USC Week: Notes & Quotes

With a pivotal game against the Trojans looming, The Bootleg's Scott Cooley reports in from Tuesday's weekly media conference. Read on for various news updates and kibbles and bits surrounding "USC Week" Beat the Trojans! Let's keep the Coliseum streak alive!

USC Week: Notes & Quotes

Big Mistake


Toby Gerhart's decision on where to play college football came down to UCLA and Stanford. Of course he ultimately chose the right school, but other powerhouse programs were recruiting him as well.


"When [Steve] Sarkisian was there they came out to my practices a couple of times and watched me," Gerhart said of USC. "They only offered me as a fullback or linebacker, but not a tailback. They truly saw me as an outside linebacker or fullback. I wanted to be a feature tailback so I immediately told them I wasn't interested."


Wow. I bet Pete Carroll and the staff would love to have a ‘do over' regarding that visit with Gerhart. Apparently they wanted him to block for Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable, who were also highly-touted high school SoCal running backs.


Another factor that came into play was that USC wasn't going to allow him to play baseball.


Gerhart believes he would have been a pretty good linebacker had he played the position in college. During his senior all-star game, Gerhart played linebacker exclusively and registered a couple of sacks and a forced fumble. He said he dropped back into safety coverage on one play and corralled an interception which he returned for a score.


"I played linebacker as a kid, but once we got into high school we only went one way," he said. "I don't know if I have the ‘mean mentality' it takes to be a linebacker, but I feel like I would understand the running backs and what they're looking at, which would be an advantage."


TWU Love


The "Tunnel Workers Union" still doesn't get quite the credit it deserves. Chris Marinelli, David DeCastro, Chase Beeler, Andrew Phillips and Jonathan Martin make up one of the best offensive lines in the country.


"They run-block and pass-protect very well," said head coach Jim Harbaugh. "They play physical and they play smart. They do a great job with their communication. There's a lot of camaraderie and trust in there."


The TWU is apparently a tightly-knit group of linemen, literally. They all don beanies with "Tunnel Workers Union" emblazoned on them, as well as an unspecified area code.


"They've been a real bright spot for Stanford football," Harbaugh said. "Toby would be the first to tell you that, so would Andrew Luck."


Luck has benefited from the TWU's hard work by only being put on the ground six times this year – the fifth-fewest sacks allowed by any team in the country this season. They've also given Luck the time to connect on 126 of his 216 pass attempts for 2,076 yards and 11 touchdowns against three interceptions.


Gerhart has rumbled for a school-record 1,217 yards behind the TWU. The O-line is one of the primary reasons Gerhart ranks second in the nation in rushing (135.2 ypg) and rushing touchdowns (16).


"They do everything," Gerhart admitted. "If it wasn't for those guys I wouldn't have any yards or any publicity. They just go to work every day, making holes for me."


The Unforgotten


Tavita Pritchard will forever be remembered in Stanford history as the quarterback who defeated the Trojans in Troy.


The fifth-year senior surrendered his starting job in 2009 to a heralded redshirt freshman, but there has been no evidence of pouting or chipped shoulder.


"He's handled it like a pro," said Harbaugh. "He's been awesome. Someday I am going to repay him for that. I don't know how just yet, but I will"


Pritchard is one of the most active players on the sidelines during the game, sending in offensive signals and staying focused in case of injury. He is also Luck's biggest mentor outside of the coaches.


"He's a great teammate and a great person more importantly," Luck stated. "There's always an ongoing dialogue between him and me after plays or during practice. Even watching film - he helps me a lot. He's got great football smarts."


Harbaugh confirmed the outstanding direction Pritchard has provided to Luck this season.


"It's been daily going back to spring ball," he said. "There's times where I will give Andrew a coaching point and he says, "Tavita already told me". There have even been times where I will ask Andrew how he feels about something and he says, "Well, let me talk to Tavita".


Clardy's Corner this week also recognizes the outstanding team player that is Tavita Pritchard.


Start Me Up


Stanford has received the opening kickoff in all nine games this season. The Cardinal have put points on the board in five of those opening drives and won every time they've scored first except for the Wake Forest game.


So if one believe in statistics, when Stanford has scored on its first possession, the team appears to have a very good probability of winning. Chris Owusu and the special teams unit, setting the offense up with great field position, have assisted in that success.


Stanford leads the nation in kick-off return average at 32.1 ypr while Owusu ranks fourth in the country 36.04 ypr mark.


"It's like Christmas, you can't ask for anything more," Luck said regarding the tremendous starting field position this season. "It's such a momentum swing and takes so much pressure off starting the game. Chris, the kickoff return team, and Coach Durkin – they do a great job preparing every week and it's almost like we expect it now."




The Pac-10 is unique compared to some of the other BCS conferences in that all of the teams play one another once during the regular season.


Toby Gerhart was asked if he supported this setup or would prefer to play a couple less meaningful out-of-conference games so the Pac-10 teams wouldn't beat up on each other.


"I think it's good to be able to play everybody," he said. "It makes it fair."


After pondering the question again, Gerhart said that he wouldn't mind if the Pac-10 accepted a couple more teams and divided into two divisions.

"This is theoretical, but I guess they could throw in Boise State and somebody else and make it a Pac-12 and have a North and South division," he said. "Utah is always ranked nationally or you could throw in TCU as a South school."


What do you think…would a Pac-12 work?


Lineup Ambiguity


Harbaugh's go-to answer when prodded with a lineup question is, "We'll see".


The media wanted to know if Owen Marecic or Nick Macaluso would start at middle linebacker against USC. Harbaugh responded with his proverbial two-word answer and also said, "There's competition going on at that spot this week".


The same retort was given concerning the cornerback position and Harbaugh said Quinn Evans is "getting better".


Snyder's Future


Linebacker Clinton Snyder suffered a season-ending knee injury last week in practice prior to the Oregon game. A quick update on the senior was provided at Tuesday's press conference.


"At first he was a little bit shocked, but now he's come to grips with it and is surprisingly positive," said fellow senior linebacker Will Powers.


Snyder's injury will require surgery, but nothing has been scheduled yet. The recovery time for his injury is anywhere from 6-9 months.


Like most collegiate athletes, Snyder has hopes of playing in the NFL and with a healthy recovery that dream is still possible.


"The scouts come through and watch the tape and evaluate," coach Harbaugh said. "Clinton is somebody that multiple teams like. I think he will continue to be of interest to the NFL scouts and I believe he will have an NFL future ahead of him."


Harbaugh mentioned the scouts like him as a middle linebacker, but also see him as a hybrid that could play multiple positions.


"What they like best is the range," he said. "Putting him in the middle gives him the ability to cover more ground. They are impressed with the strength in his hands – the way he gets his hands on people and makes tackles."

About the Author: Scott Cooley is a seasoned sports writer who was groomed as a reporter for, and he most recently served as the media relations manager for the San Jose SaberCats arena football team. He earned a Business and Economics degree from Hendrix College where he also played baseball. Cooley has a passion for producing sports content, and his writing evokes thought into the minds of his readers with a witty and entertaining style. He is a freelance writer who has been published on multiple media platforms and is always looking for additional opportunities. Cooley and

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