On the possibility of taking Penn State players… It's not even up to me. I know our coaching staff, and they're probably looking into the possibilities and what that would look like. Given their track record of recruits, I trust in their judgment that they would make the best decision. So yeah, if someone is added to our roster from another school, I'd be open to it. We've just got to make sure they get on the same page and that would be [????] but I think we could make it happen.
On how when recruits' parents hear something bad about Kiffin, they can come back with the fact that Matt must like it if he stayed and how that is helping with recruiting… I have never heard that. You know, Kiff is a great guy. He may come off as mean, but he's a great coach.
On talking to Tebow last week… [I talked to him] a little bit when he was on campus. He looked good. We were just shooting the wind. I was just doing some drills from afar and then we exchanged some words, it wasn't really a sit down dinner or anything like that.
On if they will feel pressure this year since they are bowl eligible… Maybe our team will. For me, personally, I'm not the type of guy to feel pressure like that or feel the burden, or the need to impress someone or live up to expectations. I think that's great because we have high expectations as it is. So that added burden or pressure, whatever you want to call it, won't be too much.
Do you welcome that? Like it's a new opportunity? Yeah, and it will be interesting to see how the freshman react. They will probably come in and just expect everything to be awesome, but we have to make sure that we work and don't really listen to all of that talk—all of the news conference, news clippings, what ever.
Going back to your high school days, you had a dominant junior year and then didn't do as much your senior year… how do you avoid that happening again? Well, this isn't high school. I have a completely different environment and situation than I did in high school. Honestly in high school, we were supposed to win everything my junior year and then all of those guys left and we didn't do as well the next year. But its almost as if, this year, everyone is returning and hopefully we'll do better. Its two different situations.
On Manning Passing Academy… The camp itself was a great opportunity to meet some of those other college quarterbacks from around the country and see them and get to know them on a personal note, not just see their name in the headlines and everything. And then to talk with Peyton and Eli was really great. We talked ball, but then they had those Cajun cookouts at night and we would just get to sit around with everyone and tell stories, talk ball. It was really beneficial and I'm glad I went.
Arm strength improvements…? No, I haven't noticed any difference in my arm strength. Maybe someone else did for the first time and can note it because that would be a good thing. But no, I think you have to wing it when you want though. You don't want to throw the ball as hard as you can on every single pass when you're playing. And there's something called ‘touch' when you're throwing to your receivers. I'm not going to wing it at a running back that doesn't catch it all the time. On certain routes that we have, ill wing it if I have to but I think the whole concept of arm strength is kind of phony.
On if he's ok with every part of his game being dissected and scrutinized this year… Yeah, I don't mind it… I try to take criticism in stride.
Were you able to talk to Peyton Manning at all about coming back for your senior season? Briefly, yeah. He was saying he was excited to see me come back because he remembered when he did it and what a wonderful season that was for him. Even though he didn't go all the way, he said it was still one of the funnest seasons he's had and he's been in the league for 15 plus years. So it was encouraging to hear that, and you hear that from everyone. There's nothing like college football and I believe it. The guys in college are so unique compared to the NFL.
What would they talk about at the cookouts? Just stories. There were a ton of people there so I would be talking with some of these college quarterbacks and then Peyton or Eli would roll up—everyone would just move around a little bit. It was fun just to hear stories.
Anything that surprised you? Nothing too shocking.
Did you get to talk to Archie? Yeah, I'd never met him and he's a class act as well. Their whole family, they have that presence when they enter a room. I didn't realize how big Archie is down there in the south, he's a hero so it was cool meeting him.
Robert not being 100%? I don't know if he will as well. Given that he wasn't 100% last season and he was still able to perform at that level, he looks fine to me. But he hasn't really been pushing himself I don't think. We're just trying to make sure he is good to go by the time camp starts.
