Dec. 31, 2005
An Interview With:
GREG DAVIS LIMAS SWEED and WILL ALLEN
THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could go ahead and have an opening comment and then we'll take questions from the group.
GREG DAVIS: Well, actually we're excited to be here, or to be back. It's been a wonderful experience, and the people of the Rose Bowl and committee, our host and everything, have just been wonderful. They've gone out of their way to make everything about the trip run smoothly. Our players have had a great time.
Practices have gone well. We have great respect for USC. Having won 19 games, and to think that they've won 34 in a row is just unbelievable. So we have great respect for what they have done and what Pete and his staff has accomplished.
Their defense is very athletic. When we look at those guys, we see speed. I think both of their defensive ends, our tackles, Jonathan Scott and Justin Blalock will have their hands full with Lawrence and Rucker, and the inside guys who will be dealing with some of those, our inside guys have good quick moves. What you see is athleticism.
The linebackers, there's been a bunch of linebackers that have played and all of them can run and they're very athletic. I'm very impressed with the safeties, Darnell Bing and Scott Ware are guys that have been around and they use them in different ways, both in support and pass rush and coverage, so they do a great job.
We are excited about being here and our players are having a lot of fun and enjoying the hospitality.
Q. Will, can you talk about the satisfaction of how last year ended for you coming back and being named allAmerican and just this whole run that this team has enjoyed?
WILL ALLEN: It's been a great thing. The fact that we came back and we came to Pasadena last year, and Coach said, you know, this is the first step to getting here next year. We fought hard through offseason, took a big step last year winning a big game here and worked hard through the offseason, like I said, and throughout the season it's been our main focus, take it one game at a time, and we knew our ultimate goal was to end here. We've taken it step by step, and everybody has done their job, and that's what the coaches are telling us now; if everybody just does your job and plays with confidence and goes out there, then we'll be fine.
Q. I have a question for Will and for Limas. What's it like playing with Vince out there when you make those incredible plays and what's he like in the huddle with you guys?
LIMAS SWEED: Well, Vince is a great guy, fun guy to be around a lot of the time. In the huddle he may call a play and may crack a joke and have everybody laughing. He sort of takes control and just makes the situation a lot easier, loosens up things for us and helps us relax and have fun.
WILL ALLEN: I think Vince is the kind of guy that gives a team a lot of confidence just because when he comes out there, you know that he's a guy that can make a play. We've seen it in practice, we see it everywhere. He has the ability to make three or four guys miss, and when you're playing with a guy like that, it just makes you feel a lot better. I mean, we have a much easier time pass protecting because defensive linemen are told to contend so they can't let him get by. It just makes the offense go by a lot quicker when you have a guy that's mobile and a dual threat quarterback.
Q. Limas, what did the play against Ohio State do for your confidence?
LIMAS SWEED: It was definitely a confidence builder, playing on a stage like that and making a catch like that. It helped my team to see it definitely was a confidence builder, made me feel great that I was able to help this team out. You know, overall I think the catch really helped me out.
Q. Limas, does hearing how good USC's offense is for this entire month make you guys want to even go out there and show how good you can be as an offensive?
LIMAS SWEED: I think obviously, like Coach Davis said, we respect SC. They have a great offense. We feel we have a great offense, as well. We don't have to go out there and prove our offense is better than theirs; we're definitely not thinking like that. We're going out there and sticking to our game plan and playing, just doing what we do best.
Q. Greg, the Trojans have had their struggles defensively, some ups and downs. When you look at them, what do you think their problems have been against Fresno and against Notre Dame? Where do you think they might be vulnerable, without giving away sort of the game plan?
GREG DAVIS: I wouldn't expect a lot from this answer (laughter). You know, they had some injuries early and they lost some great players. But I think someone asked me the other day about they're 75th in the nation in passing defense. They throw the ball extremely well. They're ahead so much, teams are out of their game plan so they're taking shots that other teams might not take because of the score in the ballgame. And when you play a 12game series, a 12game season, you're No.1 in August, there's going to be some ups and downs.
We would like to think that we could go out and play 12 in a row and play at a peak level every time, and certainly that's what we're shooting for. We're shooting for our guys to play with passion every time they go out. But there's going to be some ups and downs, and those ballgames that you mentioned, a couple times they didn't play to their standard that they're accustomed to, and I think we'll see the very best of it.
Q. Greg, can you talk about their blitz tendencies and just kind of what they present from what you've seen on film?
GREG DAVIS: Well, they play certainly different kind of structures, and one of the things they do is they involve Darnell Bing quite a bit in different areas. They involve him with the outside backers and with inside backers and bringing him off the edge, and many of their blitzes are fire zone in nature. When you turn the tape on, you would expect to see the fire zones and all the things that you hear about in Sunday ball because of Pete's background. I mean, that's what you see.
And then they involve from the other side with the weak backer and using the free safety blitz, and they have the ability to zone behind that or to play mantoman behind it. But I think they use the blitz judiciously, at the right times. They're not a team that you would go into the game and say, "Wow, they are just a huge blitz team." They're a team that uses it to offset what people are doing. In certain ballgames they've used it more than others. But they're very effective with their blitz package.
Q. With all the focus on Reggie and Matt and Vince, is Jamaal Charles kind of a wild card in this game, kind of the forgotten guy? Talk about his health, because he's had the ankle throughout the season.
GREG DAVIS: I think Jamaal Charles is well and has practiced well, and we've got several backs that we feel like are ready to play in Selvin Young and RT and Jamaal. But Jamaal is totally well, has had a good preparation both in Austin and since we've been here. He's just a great young back, and he's only going to get better. He's got vision, he's got speed to break it when he gets out, and he's a much tougher runner than you would expect when you first look at his frame because of his balance. I think the future is extremely bright for Jamaal and we look for him to play well on the 4th.
Q. Greg, how rewarding has it been this season being the offensive coordinator of a team with 50 points a game?
GREG DAVIS: Well, it's been a lot of fun, and these guys have made it fun. A lot has been said about Vince being loose and all those kind of things, but this has been the best chemistry we've had in the eight years that we've been here. Everybody talks about that elusive deal, the chemistry, but I think our players would tell you that this has been outstanding. It all started in the summer. I mean, not that what we did when we got back in the offseason and spring training, obviously those things are important in laying the foundation. But what our guys did in the summer, the core and the chemistry that they developed really carried on into August. They've made it fun.
We've got guys that can make plays, and yet at the same time they're not worried about and Billy Pittman is a prime example. In the championship game, I don't believe Billy caught a pass. But it was Limas's day; he caught five for over 100, Billy didn't catch a pass. You go in the dressing room, Billy is dancing around, jumping on people's backs, and not caught up in what did I do today but more in what did we do today.
Q. Greg, if you could talk a little bit about Dave Thomas' evolution as a player just since he arrived in Austin and maybe Vince's comfort level this season going to the tight end.
GREG DAVIS: If you look up student athlete in the dictionary, there will be a picture of David Thomas. He has graduated. He is an outstanding person, and he's a great player, and he plays on all of our special teams, has worked on deep snapping since his freshman here. Whoever is coaching our deep snapping is not doing a good job because he's not deep snapping for us yet (laughter). But he wants to get on the field and wants to help.
Having a guy like that was really beneficial early in the year before our receivers really started stepping up. David has been in the offense for four years now and he understands the parameters that he can use to get open and what areas of the field he can work. We will miss him greatly when he's gone.
Q. And Vince's comfort level going into this year? It seems Vince has used the tight ends quite a bit this year.
GREG DAVIS: Yeah, I think he was comfortable last year with both, but there is a comfort level knowing where he's working in the middle, and sometimes he's a third look for Vince where he's downfield looking for Limas, for Billy, and knowing that David is going to be working open against backer coverage underneath, it's a tremendous feeling.
Q. Will, can you talk about your performance last night in the Beef Bowl and those of your fellow offensive linemen?
WILL ALLEN: Well, we probably didn't play to our standard as Coach would say because I think they cut us off at two. That's probably the best thing for our team, though. We didn't want guys overeating, but most of the offensive linemen had over one. We'll leave it at that (laughter).
Q. Greg, Will touched a little bit on how pass protection can be easier because linemen are trying to contain Vince. How does his mobility, I guess, affect defenses that you see?
GREG DAVIS: Well, there's different ways obviously. I think sometimes that it's easy for people to say, you know, wow, Vince is such a great athlete and that's why he doesn't get sacked. I would just ask you to look last year at the No.1 quarterback in the NFL that got sacked was Michael Vick.
