feel about it, not until you get to then end of the season is it really significant. It can be if you allow it to be a factor that this can mess with you. I think we're pretty comfortable with it. I'd like to say that it's over the last few years it feels normal for us to be like that and I know that that may sound like I'm stepping out to say that but that is I want it to feel that way to the players so that we don't make a big deal about it and we go on about our business and do what we are capable of doing.'

On if you are going to talk about Idaho
'I mean, that's kind of like beating up your wife (room laughter). Um, what do you want me to do here. Who's not here today. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter who we play. You're going to hear me speak exactly the same way regardless of who we play because it really is about how we are ready and prepared to play and that will show up and we'll find that out once we get there. Every game is a championship game for us. It has always been that way. We have never looked at it any differently and every game is of the utmost importance. We are going to get as jacked up and as focused and in tune as we can possibly get to play a great football game. We don't try to do that a few times a year. We try to do that every time we play and you can't look at your schedule in any other manner and do what we're doing and be in the philosophy that we're in. You have to take every game like it's an extraordinary challenge to perform at you very best and that's what this is. So until we see...until we're talking late at night in the baffles of the Coliseum, we won't know how...'

On how to keep team's focus
'That's why every day that we work, every opportunity that we have to get our game right is of the utmost importance. It is Competition Tuesday for us. This is a huge day for us to practice. If we battle today properly, if we do all of the things that we're supposed to do, then we take in the next step. The significance of that is focusing on what is at hand right now. That's what we're trying to do and make the very most of this day. And then if you add those days up properly and you take it to the game, then you see the result of that and whatever that is we will find out. I don't have any idea, but I know what we are shooting for. We want to play a great football game: do things right, execute the line of scrimmage, play with great tempo and great speed, chase the football on the defensive side, execute beautifully on the kicking game, and on and on and on. That's what we anticipate. Anything less than that, then we know where we are and we will work from there and take it to the next step and the next challenge the following week.'

On the wide receivers
'Oh, I'm fired up about it, really fired up. Patrick Turner has been exactly what we needed him to be. He has had a great spring, a great camp, he's been a leader. He's operated as the guy who has the know how and a guy that would teach every guy. He's demonstrated his effort and intensity day in and day out. We've seen a tremendous emergence from David Ausberry. He is a big time, big receiver in our program right now. He does it every day. He makes big plays. He gets the best coverage guys we can throw against him, the best tactics that we can throw at him and I think he is really pleased to be a big factor for us. Vidal Hazelton has been banged up in camp, but he's coming back to full speed now. He's had a good couple days going into the final week, but he's ready to play. Ronald Johnson has had a fantastic year and we expect to see a lot out of him. There's other guys that will contribute as well. Brad Walker has had his role that he'll play in and all of the stuff that he needed to do, but I think that the fact that David has emerged as a factor has and Ronald Johnson, his first semester has emerged as a factor for us, that really gives us a boost. The issue is none of these guys, other than Patrick, has done it in any games. We understand that and we're going to play like they've been playing all along for us. We are going go to them and work them and expect them to do the things that they've shown they are capable of doing. That's why it so important that they compete against our number one defense all spring and all fall so that they have the confidence that they can carry to the level their level of play to game time. That's the issue for us to impress upon the younger guys and we'll find out. We'll see what happens. There was a game if you remember back when Mike Williams was starting that the second game, you know, he had seven drops in that game and we kept throwing the football. Now, maybe that was stupid, but we understood what he was capable of becoming and we didn't want to back off. We wanted to force him through the experience and he came out to have a great season that year. We look at these guys. We know what they can do. We totally know and now we just got to make sure that they know it and can carry it to the games.'

On number of true freshmen who are playing
'I don't look at the numbers. I don't know. You have a true freshman, you have a chance to see Joe McKnight and Broderick Green at the running back spot and Ronald Johnson has really worked his way into the receiving spot. Kristofer O'Dowd's done a really good job. He's going play in this game at center. I'm anxious to see him. He's had an excellent camp. On the other side of the ball, we've already talked about Everson, both Chris Gallipo and Malcolm Smith have had great camps. Those guys have really looked good and we'd like to see them get some playing time, so it's been a class of guys that really have come in and competed from the start. Those are the guys that have stood out. Now we got to wait and see what the season unfolds for those guys.'