Worried at all about your blindside protector being new? No, we have the body type to fit that space and we have personnel. We'll just gain more and more and get better and better with experience. And I think you can contribute a lot of our success of our line to the play-calling and keeping the defense on their toes, keeping that defensive line playing… with some of the things we do and getting to the perimeter…
Was there any hesitancy to buy into new rules when Kiffin came in? ...Having fun in meetings, not just coming and telling the schedule and leaving. Showing film—seeing these guys getting blasted on a play or making a sweet catch in practice. There were quite a few things that T.J., Colin, and I went to Coach to kind of meet halfway or to get on the same page.
So they needed to be nudged a little to loosen up? I think that's how I took it. And I knew what they were doing at first. I wasn't talking back at all; I don't care about that stuff. I'm fine with that business mentality; a lot of coaches in the NFL have it as well. But our guide on the team that we had, knowing what it would take to get us going, I knew that we couldn't be the way that he came into it. So once he started learning the players and the way we reacted to everything, he kind of saw that as well. It worked; you can see how much fun we're having in the off-season.
You said you are having fun because you're winning. Is it one of those things where if the results aren't there, that stuff will get taken away? The fun? I won't be smiling if you see us losing. The mentality of practice will still be there; just because you have a bad game doesn't mean you're not going to be at practice.
What do you think about this app you guys are doing? What are you guys putting into that? Yeah, it's the 21st century, its 2012 and everyone has a mobile device—a smartphone to where they can pull up almost any information at ease. Instead of a blog or a website that people can go to, we just thought it was best to put all of that information in the hands of the fans, or the consumer. That idea kind of started it a while back and its come a long way but we're in the process of making it happen. Its going to have a lot of original content—videos, updates, highlights, all of those Friday night films that they post on the YouTube channel—all of those video guys are doing a great job of handling that social media and they are going to be involved with it. But it will have the whole roster of players, all of their information. It will have quick access to some cool features, that will make you want to download the app—not just something you could see in the media guide.
Because you were more involved in the process, does it make you more interested in doing things for it as the season goes on? Yeah, absolutely. Ill have more time than usual this fall with my light schedule (?), so it will be a good project.
What's your schedule going to be like? Light. (laughs)
Just two classes? More than two, less than four. You do the math. (laughing) Monday nights and then it's all ball. I'm taking forensics so it's back to the geeky stuff or whatever. (Talks about being in a woodworking class and building something for his desk. He wanted more space on his desk so he built something that he could put his keyboard and mousepad on and slide it under the stand…)
What about the idea of competing against all of the other athletes in the sports deal? Was that your idea? Yeah, that is just something kind of fun that you'll be seeing more of. We have so many great sports at USC and that's to highlight them and have a little fun myself.
Which of those sports do you think you will play with? Well, not the women's ones—I can't play those. I think volleyball would be a blast. We did soccer a little bit ago and killed it in that. And T.J. and I are going to do a little Homerun Derby, I think. T.J. won the last Homerun Derby we competed in that was two springs ago.
Does the Heisman campaign make it more fun than usual [talking about the app, I believe]? That's part of it, right? Heisman campaign? That's not my part of it. I'm sure Tim [Tessalone] and those guys are going to use it for that reason. Just to put more news at the fans fingertips.
Do you feel more pressure this season compared to last season? No, I never really look at pressure. Whatever degree it is, more or less, I don't really look at the season that way. I'd say its more exciting; its got more buzz but not pressure.
Since you're so tech-savvy, are you aware of everything that's written about you? Do you get alerts? No, I do not. I'm not news-savvy. I do have RSS feeds for my favorite websites. Everyone should know about RSS, it has nothing to do with being a geek. I hope you guys do.
Do you think its possible that you could have worse statistics this year and still consider it a better year? I've never thought about that. I don't think Kiff would let that happen. If we go all the way and win everything and I don't have the stats, I will consider it the best year ever. So yes, is your answer but we have two more games. We'll get better in two more games, hopefully.