I think that makes it way too easy to say he's a great athlete; these linemen up there, their job is so easy, because that's far from the case.
What you see sometimes is line integrity. Sometimes people don't twist as much as maybe they had coming into our ballgame because if a twist gets caught up, it gets could create a problem. You see backers spying in different ballgames. You see down linemen spying in different ballgames.
Great players alter the game even when they're not making plays. Great receivers force defensive guys to kick coverage even when they don't want to. So Vince alters the way people play. Those kind of things are what you see on tape sometimes.
Q. You've had the lead so early in so many games this year, you haven't had to show a lot. Is it safe to say that the play book is wide open?
GREG DAVIS: Well, we have some things obviously that we haven't used yet and some things that we haven't used a great deal. We'll try to do whatever we have to do to move the ball.
One thing you have to be really careful of is when you have a month off, the tendency is coaches are all mad scientists. They go in their labs and they turn the lights off and they don't shave for two or three days and they come out and they feel like they've got the answers to the world. The truth is these are the guys that win the games. It's much more Johnny and Joes than it is Xs and Os. But when you have a month, if you're not careful you'll do too much. You'll try to add too many different things. What Mack has really harped on to our staff and to our players from the very beginning is let's beat us; let's do what we do and put just put that out there and see where it falls.
Q. Greg, could you tell us how much USC film you watched, going back three years, just this year?
GREG DAVIS: We've gone back a long time. We've watched the last two we watched the Oklahoma game obviously from last year. We watched every ballgame that they played this year. We watched the Michigan game from the year before, the Rose Bowl game from the year before. We didn't put all those games in the computer obviously, but we looked at them, just trying to get a look at what they do and how they play different style offenses, what do they do in the ballgame late when they have to make a play. I'm sure they've done the same thing.
But we've tried to do our homework in terms of what they have done in ballgames in the past, not just
Q. Not Pete's NFL games?
GREG DAVIS: No.
Q. Four Limas and for Will, can you talk about the positive things about Vince and his mobility and being able to keep plays alive? Was there a situation where you had to learn maybe run routes a little longer, being able to improvise or learn to necessarily block a little longer or understand that rushers may be coming at you from different angles?
WILL ALLEN: Last year I think the Rose Bowl was a perfect example where you'd see Vince maybe a couple guys miss and take off downfield. I think one thing we've learned in the offensive line is to keep up with the hustle or make time for the blocks. If you can just get in a guy's way, Vince can keep running. I think Coach McWhorter has done a great job instilling that mindset of not quitting and keeping on guys, and it carries over with Vince's style of play.
LIMAS SWEED: Vince is such a great athlete; like when he's running the ball, you may be assigned to one guy, but he may cut back across the field. As a receiver you just have to keep doing your downfield blocks and keep standing on your guys. But as far as the passing game goes and running the routes, you know, he may scramble, so the only thing I've learned from that is just learn to keep yourself alive and stay open for him.
Q. Greg, your group drastically cut the number of fumbles from early in the season. I was wondering did you guys do anything to address that, and if so have you had any kind of refresher course during the time period?
GREG DAVIS: We told them to quit fumbling (laughter). We knew that was not good (laughter). Selvin wasn't well early in the year. We probably made a poor decision as we look back as a offensive staff trying to get Selvin on the field too soon, and he wasn't well, and when you're not well you're trying to protect yourself, and that's totally our responsibility; it wasn't Selvin's.
And then Jamaal was a young guy, and so but obviously turnovers, and SC does a tremendous job, they lead the nation in turnovers, taking it away. We just kept harping to our guys, ball protection, how to protect the ball, when the strips are coming and those kind of things. As we got better and the season went on, we did a better job protecting the ball. It's always something that you've got to harp on.
Q. Greg, Texas high school coaches are somewhat copycats but Texas high schools started running the wishbone. Is the zone read the sort of offense that can be adapted on any level or is it specific to just a general type of athlete at quarterback?
GREG DAVIS: I think the zone read can be run obviously with quarterbacks that are not like Vince, but you need a mobile quarterback. The play itself is not some huge, complex deal. It's a very disciplined, assignmentoriented play. Obviously the better mobility your quarterback has, the better play it can be.
Quite a few high schools are running it now in the state when I watch recruiting tape.
Q. Limas, are you licking your chops just a little bit knowing that that the Southern Cal secondary has had some struggles this year? Are you kind of excited about what you might see?
LIMAS SWEED: Well, to be honest with you, every game I'm really licking my chops to go out there and make plays. For this game, yeah, I'll definitely be ready and definitely licking my chops just ready to go out there and make plays on the game, as big as this one is, the biggest game there is, I'm just ready to go out there and play.
Q. Greg, your thoughts about Mack Brown kind of changing, being a little looser, Vince Young being allowed to be a little looser, how much has this helped you being the offensive coordinator, having this kind of loose mentality, a little more freewheeling?
GREG DAVIS: Well, I think Mack has always been pretty loose. I heard somebody the other day say, "You've got your swerve on" to him. I'm not sure he's always had his swerve on. That may have been Limas that said that (laughter). Vince has brought a looseness, and your leaders do that. Your leaders do that, and he's a very loose guy. He's helped set the tempo for all of us because that's the way he plays. Our dressing rooms are really interesting (laughter).
GREG DAVIS: It's all over. At different areas you'd find all kinds of music. Our guys have a good time, and what they've done a great job of, and some teams can't do it, they've done a great job of coming out of a very loose setting and then focusing, and that's a tribute to them.
Q. LA is a fun town. Any New Year's Eve plans for the players tonight?
WILL ALLEN: Sleep, lots of it. I think today is the first day that we've actually had the whole day off. We've got events scheduled for the last couple of days, so I think most guys are looking forward after practice today to catching a long nap and kind of I think a lot of guys' families are coming in tonight, so a lot of guys can catch dinner with their parents and hang out.
GREG DAVIS: I think we have dinner with SC coaches tonight (laughter).
LIMAS SWEED: I'm with Will on that. After practice I'm going straight to sleep (laughter).
Q. Greg, what are your tips for withstanding eight years as offensive coordinator in one of those places where there are hundreds of people who are armchair offensive coordinators?
GREG DAVIS: You haven't counted lately (laughter). It's part of it. I mean, you know when you get in this business that the highs are extremely low and the lows are extremely low. You get into it because you love the game, and that hasn't changed, and it won't change. So we're just out there having fun and staying away from things that you can't control.
An Interview With:
VINCE YOUNG SELVIN YOUNG and BILLY PITTMAN
Q. In a way, are you guys almost tired of hearing about how great USC's offense is?
VINCE YOUNG: Basically we've been watching TV.
BILLY PITTMAN: A lot of cartoons. I don't see hem on The Cartoon Network.
SELVIN YOUNG: I've been watching ESPN. I don't know about them. I've been watching Ali fights. They've been on ESPN Classic all last week, so I've had a chance to watch that guy. I don't have time to look at SC, I change the channel.
VINCE YOUNG: Beyoncé videos.
Q. Vince, we all talk about and ask these guys about you being the leader of the team. How do you shoulder that responsibility and how has that made you a better player as you've become the leader of this team?
VINCE YOUNG: It's just pretty much my calling. I'm meant to be a leader, so you either do it or you're going to get hit in the face. I don't want to be hit in the face by the man upstairs, so I took my calling. I learned a lot from them and they learned a lot from me. Us being a family like this and out here in LA having a good time and guys being relaxed while they're playing the game that they love, it's a real blessing just to see the guys having a good time. We don't have to be all uptight.
Just like the coaches, they relax, and you see Coach Davis and Coach Brown doing a little wiggle, that brings excitement to all of us, so we're just having a good time as a team right now.
Q. How would weather play a factor if indeed it was raining on this game? How does that change the game plan, the cleats, any of that kind of stuff?
VINCE YOUNG: It changes a whole lot. Selvin Young will be getting a whole lot of carries (laughter).
I'm pretty sure Coach Davis, he's been coaching for a long time and he's a great coach, so I'm pretty sure he'll get us prepared. All we have to do from an offensive standpoint is go out there and execute the plays. I mean, rain, snow, whatever it takes, we have to go out there and win this ballgame.
Q. Obviously you want to win the game for yourselves, for your teammates and your families. Can you talk about what it would mean to the common Texas Longhorn fan if you guys were to win the national title?