On getting more linebackers on the field
'We really have a variety of things that we can do and the things that we did last year are still part of what we're doing this year. We've carried that through the spring and the fall camp so we felt confident that we can have the ability to play four linebackers at a time. It's worked out really well. Brian Cushing's had a fantastic camp. He's a real force on our defense. We've moved him back to the outside backer spot, but he can play in a couple different positions. He's in the nickel package and he's doing a variety of things for us, as is Keith Rivers...Clay Matthews has been a factor as well in all of that. So we're excited that we have a lot of flexibility, and we'll apply our stuff as we see fit for our game plans and the challenge for the opponents.'

On creating more pressure for turnovers
'We are just trying to get the best guys on the field that and doing things that they do really well. Kyle Moore has really emerged and Everson Griffen has really been effective. We think they are going to be effective as pass rushers and to have another linebacker on the field instead of those guys is really a discussion for us. It depends on who we're playing and what the plan calls for. Everything we're ever doing is to get the football. I mean that's everything that our defense is about is to get the ball, every call that we make, every tackle we make, every time we're chasing or blitzing or whatever we're doing. We're trying to get the football so that emphasis is hopefully only been better than it was at anytime last year. Some of it comes from the nature of the players too. We've had some real ball hawks in the past and guys that just always had their eye on the football. Last year that element didn't show up in our defense. It was obvious. It was a factor. You know, we had a big impact on the opening game. If you remember there were five turnovers and then when everybody kind of curled up and took care of the football for the next few weeks to try an avoid that from happening. I think the conscience of the other guys and our lack of the right emphasis and the right time to get the ball just caused us to have a year that wasn't as good as we want. We're all over it again...the game's situation, the score, our opportunity to chase the quarterback and rush the passer.'

On aggressiveness of linebacker Rey Maualuga
'That's a good observation. There was one particular play where he missed a tackle in the backfield. That calls for recognition of `I'm wide open and here I am and I've got to get my base down and get under control and get the good football position as opposed to just running through and trying to blow the guy up'. That showed up a couple times in his play because he's so aggressive. We've drilled him specifically to those situations and he's shown different awareness about it so hopefully he'll handle that really well. You know, being a mature player, realizing your opportunities and not trying to do too much with it. It's really just a cause of him being overly aggressive on pressure or blitz situations. We think we have addressed it. Hopefully, he'll handle it well when he gets the chances.'

On former players like Shaun Cody making an impact on this year's defense
'Well, this is a very capable group. Obviously, we have a lot of guys that have played. They're going to be in the right spots and they're going to play really fast and really hard. There was an extraordinary group of guys that had unbelievable savvy including guys like Lofa Tatupu, Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson. You know all those guys that were playing that just had an unbelievable sense. Those guys were unusually gifted players at just sensing the game and having an ability to cause and effect because of that. Just off of last year, my guys played really hard and played really good football and all of that, but the special plays weren't getting created as much we would like. That's why I'm still holding back. I don't know. I don't know how good we can be. I know that we're going to be a really good group. It's a great group to play with and coach and all that, but until we really are able to capture the football and take it away from our opponents then I won't be able to compare to it so we have to just wait and see.'

On playing freshman Joe McKnight
'There's no part of me that wants me to hold him back. If he's ready to go and he's cleared and he can practice well and all of that, the rest of this week then we'd love to play him, but we don't know that yet...we'll have to wait and see. This is a really gifted football player that brings a lot of special attributes that we are really excited about. Hopefully, you know he'll get a chance. We'd love for him to get some playing time and get a little bit going here if we could this week, just start easing him into our offensive scheme and see where he fits. But, no, I have no excitement about waiting. The excitement is to see the guy on the field playing for us.'

On fullback Stanley Havili
'I think it was obvious last year when we had all those guys get banged up, we lost a dimension of our offense that I think is a multi-dimensional offense. When you lose one here and you lose one there and you know we lost a big play ability that Reggie Bush had brought us and we lost our two back offense to a certain degree last year, so you know you start squeezing in on what you're doing a little bit. Stanley is a really really good fullback in our system. He's going to come out. He was a redshirt freshman and played a little bit last year. But he has shown the ability and the understanding of the game and natural catching and natural running ability and he's a good blocker but even more than that he's got a great sense about the game. That has allowed him to learn quickly and show us that he can do all the things that we did with David Kirtman, who became a terrific player in our system. That in itself helps us. The competition at the spot is a little surprising. We got real good competition from Adam Goodman, who came to us out of junior college and has had a great camp. He is a 240-pound fullback that can catch the ball real well and is strong and physical, as well as Jody Adewale coming back and Jordan Campbell. All those four guys have really given us a boost there at the spot. We will do as we've done in the past, we use those guys in and out and see how they fit in and see if we can create a factor with Stanley playing in the game that really helps the rest of our offense as well.'