Is he as stat-conscience as he seems? Kiff? Yes. I love it. At first, I was like, ‘come on Kiff, just let us play' but now I'm like, ‘alright, I like this' and just keep going.
Are you guys aware of what's going on in the game? No, afterwards you look at the stats and see how much we threw or red zone runs to passes. Its almost like he'll call a red zone run and its destined to fail and it's like alright, we'll give you a chance to pass. But not during the game, I don't pay attention during the game.
What stat is he looking at, or are you looking at this year? The most important stat that I look at or I think about during a game, really the only two stats, are completion percentage and interceptions or turnovers. If I can eliminate turnovers and focus on completions, even if it's a two or three yard pass, just move the ball down the field, it's a pretty good bet that we're going to do well in that game on offense. So, that's all I think about.
Penn State transfers? I have no comment on that. Coach Kiffin and our staff are handling all of that stuff.
How much do you know about Mater Dei's past Heisman winners? I know both of them, personally.
Have you met them? Yeah. I wasn't alive to see John Huarte play, but obviously remember Matt. We have a Heisman Lane at our school so I grew up knowing about them. It's a great football tradition at that school.
Do you ever talk to them? Yeah. Not John, really. He has a carpet business in Phoenix, I think. But I'll talk to Matt, Carson, Mark, all of those guys.
Did they talk to you after you came back? Or recently? Since then, yes. Not like ‘I'm so happy for you, buddy!' or anything like that but just ‘congrats. We're looking forward to big things'.
Are you agreeable for the school to start this Heisman campaign for you much earlier than last season? In my opinion, the campaign is on the field and we didn't start on a hot note last year. When we were kind of rolling at the end of the season, that's when we decided we should start publicizing all of this stuff. I think ultimately, everything in football—whether that's marketing things down the road, advertisements in your contract that you sign that hype up all of your trophies and awards and all of that stuff—it starts on the field.
Do you ever worry about the Heisman bringing about idolatry towards you? Yeah, but you've probably heard me say this—I'm not going to take credit for any of this stuff. My goal is to point people to God. I don't think I would be here; I don't think I would be able to endure these last two years on my own. So I'm praying that doesn't happen. Usually someone in that position will have a bunch of kids that look up to him and stuff, and hopefully that's the case but not on my own doing. I don't want anything close to that.
What do you think when Lane calls you a ‘historic Trojan'? I mean, nothing has happened yet so we'll see where that leads. I've been here four years so that could have something to do with it, but there are so many great Trojans. During our spring game, there were guys that came back—Willie McGinest, Tony Bacelli, Lynn Swann—all of those guys, there are so many great Trojans. To even be considered… I think a lot of it has to do with the last couple of years with the sanctions; I think that plays into it. So we'll see what happens.
Eddie George? We were just talking ball and personnel. I think he has one of our games this year.
Did you talk about the Heisman campaign and what to expect? No, we were just talking plays—the concept of defenses and stuff.
Who proved more in their first year with the program, Robert Woods or Marquise Lee? I don't know, but we'll see how Marquise does this year. They both came in rocking and making a statement. I think Marquise had more to grow mentally and maturity wise. I think he had more room to grow and he's taken hold of that. Robert was pretty mature to start out with.
How big of a factor was the early Carroll years in convincing you to come to USC? Oh, it was huge. Growing up in Orange County and seeing those games, seeing those trophies being hoisted; I grew up going to those games, grew up seeing the flags all around at everyone's houses, used to make the bets with your buddies about wearing the sweatshirt the next day in elementary school. I grew up loving all of that stuff and that winning tradition is what I loved.
Are you starting to see the same things with incoming recruits as your era at USC? Yeah, I think so. It's kind of cool to see kids—because I remember being in their shoes in high school, and especially little kids looking up to Carson, Matt, and even Sanchez later in high school—and knowing that I'm in that position now and we can influence these kids in a lot of ways. Hopefully we're doing it in the right way and we're winning and stuff so they can see what SC football is all about so that attracts the cream of the crop.