SELVIN YOUNG: I think it would mean a lot. Our plan is to bring this thing back to Texas where it belongs in the south. Growing up, I've always been a believer that real football is played in Texas, starting in high school, starting in little league. I mean, to be able to bring it back to where it comes from, that's my plan.
BILLY PITTMAN: I think it would mean a lot, too. Growing up in Texas, like all the hype Texas gets, they say we can never win a big game. To be at the National Championship, now we're here, so I think it would mean a lot to us and prove all those critics wrong.
Q. Vince, I know you and Selvin are pretty tight. What does it mean to you to see Selvin bounce back from what he went through last year and become one of your feature backs? And Selvin, if you can follow up what the season has been like and now you're here as one of the future backs?
VINCE YOUNG: There were trials and tribulations that my brother went through. He went through a whole lot, but just to see him keep fighting, I mean, he could have just quit it, but he's still here, he's still on the sidelines with his little hopping ankle and he's still coaching them guys. For someone to do that, you've got to respect a guy like that.
To see him back on the field right now playing in one of the biggest games we'll probably ever play in together, for a lot of memories, to see how excited he is right now to play, to see him walking around in the hotel right now, I mean, I'm just looking forward to handing the ball off and sitting back and seeing the different moves and seeing him being explosive and making big plays. I'm very proud of him, how much hard work he did to get to this point. I'm proud of him a whole lot.
SELVIN YOUNG: To me, it's almost like a storybook that I'm living right now. I mean, I came out here last year and I had broke my fibula last season, second game of the season starting off a good season. The team made it to the Rose Bowl and I come out here and I'm walking out of the tunnel while they're running. I'm watching the jets fly over. It was one of the biggest games I've ever seen in my life, the best game I've probably ever seen in my life.
It was tough just watching the game and I wanted to be part of it, especially when it was crunch time. I could get those yards, I could get that 1st down, I could do that, I could do that. I just dedicated myself, and I thought my goal was to do what I had to do for myself and to available to this team and get the guys in the same mindset I'm in because I want to come back here, come back to the same game and the same place and play. It's almost going to be like a dream come true. Right now I'm just living it. I'm walking but I feel like I'm floating. I can't believe it's really happening.
I mean, with these guys, offensive line, on defense, everybody on the same page just working for the same goal.
Q. For Vince, what, if anything, did the offense do to cut the number of fumbles from early in the season, and if you did anything, has there been a refresher course heading into a team that leads the country in turnover rate?
VINCE YOUNG: Well, high and tight, holding the ball high and tight. Doing a lot more fumble drills, holding the ball tight, different things to protect the ball. That was the biggest key with Coach Brown and Coach Davis was protecting the ball. The biggest thing we do is try to win the turnover margin and make plays, so that's what we've been focusing on a whole lot for finishing out the season.
Q. Vince, how much influence have you had on this offense just kind of getting to know Greg Davis and him getting to be more comfortable with you? How have you been able to change things to work in your style?
VINCE YOUNG: The biggest thing was I didn't know Coach; he was my first white coach and I was his first black quarterback. We wasn't on the same page because of where I'm from. Just sitting down right now, right now we're best of friends. If anything, if I want to go and just get away, just go to Coach's house and just talk and sit back and relax, we're just like that right now. From him teaching me the football standpoint of the game, it helped me out a lot this year, and it kind of took off a little bit just going in and learning the game of football. It's not all about the physical ability, and he taught me a whole lot.
Coach Davis is a great guy. He's a silly guy. He has jokes for us every day. If you see him, pretty much you can ask these guys, we're pretty much similar. We talk the same now and everything. Me and him are just best friends. I love Coach Davis a whole lot. He taught me a whole lot.
Q. You kind of joked about it, but what was that relationship like in the beginning? Did Coach Davis not understand what you could do on the field or what?
VINCE YOUNG: No, it was just trying to understand each other's character. At the time a couple of jokes that he was saying, I didn't feel that and I didn't think it was funny (laughter). Some of the things that I was saying, he didn't think it was funny. So right now, now we understand each other more. Our chemistry, our communication is real high, and I can go to him and talk about anything, and at the time I couldn't do that because I didn't know him for one, and I was still in the learning process. Like as a freshman, you don't want to come off bad to your offensive coordinator because you're trying to play.
But we both understand each other now and we understand the different situations, that it's not just all about me and him; it's about these guys right here. So we had to put aside our differences and come together like father like son. He's like my father from an offensive standpoint of football right now.
Q. I think I read somewhere that you have some tattoos of roses on one of your arms. Is that so?
VINCE YOUNG: Yeah, it's the rose bush of the women in my life, though.
Q. Do people misconstrue that? Can you talk about what they do represent and when you got them?
VINCE YOUNG: When I got them, people were like, "oh, is that because you won the Rose Bowl from last year?" No, it's just the respect of the women in my life that got me to the point where I am today. I wanted something that I could just always look to, and why not get a tattoo. I can turn to it and see it all the time.
Q. Is it your right arm?
VINCE YOUNG: My right arm.
Q. And you got them after the Rose Bowl last year?
VINCE YOUNG: I got it like in the summertime.
Q. Billy, Greg was joking that after the Big 12 game you were just excited as everyone else even though you didn't catch a ball. You've had your moments, OU game, as Limas has had his. Talk about the receiving corps. You've gone from being a maligned bunch to now. Who's going to step up and have a huge game?
BILLY PITTMAN: Well, this is a story like in the spring. We wanted to step up coming into the season because all of us were tired of hearing we had a weaker offense. I mean, these two guys right here, Selvin and VY, they gave us all the confidence in the world. Even when Selvin was hurt, he was still trying to pull up the receivers. All the things they've done for us in the spring and summer is carrying over into the season, and I think that was a big part of it stepping up, and I think we're going to step up this game, too.
Q. Vince, if you could follow that up, how confident and proud are you in the way the receivers have played this season?
VINCE YOUNG: I'm proud. I knew I mean, I knew how talented they were, just like I was when I was young, how much time it's going to take you to sit yourself down and understand the game. And they did that, and now they're having a good time and making plays, and that's how we all learned, all three of us. We weren't just like, I'm going to go out there, I know the route I'm supposed to run. I know if I don't see nobody downfield, take off running. It wasn't all about that.
We had to go in and really study the game of football for us to excel like we're doing right now. I'm pretty proud of each and every one of those guys for taking the time and going and getting that extra fieldwork in or getting that extra day in the summertime of working out. It paid off a whole lot and it got us in the Rose Bowl Championship, so I'm pretty proud of all of that.
Q. Can you talk about how Coach Brown has changed over your time in Austin, and also how important was last year's Rose Bowl game in terms of maybe taking some of the pressure off him?
VINCE YOUNG: Coach Brown changed a whole lot. I just believe that he's not worrying about winning anymore, he's just worried about whatever it takes to keep us happy. To get us prepared for the next level, for the real world that we're going to be seeing in a little while, you have to make a lot more decisions. Just basically he wanted us to be happy. He's not worried about winning or losing, as well as we give it all that we've got, as long as we go out fighting, as long as we're smiling and happy, that's how he feels. For him to do the different things and understand us more as players and the next generation that's coming up, for him to go sit down and listen to the music we listen to, we all respect that a whole lot.
I kind of took that in a whole lot for me to respect him more and trust him a little bit more to say, hey, Coach, for someone to do that, and it turned out to be real well for all of us for him to do that.
Q. How much did winning the Rose Bowl last year play into that at all?
VINCE YOUNG: Well, just going out there and winning that big game and finishing as a team, as a University, I mean, it helped out a whole lot. Coach Brown, he was already changing at the time. But now he's just silly right now, but he's still the head coach and he always gets focused. He knows when it's time to get real focused. But just to see him having a good time and loving the job that he's doing, I mean, it brings almost tears to my eyes to see a coach dancing like that. I'm excited about Coach Brown.
Q. How does he dance?
VINCE YOUNG: He dances like Billy, horrible (laughter).
Q. Vince, USC obviously has received tremendous attention obviously individually, Leinart, Bush, LenDale White, Dwayne Jarrett, but nationally, outside of Austin, at least, this team and your offense, basically all the focus is on you. Is there a little bit of unfairness there? Do some of your other teammates deserve a lot more credit than they've been getting?