On the need for balance in the offense
'Well, we want to see consistency and balance always. We want to see the quarterback really be a highly effective guy where we can count on his completion percentages, his ability to make good decisions where we don't turn the ball over. That gives us real good consistency. The balance comes from developing a confidence about the running game. That's attitude. You like to hand it to the guys that are back there. You feel good about your guys...make the kind of decisions up front that give you the chance to control the ball with the running game. You know we never are run first, pass later. We are a balanced attack and it all feeds of one another, but that's what we would like to see...real consistency and good balance. Then we know that our players will create the special plays with there abilities as they go.'

On John David Booty and the quarterbacks
'John David has had an incredible run since the springtime. The fact that he can just work out regularly with (conditioning) Coach Carlisle in the program where he couldn't do that a year ago makes all the difference in the world in his confidence and his athleticism. If you can imagine, he got operated on in the summertime and just barely made it back to campus on time. He wasn't physically fit for the season and he still played really well and had a terrific season for us. John David's confidence is up, his understanding of what we're doing, his knowledge of playing the game and all that you gain from a whole year and the experience that he had and the quality of the players he has around him that he believes in and has worked with. He's ready to go. This is as equipped we can get John David. We rested him a little bit at camp to keep him fresh and his arm really strong. He's had just great days, really. He had a fantastic camp save one day. He had a day last week that he threw three picks in the day. I think he went 330-something throws without throwing an interception, but then the defense got him three times in one day. So he got knocked off that high horse, which in a sense gave him the awareness and all that that he needs. He had a fantastic camp until now. We've really missed Mark Sanchez. It's been obvious without Mark. Mark has been there the whole time. We've gone from John David to Mark and back and forth. And without Mark in the lineup at practice it's been obvious. Michael McDonald has done a great job to catch up and doing all of the stuff to give us the offense that we need when he's in there. I wish John David would have felt Mark on his back the whole camp, I wish he would have felt that. That's just the competitive way we go about it. Mark's going to miss this game and we're pretty sure that he will get back at the next game with the two weeks off.'

On current players who could be future coaches
'Yeah, I think there are a number of guys. Some guys have expressed that they're thinking about it. Other guys that would be really good coaches don't want to be any part of it. They will figure it out later. (Laughing) I was exactly that way. I had no intention of ever coaching when I was playing at all. I think there are some guys...the guys that really love the game. It's really important that they study it like crazy so they can't get enough of it. Those guys are the guys that are going to have the connection with the game that's going to be hard to separate when the time comes when they're through playing. We're really in a situation where we would love to help our guys do that. Take guys in our program and let them go out in the world of coaching because we'll keep them connected. We'll always stay after them and work with them to develop their skills in coaching and all that. Hopefully that will happen and I think there's a number of guys that will do that.'

On current position battles
'There are guys battling for tackle spots, tailbacks, wide receivers. They are wide open for who is going to emerge. It's a great chance for kids to capture this opportunity. We have a significant rotation on the offensive line which means guys have a chance to show themselves. On the defensive side, we are having a seven-guy rotation and probably six linebackers in this game and play as many as seven or eight defensive backs. All of those positions are out there to be had, however, I think the running back spot, the wide receiver spot, right tackle spot and defensive end are counting on more players to compete for it. I love it. That's awesome. That's the way this program has been built and constructed on competition. It's my job to make sure these guys get an opportunity to show and don't miss it. We've had incredible rotations throughout camp. I've said this that Sam Baker would be back, but with him being out and nursing his injury, he allowed those younger guys to have to be in the starting role and boy, they grow fast...they feel that sense of urgency and accountability. It's really helped us over the long haul.'

On versatility of Josh Pinkard
'Josh Pinkard is really a terrific athlete and really has a tremendous sense about himself in that he can play a lot of different spots. He understands principles and has an athletic intelligence about him that he can hold a lot of information. He has been an effective corner for us. As we added up all the one-on-one battles with the wide receivers, we took a deep look at what he was doing and saw he was real effective. He played well at safety. It gives us an opportunity to do some unusual things with him in particular and gives us a chance to move some guys around. He is a tremendous special teams player as well. It's fun to have him back in there. He's a factor and it's great to have.'

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