Carroll, a true sophomore this past fall, confirmed his decision to transfer this week at the end of the fall school semester, and ten days after Coach Sylvester Croom resigned from the Bulldog football program. His tests completed today, Carroll will head for his Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., home Wednesday. There, besides watching his high school St. Thomas Aquinas play in the state semifinals Friday, he will consider his next destination…just the latest in a long series of stops along the career-track.
"You realize how many times I've moved in my life!" Carroll said. Many, having been born in California, and played prep ball in North Carolina and Florida. So perhaps a stay of just over a calendar year and two college seasons at State was approaching some sort of limit.
"I'm pretty sure that's God's plan, I can't stay somewhere too long! And I was going to leave from here in two more years." Instead Carroll, who turned 20 in September, is making an unplanned change in course, much like changing a plan at the line of scrimmage. Contrary to some reports, he has not chosen a new college destination yet.
"I don't know where I'm going," he said, asked about a story that he was headed for Florida International. "When I saw that I laughed, it took me by surprise. I have no idea right now. All I know is I've got to go somewhere where they want me to be there, and I have a chance to play two solid years of Division I football. Where I can contribute and help a team out, much like I did my freshman year here. Because when it comes down to it, I want to go be part of a team and I want to play."
Carroll found himself playing earlier and more than anyone could have forecast in 2007. He began camp third on the depth chart, but suspension for the opener of the top backup and a third-game injury to starter Mike Henig suddenly promoted the rookie to number-one. And his fourth-quarter work in State's win at Auburn showed the kid had something on the ball beyond his years. Carroll had to re-win the starting job in October and did, and in the last four games of the season directed the Bulldogs to wins over Kentucky, Alabama, and Ole Miss that secured the program's first bowl berth since 2000.
In the Liberty Bowl, Carroll sparked the winning fourth-quarter touchdown drive to defeat Central Florida 10-3. And he did it with little regard for statistics or style, though in a November loss at Arkansas he had the second-most passing yards ever by a Bulldog quarterback. He was voted Freshman All-SEC by the conference coaches.
Carroll came into 2008 as the starter and opened the first four games. But with much of the blocking, and a good bit of the magic, lost from '07 the season started with sputtering offense. State changed triggermen and transfer Tyson Lee started the other eight games. Though they naturally took most of the critiques, both quarterbacks were working with inconsistent schemes and unreliable execution much of the campaign as State fell to 4-8.
The morning after the year ended with a thorough 45-0 defeat at Ole Miss, Croom's resignation was announced and every underclassman Bulldog left guessing about the future and their place within it. Carroll is still uncertain why the coaching change came so quickly.
"But I don't know how the business aspect worked. It just took me by surprise, there had been no talk or anything leading up to it." Carroll said he hasn't had a chance to speak with Croom since there coach appeared before his team to say goodbye. "I don't know what he's up to. I wish him the best and much like the rest of the staff. I know Coach is going to be fine wherever he ends up, he's been in the coaching world a long time."
At the same time, Carroll finds it difficult to go through another serious transition in the program, "Because we just got done with that. The Mississippi State team that ended up winning the Liberty Bowl had to go through all that, and it didn't happen immediately. I don't know, regardless of who the coach is, what is going to happen.
"I want go to somewhere where the coaching staff wants me, obviously I wasn't recruited by whoever comes in. You have to go where you know that you're wanted, and that you fit into the system."
Carroll hopes the stress over the coaching change, as well as his own choice, didn't impact his final exams. "I know I finished them, that's all that matters! And I really do take school seriously, unfortunately this was in the back of my mind. And the season has been in the back of my mind since we've been losing, I think it's taken a toll on everybody.
"Hopefully I can continue with the business path I'm taking. (He majored in business/fitness management at State.) Of course don't know what schools offer what classes. I'm sure there'll be something there for me." Where, he wouldn't offer any hints. "I don't want to say anything one way or another, I've got to stay open. But I'll make a decision relatively soon. Hopefully."
Nor will Carroll let himself regret this particular change in course, as all the moves he's made in his two decades have turned out well for him…and for the teams he played with. Until this past fall, in fact, he had never suffered a losing football season. This sort of new experience wasn't welcome of course, but it will serve him well in the longer run. Carroll will also keep up with what's happening in Starkville.
And, take pride in what his freshman squad achieved. For that matter Carroll owns a pretty unique status in State history; as the only Bulldog quarterback since WWII to start in wins over both Alabama and Ole Miss, and start in a bowl victory all in the same season.
"Until Mississippi State has anther winning season and another bowl game," he said. "I hope it changes in our favor." Yes, he said ‘our' favor. "I still consider myself a Bulldog at heart because I've been through a lot of stuff.
"Obviously this chapter of my life is over, it's time to start another. It was fun while it lasted, there was nothing better than going through that ‘07 season. I'll never forget that. And I hope State fans will never forget that."