VINCE YOUNG: Well, I'm going to start off say this: Our defense, without them guys right now, we wouldn't be getting the big numbers that we're getting right now. They are not getting any credit, and I'm kind of mad about that. Our defense is great, they have great speed. I really think that USC does respect that. I think they really see that.
I see as an offensive guys that go up against guys every day, and it kind of runs me out a little bit that they don't say anything about our defense, and they have done a lot of things with turnovers. They're like on the top of everything in the nation right now. They don't say anything about them guys.
From an offensive standpoint, I think, those guys know what it takes to get us the ball. That's why I'm saying it's our defense that's going to take to win this game. All we have to do from an offensive standpoint is be patient and believe.
Q. Should some of your offensive guys be getting more attention than they are?
VINCE YOUNG: Yeah, I mean, all of us. Me, I don't really care about the hype. I'm going to always play hard. I mean, Billy, what he did, he's been hurt for two years, and for him to come be the leading receiver right now, Selvin Young, all the things that he's been there, Ramonce Taylor, David Thomas, that's one of the best tight ends in the nation, and they don't say anything about him. For a guy to catch the balls that he catches and get 13 to 14 knockdowns every game, they don't say anything about him.
You've got Quan Cosby coming from baseball, coming in making plays. They don't say anything about him. We've got five of the best offensive line in the country. They don't say anything about them. But who am I to run my mouth about something like that (laughter)?
But them guys are very respectful and I love them guys a whole lot. So for them guys to do what they're doing and not caring about that and just keep playing and knowing that their teammates and their family and their coaches respect them a lot whole, I really applaud them for doing that.
Q. I was just about to say something about David Thomas. Tight ends have had some success against USC this year. It's one of the kind of trends coming in. Can you talk about David, and Neale has emerged as a weapon as the season has gone on, what kind of role they can play?
VINCE YOUNG: Coach Chambers has brought them guys a long way. David Thomas, he's the leader of all them tight ends that we have. David Thomas is a great guy, I mean, just to hang around him, being in the locker room, being here with him and learning him, his character off the field is beautiful. He's the type of man that all men need to be. I mean, I can't say too much about him, man. He's a real special guy and everybody on the team respects him a whole lot. I just love him a whole lot. He's the best tight end I've ever played with in my life.
Q. You've had some success with tight end sets this year. Is that something has evolved?
VINCE YOUNG: We did the same thing last year. That's pretty much our offense. Whatever it takes to give different looks, both of them guys block well, both of them catch the ball well. Just getting the ball in them guys' hands, they make big plays all the time, especially David. And to see Tweedie in that big game, make the two big catches and the touchdown, just to show how much they pay attention in that meeting room to go out there and make plays.
Q. Can you elaborate more about what your mother means to you, your grandmother, what you've been through growing up and now to the point where they've coming out here to watch you play in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship?
VINCE YOUNG: Well, my grandma, she means a whole lot to me. She used to have to work at the graveyard shift, go in real late at night and then come home in the morning and take us to school, cook breakfast. She's done a whole lot. And my mom at the time was doing different things, hanging out. She was still working but she was doing her thing. She wasn't hardly around when we were young. Just to see my grandmother take over and raise us well until mama could get a point in her life out of her system, she did a great thing.
And then to see my mom make that big change; she had been in the streets for like ten years and now she's been clean. I'm proud of her and happy to see her being able to be a mom for me. Selvin can tell you, as well, she's a beautiful mom; just to see that the different things that she went through, but also right now, she's at another level. She's a pro warrior, and she gets me and Selvin through our days. They helps us out a whole lot, and I love her and my grandmother a whole lot.
Q. Are they coming out here today?
VINCE YOUNG: They won't be here until Tuesday. They've got to work.
Q. How did you develop your throwing mechanics, and over the years have guys tried to alter them or were they smart enough to leave you alone?
VINCE YOUNG: That was one thing I was doing. I was trying to do what everybody wanted me to do. I kind of just, like I said, me and Coach Brown and Coach Davis said, man, just be yourself. It's not about how you throw the ball. I mean, everybody there's a lot of guys that have some terrible throwing motions, worse than mine, but they still get the ball downfield. That's all that matters. You know when you see a guy blitzing, hit your blitz guy. That's what it is, and they're reading the defense, and then your receiver is on the same page making different plays at the line of scrimmage.
Q. When was it you guys decided not to try to mess with the mechanics anymore?
VINCE YOUNG: It was after the Missouri game last year.
Q. Vince, what's the number one thing you learned from Coach Seals back in Madison, and how has that helped you become a better quarterback here in college?
VINCE YOUNG: That you're going to make mistakes as a quarterback is how you take it after you come to the sidelines. You're going to get frustrated and throw your helmet around, or you're going to sit there and take the criticism that coach is going to give you and try to learn off that mistake. The bigger key when I was a sophomore, he said you're going to make a lot of mistakes, but we're behind you, man. After that I kind of just took that in and like would go out there and make plays and whatever happens, happens, but do not get frustrated and let your teammates see you frustrated. So he helped me out a whole lot with that.
Q. If indeed the USC has the greatest offense in the history of college football, where does that put the Texas offense?
VINCE YOUNG: We're great or greater; a greater, greater offense (laughter).
Q. I talked to Limas just a few minutes ago and asked him if he was licking his chops a little bit at the Southern Cal secondary that's had its struggles at times this year. He said yes. Are you licking your chops, also?
BILLY PITTMAN: I'm licking my chops every game. This is another opportunity to go out and win another game. They've got a pretty good secondary. I mean, they're playing against some of the best offenses in the nation. I think they deserve more credit. I mean, we see Michael Huff and those guys every day. I mean, they've got a good D, but they're not the best.
Q. Let me follow that up. Are you saying you guys are the best?
BILLY PITTMAN: Our secondary? Oh, no doubt, we're the best in the country, I think (smiling).
VINCE YOUNG: I think, too.
SELVIN YOUNG: I concur (laughter).
Q. For all three of you, you've been through a Bowl week in SanDiego a couple years ago and the Rose Bowl last year. How different is the attitude and the personality and the enthusiasm on the team because it is for the National Championship this year?
VINCE YOUNG: Well, me, I feel like the guys know what it takes to win right now. I just know on the team there's no individual guys. The bonding that we do off the field, bowling, going out to eat, I mean, everybody knows what it takes to win. At the time we were young and we were thinking about just going out to play. But now that we've all been in the big games, even the young guys, they understand that you have to learn the game of football to be to the point where we are right now. It's all about physical ability. That's how I feel about it. We're all bonding a whole lot and working to get to different levels at this point in our lives right now.
SELVIN YOUNG: Just what he said. I mean, a lot of guys, we basically took it upon ourselves, if we want to do something special, then it's right there to do. Vince came in, and the class of '02 was the No.1 recruiting class in the country. We had plans of winning two or three National Championships. Some of the guys faltered along the way, but it's just been a growing process. It's like brothers, we grew up together and watching everybody fall and come back up and stand tall.
We are still here. There's nothing that we can hide from each other. We've all seen each other's back sides and front sides. There's no shame in anything. When a guy goes and he's not giving his all, I mean, he can't turn around and look at us and look in our eyes and not know that we're not mad at him. That's basically what it is, everybody taking it upon themselves that you've got to do what you're going to do. That's basically what it is. Our motto is go eat, and we're hungry.
Q. Do you all see a different attitude than two years ago going to the Holiday Bowl?
SELVIN YOUNG: Totally different. Those guys on that team were guys that said we want to be totally different from. We thought we were going to have a totally different practice ethic, this is going to be totally different. We're going to respect our coaches, show up, do what we have to do, be respectful, just going to smile and have fun. I feel like those guys were putting too much pressure on themselves to go out and have a big game every game and do everything big. We feel like if we do it all together we don't have to worry about anybody because we've got each other's backs. That's basically what it's evolved to.
Q. The other three guys said they're going to sleep. What are you guys going to do New Year's Eve?
BILLY PITTMAN: I'm going to watch cartoons and go to sleep.
VINCE YOUNG: Talk to my girl. She ain't going to be around.
SELVIN YOUNG: I hope they've got some more Ali fights on TV.
Q. You mentioned earlier how kind of amazing it is that Billy is now your top receiver after not playing his first couple years. When did you start to develop this rapport with him do you think?
VINCE YOUNG: Every day I used to go in and have a little meeting with Coach, and I used to say, "Man, Billy, he's looking nice out there, Coach." We have to get this guy involved as often as we can. Coach Davis, the first day of camp, Billy was out there tearing our defense up, and I was like, "Coach, I told you."
He kind of took off from there. We already knew the type of skills that he had. It was in him to go and sit down and understand the game, the mental part of the game, and he did that. Once you understand the mental part of the game, you just have so much fun knowing what you're supposed to do out there on the field, not just being like, "Oh, what am I doing."
You go out there and win the game like Billy is doing right now, he's not selfish. Like the guys said earlier, he didn't get any catches in the Big 12, but he was still out there blocking, excited for everybody else. I think that's a real special thing, not being an individual guy. That's why I love Billy. Billy P., I love you.
An Interview With:
COACH PETE CARROLL DARNELL BING and OSCAR LUA
Q. Coach Carroll, good morning. I wonder if you paid any attention to ESPN matching your team against the alltime great teams in modern football history. Are you a little concerned about them creating some additional motivation for your opponents on Wednesday?
COACH PETE CARROLL: No, I haven't been able to see that. I heard that it's on. I don't really understand how they can even do that. But I guess it's all for fun.
I would think that Texas has a tremendous amount of motivation building into this game just as we do, and they don't need any more than that. If that helps them, then that's okay. I can't do anything about that.
Q. For Oscar, the two freshmen in your group, how have they progressed? Do you still think of them as freshmen at this time of year?
OSCAR LUA: I think they've progressed in a great fashion all year. They've been called upon throughout the year and they've performed at exceeding levels. They all started at one point in the season, and I definitely don't think of them as freshmen now. They've all put in their work, Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga. They're outstanding athletes that can handle themselves in the field and are more than capable of performing at this level, so absolutely not. I think that they have a continuing role with the team, and they're no longer freshmen on our team.
Q. Coach Carroll, when you're scheming and looking at videotape of a quarterback who's as mobile as Vince Young, can you explain the difference that it is when you're screening compared to obviously a drop back quarterback?
COACH PETE CARROLL: You deal with more than one play at a time. You deal with a play that starts as a drop back pass, then winds up and can be a quarterback draw or can be a break contained rollout type of pass, so there's really three opportunities, the original play and then when he takes off and runs or moves out and throws the football. You can imagine it's hard enough defending one play than defending three plays, and you don't know which one you're getting after it starts.
So there's the deception part of that, and the vulnerability really shows up when the quarterback has great speed and running ability. That's why I've always maintained that the really mobile quarterbacks are the most difficult to defend. Like I said, it's hard enough to defend the design play, let alone the ones that happen after the fact. Guys that are real creative like Vince, he makes the right choices and does the right things at the right times. When the run is there, he makes it. When he needs to pull back out of a scramble and throw the football, he does that, as well. So it's very, very difficult.
You've noticed the emergence throughout professional football of quarterbacks that are more mobile. There's always been mobile quarterbacks and they've always been special because of that, and it's because it gives you such a hard time.
Q. Texas has won so many games by such large margins, they haven't had to show much offensively. Does that make preparation tougher?
COACH PETE CARROLL: In the early parts of those games they weren't holding back. We've seen them in every game this year, so and games from last year, as well, to see that they've been extended and they they've come out of the chutes. I know the they didn't always know they were going to be ahead. I would think that we've seen most of what they have.
I know in our situation we're the same way. You can't afford to hold things back because you think you're going to win easy, and that doesn't happen. In this preparation you might see something different than what they've done. That can always happen. Other than that, I'm not concerned about that.
Q. Pete, how do you teach, if it's possible, forcing turnovers? You guys are great at it; where does it come from?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, it comes from, I think, tremendous emphasis and belief in it. I think for something like that to be so consistent, you have to have a really strong belief of how important it is, how significant it is, and then you have to find a million ways to emphasize it and keep coming back to it on a really constant basis. Every coach talks about turnovers, but it's how well and deeply and strongly you emphasize it is that which will give you the consistency.
Our guys are riddled with the thought of having to go get the ball at all times in everything that we're doing. It's the numberone emphasis in the program for us.
I think that's how you teach it. That's the way I've done it, and it comes in all kinds of different forms, whatever it takes to get the emphasis across.
Q. For Darnell and Oscar, what kind of look has Fred Davis been giving you on the practice field simulating Vince Young, and is this guy so unique that it's going to take some adjustment when you get on the field because it's hard to approximate what this guy can do?
DARNELL BING: I think Fred Davis has given us a good look. He's big, fast and strong. I think he's doing well with it. We also have Mike Coleman out there doing the same thing. He's been banged up throughout the season, but he's back now and he's doing a fine job. He's big, as well, has speed, and he likes to run people over. They give us a good look out there.
OSCAR LUA: I think it's the same thing. Fred Davis kind of gives us more of a size aspect to simulate Vince, and Michael gives us more of the running ability that Vince has, trying to break tackles and running around really fast. So we're getting a great look just having those two guys back there servicing our defense. I think we're more than ready to see Vince Young in our preparation with our two guys back there doing it for us.
Q. Darnell, could you comment on the Texas receivers? Vince gets all the publicity, but the receivers have come a long way this season. Have you seen the progression this year of how the receivers from Texas have gotten better?
DARNELL BING: Yeah, they have pretty good receivers, they're fast, they're capable of catching deep balls and making things happen after catching the balls. I think we have a big challenge with this game. Our corners have to make sure they stay on their man, our safeties have to make sure we stay back, so therefore we won't let any deep balls occur.
Q. Pete, with the turnovers that you were just talking about, can you talk about the risk versus reward with that, and is there a point where guys, you don't want them to be overly aggressive because they might get beat?
COACH PETE CARROLL: No, I think that other coaches think that. I don't think there's ever a time when you can emphasize that enough. For years, old traditional conservative coaches would say that you have to make the tackle first and then go get the ball after you've secured the tackle. Our guys don't hear us talk like that. That's not something that we think of. That's not to mention or slight the fact that you have to tackle well. But I think your awareness has to be on it at all times constantly to get the effect that you want, and they have to learn how to do that in a dual sense; you've got to make a play and you're playing the football.
But traditional thinking is exactly what you said, make the tackle first, the second guy goes after the ball. That's not good enough I don't think.
Q. Coach, the Texas passing attack was considered the weak link, the problem area last year, and you've seen it progress quite a bit over the last year, both Vince at quarterback and the receivers. Would you talk about that?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Yeah, there's no question that there's a difference from last year in this year's passing game. Both Pittman and Sweed are making plays all the time if you give them a chance. They made their plays last year, but now you see Vince much more on rhythm, much more confidently delivering the football, getting guys in stride and making plays after the catch. The high efficiency that he obtained this year in the passing game is a very downfieldoriented game; that's extraordinary.
Most of the guys that are efficiency guys are the dinkanddunk guys. That's not what they do. They stretch the field, work it and expect their receivers to make plays well down the field. So that complement has given them an extraordinary mix of their run game and their ability to stretch it, and it makes all kinds of space for Vince when he needs it. They've grown a lot from last year. They're just much more efficient, and as all quarterbacks do, they get more confident with their players in the system.
Q. Does that change the way you would have defended them a year ago compared to today?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, it might have been a little easier last year, but it's not anymore. This is as hard as it can get. He's completing 60something percent of his passes and his picks are down, numbers are way up in touchdowns, yardage per catch is huge, and the receivers are just striking. Thomas, too, does a fantastic job in the middle of all that. He's a heck of a receiver and they go to him and use him a lots. It's not even an offense where you can focus on wide receivers or shut down the tight end or the backs coming out. They've used everyone in great fashion.
This is a wide open, welldesigned and very well executed offense right now.
Q. As far as your pass rush, how difficult is it to strike a balance between really going hard after the quarterback but also containing him and not like getting out of lanes?
COACH PETE CARROLL: This is as difficult as it gets. This is as hard as it gets for the emphasis of the pass rush. You make a good move and you come clean and then he shakes you and he's gone. You have to rush with the control that gives you a chance to get him.
The other side of it is he's so strong that you can get a great shot at him and he can shake you and spin and let you fly off him, and then he's out and going again. It's as hard as it gets. This is as hard as it gets on any level of the tackling of the quarterback. There's nobody that's more difficult than this guy that's playing I don't think. We're taxed tremendously by his ability and also by the style that they put him in.
Q. Do you ever get nervous about playing freshmen?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Nervous, no. Coach Grant used to say for every brick you play, you lose a game. I basically agree with everything he's always said and taught over the years, but I don't think that's anymore. I think that we have come to a point with our freshmen that our expectations are so high for them when they approach our program, and as they enter the program, they're expected to come in and play. We pass that message on to them clearly through the recruiting process. It's not a recruiting ploy; I want them to come in with the mindset that they have to prepare to play, and our coaches think exactly the same way, and our players on our team know our freshmen are coming in to play. They feel that pressure coming from the new guys, and they have to fend that off by the way they perform. It's all designed to have the highest expectations for all of our people but also to create the competition that brings out the best in us.
Our freshmen that played for four years, we played over 40 freshmen in the last four years in their first semester. That comes from not because we want to do them a favor; it's because we believe in the fact that they can contribute and we demand that they show us that they can, and then when they develop a role for themselves, then we fit them in so they can help us. We're looking for a kid who's a championship kid as a freshman. We've found it year in and year out and had great success. The thought of that not only helps those guys to play but it also helps their depth for what happened during what happened during the season at the linebacker spot where Oscar had to take a break and Keith Rivers had to take a break. These guys were ready to play because they've been counted on to play since the day we recruited them.
Do I get nervous, no, I don't think that way at all. I'm looking for the fast development of our young guys so they can help us create the depth and the competition and the excellence in their play that they bring to the program. It's a different way of looking at it.
Years ago when I was in the NFL coaching, I would have fought every GM and every personnel guy, no, we're not going to play these rookies for the old mindset that they're going to make mistakes and get you beat. I don't see it that way anymore. I see the opposite, that you need to take your guys and push them to the front and have them live with expectations that they're going to play. I don't want a coach that says, "Oh, he looks like he's going to take a couple years." I want to keep sending the message to these guys that they need to be in there and we're going to find a way to put them in. It accelerates the communications and the process and we've seen great results and we've reaped great benefits.
I can see why people go the other way, that's traditional thinking, but I don't think that way anymore.
Q. This is a question for all three of you. What are your New Year's plans tonight? Coach Carroll, have you given restrictions on curfew?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, I'm hitting the streets tonight (laughter). We have, as we have had in the past, a team party and get everybody together. We like to celebrate the new year like everybody else. There will be some dancing and some music and some games going on and stuff like that. Everybody will be kept inhouse and in great order, as well. But we want to have fun. We have plenty of time before the game to enjoy it. So we'll have some friends in and have a good time with it.
These guys don't get to answer that question (laughter).
Q. Oscar and Darnell, everybody is kind of expecting a shootout in this game. If you're a defensive guy, you don't want to hear that. Are you guys in the back of your mind saying this could end up being a shootout, just looking at it?
OSCAR LUA: When you face an offense of this caliber, I think that's definitely in the mix. I mean, as a defensive guy, all we can do is just go out there and execute what Coach Carroll has set forth for us. We really don't have the capacity or any leniency to be able to think that way because we have to execute our game, our game plan. We have to be 100 percent on what Coach Carroll has to do. We have our hands full with the great running backs and Vince back there; Ramonce Taylor and Jamaal Charles are great running backs that we have to control. I mean, the sidelines are part of their team and we have our hands full with these three guys, so we don't really have time to be thinking about that that much.
Q. Pete, against Notre Dame and Fresno this year the tight ends both had very big games. Can you reflect back a little bit on perhaps why and take a look at Texas's two tight ends, Thomas being an allAmerican guy, and the challenges that presents for you?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Yeah, their tight ends are capable of having a big game, and they do enough things with them, big downfieldtype of throws to give them a chance to do that. It's up to Darnell to do a really good job on those guys, so we won't ask him. But he'll be in the area quite a bit.
I really don't ever worry about any one guy in that regard. You've got to stop the tight end because particularly on this team they have so many things going on. But when the game starts, if a guy starts to get hot and they really go to him, we have to find ways to adjust and not let that happen.
But going in, we have a lot of concerns, and we'll have to see where the emphasis of their attack goes to. If it goes to the tight end there, then I'll be talking to Darnell on the sidelines trying to get him squared away. We have thoughts of things that we have to do to deal with them, and that's not the focal point of our game plan because it's spread across the board so we have to deal with it. We have to adapt as the game goes on and develops.
Q. Pete, can you talk about the difference with Vince maybe between last year's Rose Bowl where he ran and may have had one of his best running games and obviously as a passer he's emerged quite a bit? Do you kind of focus on that game or discard it a little bit?
COACH PETE CARROLL: No, he's capable of taking off at any time. In that game in particular, Michigan did a lot of good things. They played well in a lot of aspects of their game plan. But Vince broke them down and took off and made some plays that they couldn't handle, which he's done wheneverhe looks like he wants to, all year. But the development of their throwing game has made them more difficult.
The fact that he can take off and run is always there. He'll do that at any time. That's there in his back pocket if he needs it. There's a lot of times he's sitting back there checking out the field and he's had space because the line does a great job and he's ripping the ball in the secondary, and it's kept him in a normal rhythm most of the time. I don't think they care how it happens, they just want to move the football and score and they'll take whatever they can get. But they're much different than they were a year ago because of the throwing game.
Q. For Oscar and Darnell, I'm curious, you have been behind at halftime a lot this year and you've had dramatic second halves and it's coaching staffs making adjustments. How big a source of confidence is that when you have scary halftimes and Coach walks in and things turn around completely in the second half?
DARNELL BING: It's not that much of an adjustment that we'd make during halftime. We basically just come out and do the same thing. It's just the fact that we go out there and execute it just a little bit better than we did in the first half. Coach Carroll pretty much sees what they're doing in the first half and he lets us know where they might go with the ball or what he sees and where he thinks that might go if you're not going there. So we're basically just go for that, and we pretty much call the same plays and make things happen from there.
OSCAR LUA: I think it's one of the bases of our program, which is finish. I think that our team just executes that really well. I think Coach Carroll does a great job of coming at halftime and telling us what their tendencies have been in the first half, and we execute from there on. I don't think we make any special adjustment, we don't throw any new defenses or anything like that. It's just executing our plays a lot more and just learning what they've done to hurt us, and once we take that away from them, we just execute a lot better.
COACH PETE CARROLL: You guys ask about these halftime adjustments. I told you we don't do anything, we just keep playing. No one believes it.
Q. Darnell, as one of the leaders of this defense and one of the few older guys on this defense, how has this season been for you? The defense has had some ups and downs, there's been some injuries and a lot of different guys playing different positions around you. What has that been like for you and have you had to take extra responsibility for helping some guys along?
DARNELL BING: It's been different. The last two years I wasn't really the guy that would speak a lot because I had Jason Leach back there helping me out. This year I felt like I had to speak a little bit more than I usually do.
Then with the injuries and stuff happening, we had a lot of guys come in like Josh Pinkard, he plays safety now, he's converted to corner, he's doing a very good job. I think that just the guys that we have, we have a lot of young guys that's capable of being out there, so I feel comfortable with them, and I think it's going well.
Q. For Darnell and Oscar, obviously your offense has a lot of great players, but specifically what's it like going against Reggie Bush in practice?
OSCAR LUA: It's hard (laughter). I mean, Reggie Bush, he's just an amazing player. He can do everything. If we try and guard him inside out, he'll just run around us going outside. We're lucky enough not to face him as much as other defenses do. We got him for like 30 plays at the end of practice, and those 30 plays are a handful if he's back there. The guy is amazing. He can shake and bake and he's got blazing speed. It's tough on a linebacker, which obviously we don't have that type of speed. And in Matt, if we focus too much on Reggie, we've got Dwayne and Dominique that will just torch us downfield. It's tough, but it's a really great aspect of our program, we get to see such a highpowered offense in preparing for Saturday's game.
DARNELL BING: Reggie, he's an awesome player. He has speed, he's capable of doing anything possible. You guys have to give credit to the offensive line, too. They put the holes there for him to just see whatever he wants to see, and he just makes things happen from there. It's hard to just try to stop him because he has great vision, and he might see a hole and then you might be there, and he might just bounce outside with his speed and you just can't do anything with it.
Q. Pete, when is the last time that you used three scout team players to simulate one player in practice?
COACH PETE CARROLL: We've never done that before. We forgot about when we were talking about the quarterback makeup for this preparation, Mark Sanchez has done the majority of the throwing. It hasn't helped us very much in the play action game here because they can tell who's in the game in practice, but quite frankly, it took three guys to do this. That just shows you about the kid that we're going against. We have great respect for him, and our guys have worked real hard to try and simulate what we'll see, and we'll try and find that at game time. We'll have to adjust for game time. There's only going to be one guy back there doing all that stuff. Right now it's a little bit easier for the guys in practice.
An Interview With:
LAWRENCE JACKSON SCOTT WARE and FROSTEE RUCKER
Q. For both defensive ends, obviously you guys with that zone read, Vince keys off of what you guys are doing. How do you prepare for something like that with a guy that can execute it as well as Vince does?
LAWRENCE JACKSON: It comes down to discipline and technique. If you do the right if you're doing the right thing at the right times, it should eliminate the read that he has. But I've seen him take the ball and use his athleticism to beat the defense around the corner off of the read. It's on us to eliminate the first read and be where we're supposed to be, but there's also ten other guys out there that's going to help us. So we're really worried about that first read, but I'm pretty sure he's going to break the container a few times because he's a great quarterback, but it's our job to eliminate that.
Q. Who gets the best grade of your three guys who are trying to simulate Vince? Do any of the three guys actually play like him?
FROSTEE RUCKER: I don't think anyone in America can play like Vince does, and that's why he was up for the Heisman. I think we have guys like Michael Coleman, he's been around a little bit to help out. He's a terrific player, too. We've been trying to simulate Vince the best we can. I mean, no one can, but Mike gives us the best look running around the corner as fast as he can and running some guys over. That's what we're going to have to deal with.
Vince is a big, strong guy. I sized him up the other day at Disneyland, and he was looking eyetoeye with me, and he looked like he weighed just as much as I did, too. We're going to have our hands full.
SCOTT WARE: We have to put a running back in to really simulate his running style and then throw a quarterback in there to throw his deep balls for him. That made it a little easier in practice because we knew they were going to be running the tape play, we knew they were going to be throwing the ball. I think Michael Coleman did an excellent job of running hard and bringing it to us and really challenging us.
Q. This is for Scott and Lawrence. I know that Frostee wants to be a broadcaster after his football career, and I was wondering if he's ever offered you any playbyplay commentary on your performance during the game, maybe film reviews, that's caused you to think that maybe somebody is going to be watching you in the future?
SCOTT WARE: Not me. It might be Lawrence.
Q. Any funny comments on anything like that?
LAWRENCE JACKSON: Where do you want me to start out? Frostee always he's a senior, he has a lot of experience, and he's been through so many different situations and so many different opponents. As a younger player, you have no choice but to respect what he has to say. It's kind of like a bigger brother, smaller bigger brother relationship I don't want to say little brother. But he really does the best he can to guide me in the right way because I can't see everything that he can see and vice versa, and he just really helps keep me in line and keep me focused being that I'm such a young player and whatnot, but he also likes to pick on me and tell me something I did wrong that the coach doesn't see, so I can always count on that.
Q. Scott, Billy Pittman and Limas Sweed said they were essentially licking their chops to get at you in the secondary. Do you have any concerns about matching up with them? What's your primary motivation there facing those guys?
SCOTT WARE: Just watching them, they go after the ball very well. They're good receivers, pretty physical. I don't necessarily know what you're looking for with my answer. We don't have any secret to stopping them that nobody else had. Corners and safeties and linebackers will help once in a while and try and get physical with them and intimidate them a little bit.
Q. For Frostee and Lawrence, could you each give your thoughts on what you see from the Texas tackles, Jonathan Scott and also Justin Blalock, just give us your thoughts?
FROSTEE RUCKER: Both guys are very big and very well. Their whole line is. Those two guys are probably the key things because we have to go against them, and they're Big 12 players and things like that. We know what they have in store for us. But they have great punches, their pass reads, everything, their run reads, they're really sound. They have a great offensive line coach that keeps them on point with that.
We know it's going to be a tough physical game, and we've been getting ready for that. We're very confident in what we do over here at Southern Cal as well as I know they are over there at Texas. So I just can't wait for that matchup.
LAWRENCE JACKSON: They're athletic guys, they're tall, they have long arms, they really do very well what the coaches ask them to do out of the offense. The only thing that we can do to get prepared for it is prepare for them on a daily basis at practice and get extra workout after practice. Because they've been in the games, they're good offensive tackles, as well. Simulating them is going to be hard, but we have great competition that we go against every day. With film review and confidence and technique, we know we're going to go out there and we're going to execute what the coaches ask us to do. They're great players, we're just looking for a great matchup, me and Frostee.
Q. I guess this goes more for the guys who are upper classmen. Have there been any moments in this season, since you've had an upanddown season with injuries and turnovers, where you just got particularly frustrated, moments of maybe getting in guys' faces and saying, "Listen, we don't play this way"? Tempers ever boiled over? Was there a moment of we need to be better and this is how we need to get better?
FROSTEE RUCKER: Well, personally from my standpoint, I don't think we really dwelled on getting in guys' faces and things like that. We had to overcome a lot of things like the injuries. You know, there's nothing we can do about that. It's more about the experience that those guys are going to have and the guys' lack of it. That's why sometimes others made plays, because they just didn't have the experience to be in the game. As the season prevailed and as it went on, all these guys have matured so much. We started as freshman. We've had a lot of guys like Ryan and Brandon Ting, guys people would think would never play. But we needed them and they stepped up and they've done a great job for us.
I've proud of those guys for even doing the things they've done. They've hung in there. They've had a lot of guys in front of them. We've mixed guys around; Josh Pinkard have been mixing around and he's just doing an awesome job and he's really physical and really athletic, and it's helping out. We credit ourselves, we've got a great recruiting class, and all these guys are really happy that they can play different positions and it's working for us.
SCOTT WARE: I think the big thing is that it wasn't a lack of effort that was part of our struggles. We always knew we didn't have to get in their faces about that. It was young kids coming in not necessarily knowing everything. We knew it was going to take time for them to get comfortable with defense and all of that.
Q. You know what it was like when you had curfew when you played Michigan in the Rose Bowl two years ago. How weird is it you're not playing until January 4th but it's still a Rose Bowl?
LAWRENCE JACKSON: I don't even know what day it is today. The coaches have done a great job of really brainwashing us to believe that it's whatever day it is on a number of game week. Today is turnover Wednesday, so that's the only thing that I'm going by. Other than that, it really doesn't feel any different than any other game.
FROSTEE RUCKER: Being when you get to the Bowl time, you get your standard week and that's what we go by. It doesn't matter what day it falls on. The whole schedule of it is just our whole Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday schedule. Coach Carroll has us doing it great, so we're going to keep going with it.
To you, Scott.
SCOTT WARE: Yeah, they lied to us two days ago and told us it was Monday. We came out and passed and we had kickoff team, which we never have on a Monday. We had service team, which we never have on a Monday. Practice was about a half hour longer than any other Monday we've ever had. They tried to make it sound like a Monday, but it wasn't Monday. Then yesterday was competition Tuesday and today is turnover Wednesday, and I think we've got two or three Thursdays coming up (laughter). So we don't know what day it is at all.
Q. For all the guys, what's your strongest memory of the victory over Notre Dame?
SCOTT WARE: I grabbed the last kickoff that we had that kept pitching around. I held onto the ball for dear life and gave it to my sister after the game. That was a big memory.
The 4th downplay was a big memory. Everybody on the sidelines holding hands, praying, which doesn't usually happen. When their fans all rushed the field, kind of feeling disbelief like this isn't how it ends, this can't be the end of it, the game is not over, that sort of thing.
FROSTEE RUCKER: I think my biggest memory was losing and winning at the same time in the matter of a couple seconds. It was pretty tough. We pride ourselves in the streak that we have going and the amount of working hours we put into this. It's a lot of hard work, and when their fans rushed the field, it was like, you've got to be kidding me. This can't be; it's us, you know.
And then we had that one more play to get it done. We're just truly blessed that Matt and Reggie were on point with that, and they did their thing. That was the biggest memory, just winning and losing for me at the same time.
LAWRENCE JACKSON: My moment had to be the couple plays leading up to the 4th and 9 where they kept going to Reggie, and Reggie was doing his best to help the team out. And on the sideline I was just really looking at him and Matt go to work together with the offensive line blocking and them executing. As a defensive player, you really don't know the offense's plan, so you just are hoping that they have their best plays working in those crucial situations, and we got stopped a few times and then we faced almost an impossible 4th and 9, and on the sideline, it just had to be like you had to wonder, I hope they bring out their best 4th and 9 play that they have. You can never anticipate that it was going to be the perfect pass, the perfect catch and the perfect play that Matt Leinart did.
For us, like Frostee said, the last moments, it was my first time as a player here feeling what it feels like to lose, and you just with their fans rushing on the field, you didn't know that the referee had made the call and Matt fumbled. So it was a sense of disappointment, and then they cleared everybody out and they ran their little sneak play and just brought a little bit of life back into me.
Q. Scott, does your sister still have the football?
SCOTT WARE: Yeah, she has it up on her mantle.
Q. What's her name?
SCOTT WARE: Sara.
LAWRENCE JACKSON: Your sister has a football?
SCOTT WARE: Yeah.
LAWRENCE JACKSON: I don't have a football.
Q. What's turnover Wednesday?
FROSTEE RUCKER: Turn over the ball, offense turns over a ball a lot and go out and get the ball. That's what it's all about, the competition that Coach Carroll has going. You've got to strive for the ball the whole practice, from the beginning and on through. It's all about getting the ball. Being a defensive lineman, when they are pass rushing, get to the ball. That's the whole thing, get to the ball. It's worked out. Turnover Wednesday.
SCOTT WARE: And they count up all the turnover attempts that we have all day and announce it to us the next day, who had the most attempts for each position group.
Q. Is there a record?
SCOTT WARE: No, I don't think we have any standing records.
LAWRENCE JACKSON: The defensive line got 100 attempts. What are you talking about?
FROSTEE RUCKER: He doesn't remember the records.
Q. When did you get 100 attempts?
LAWRENCE JACKSON: Oh, it was a joke. It's pretty hard for us to get attempts because most of the time
SCOTT WARE: Because I run by you all the time (laughter).
LAWRENCE JACKSON: When we get to the quarterback, obviously we can't hit the quarterback and we have to stay out of a certain area that they have for him. But the linebackers and safeties get to the running backs a lot sooner than we can when we're playing, so we have to try to get the tail end of the stuff in the practice. But in the game I think that's when we really do our dirty work and get our attempts.
Q. Frostee, guys from USC who go in the NFL draft might go to teams that lose all the time and lose a lot. Is that going to be a weird experience, for SC players to go to a losing team?
FROSTEE RUCKER: Well, it couldn't hurt to help out the other guys that don't understand what winning is all about. You can't go in there being a rookie and be like, okay, guys, this is how we're going to win, listen to me. You can't say that. It helps going in there. You know you have a winning attitude and you know how to work. That's what it's all about. You don't just win; we really work out what we do, and I think it's pretty tough if you go in there and you get a couple losses and don't really understand what's going on.
I talked to Mike Williams, he was my roommate, and it's really tough for him because he was never used to this. When he started last year and helped out with this winning tradition that we've got going, it was just really tough for him, just battling through their coach getting fired and people getting hurt and quarterbacks and stuff, it was just very tough for him, to be out there on an island by himself in Detroit, it's pretty tough.
There you go.
Q. It might be turnover Wednesday to you guys, but to us it's New Year's Eve. Do you guys have any plans for tonight?
FROSTEE RUCKER: No plans.
Q. Coach Carroll is not in the room.
FROSTEE RUCKER: I think they've got something going on at the hotel. I mean, personally I'm not really into it right now. I'm really concentrating on watching a little bit more film and just getting my things down and getting ready for this game. I have a couple more New Years that I can celebrate, but right now get down to business and understand what we've got going.
Q. For all three of you, you guys have been a part of something truly extraordinary. I know it's ongoing right now, but after Wednesday a lot of people will be going their separate ways to the National Football League and other things. Because of the sense of camaraderie that you've achieved, is there a real sense, even though it's unspoken, that you really want to go out with a bang and that this is going to be something to remember this group by?
LAWRENCE JACKSON: Yeah, this is something special we're a part of, the opportunity to win a third National Championship, and the guys on the team, the guys that I've come in with, Reggie and LenDale and an opportunity to play with Matt and Frostee and Scott, you just know that it's a possibility that this could be your last game with some of these guys, just the battles that you've been through, the tough times, the character games that we all had where you really know who's tough and who isn't, and all the guys on the team have constantly proved that we're champions, we're fighters, and we're going to go down to the last bit, the last minute of the game, even the last second.
So just knowing that this can be the last time, we really want to go out with a bang and just relish the opportunity that we have to play with each other one more time and do something special that could go down in history. Obviously it's hard to understand everything that's behind this game with all the challenges that we have ahead of us, but knowing that we have a chance to go down in history and these are the guys that are going to be remembered for a long time, it's incredible, and we're just really trying to go out with a bang.
FROSTEE RUCKER: Like Lawrence said, over and over again.
SCOTT WARE: For me it's been crazy coming from a junior college, you know, making the decision out of high school not to take a scholarship to one AA school and decide that I could play better football than that and waiting it out and then coming here and getting put right in my first year, getting hurt, end up going to a National Championship game, winning a National Championship and then coming back to my second one. I'd love to go out undefeated as a Trojan.
FROSTEE RUCKER: I think what they both said. Everyone coming from a different area and being able to contribute, to know that Coach Carroll has blocked it out of our mind the whole year about threepeat and everything that had to go on about it. We're finally here, and you can't help but to like I say, not block it out, but you can't help think about it. We have a tremendous opportunity to do something really wonderful and create history, you know, and for me it's just my time is winding down, like Lawrence said, being in the huddle with some of these guys and seeing the guys at Heritage Hall and the facilities and being a part of this Trojan thing we've got going, it's going to be tough for me; it's my final game and I won't be able to put on that Trojan helmet anymore. That so far in my life has been the best thing that's gone right for me, and it's helped me out so much in my structure of life, getting together my things. That's just the main thing I'm going to miss a lot.
Q. Your thoughts about going up against a Texas offense that's got really three running backs that all carry the ball quite a bit, just how does that change things for you defensively?
FROSTEE RUCKER: Time to go, play ball. It's a big man's game, and I think it starts up front. That's where we like it the best way.
We get to be a real key factor in the game, and anytime you get to do that, know you're going to be around the ball, that's the best thing. We know all those guys that are going to be able to touch the ball are just gifted athletes and gifted players and they've got their team here undefeated. As we know, it's very tough to do that with everyone targeting at you, and all the year it's "are they going to lose, this team should have beat them." You've got to deal with that stuff. It's tough for us being in LA, the media capital of the world. Things are flying at us all the time. I think to be focused and to win like we both have and to be undefeated to get on this stage is just huge.
Q. When Pete Carroll was in the NFL, one of the things you'd hear people say is he's not enough of a dictator, but you can't win 34 straight games without having a consistent approach. I wonder if all three of you could address why he works so well as a head coach.
FROSTEE RUCKER: I think one of the conversations I had with Coach Carroll when I came here, I was just like, so the NFL, how did it all work and things like that. He just said, there it's about money. It's a business. These guys get a lot of money and they act like I owe them something, and it's not about that. Some of the guys he didn't say any names or anything, but they forget about the level of the game.
When he got here, he got to be around a group of young men that we all wanted to win. We were all based from mainly Southern Cal and a couple guys from Northern Cal and a couple other places. But we all wanted to win. He's a great leader and a players' coach. At this young age we really need that. It's not about the money because we don't have that. It's about trying to put together what we've done now. He's helped out so much with his personality and him just being the great person that he is.
LAWRENCE JACKSON: For me it's the fact that he's a players' coach. He's somebody that you want to go out and practice for every day and play for in a game because the same effort that you're exerting, you can rely on the fact that he's going to put that same energy and effort in as well as his coaching staff. They work hard and they understand that there's a time to work and there's a time to play, and they do a lot of great things for us to keep us focused and not getting bored with the intensity of practice. He just does a great job of understanding all of our personalities as a whole and what it's going to take for us to stay focused. Different events, he'll bring a computer and say let's go to the movies, which he did before camp. Just stuff like that, it really breaks the barrier down between a player and a coach because you don't look at him as a coach; you look at him as a friend who has your best interests at heart, as well as a leader.
You can expect him to go out there and do the best thing that he can to put you in a position to win, and just that belief and that attitude has really allowed us to flourish as a team.
SCOTT WARE: I think he just has too much fun for the NFL. He likes to be around us kids having the best time of our lives in college and have complete control over all aspects of football and that sort of thing. He enjoys that aspect of it.