USC Head Football Coach Pete Carroll
"We are extremely pleased with our performance last week. We knew Arizona was a struggling program and they were trying to find themselves. We expected that we would play well if we were prepared, so I'm happy with how it turned out. It was a nice game for all phases of our team. We saw some young guys do some special things. Matt Leinart came back and had a heck of a game and Mike Williams went crazy. It prepares us for the next challenge with the UCLA game this week. We are pumped up about our situation and our chance to do something special this season. It won't happen without a big ball game this Saturday in the Coliseum against UCLA. We are looking forward to that. I'm sure you are interested in the depth of my understanding for the BCS. What I would say to you is very mundane about it. I don't think anything different now than I did a week ago or the weeks previous to that. This is a system that will come into play at the end of the year. It's really fun and topical for everyone to talk about and some drama with it. As far as we are concerned, we are aware of it. We know all the conversations will come, but we also realize it doesn't have anything to do with what we are doing on the football field. The best thing we can do to give ourselves the best chance is obviously to play real well. Our focus will go back to this football game on Saturday. We will answer the questions that you ask, but really it doesn't have any bearing on us. We are just going to try to play the best football game we can. It will be a great day for our fans on Saturday in the Coliseum and look forward to a big day. After that, we will go to the next challenge and we will see where it sits.
On the credibility of the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) after USC dropped in the standings: "It's a system that someone that devised who tried to do a good job with the system. It's the only one there is, so there is no use knocking the system. It is what it is."
On injuries of the team: "We are anxious to hear the word on (fullback) Brandon Hancock when he sees the doctors tonight. He is very doubtful for this game. He sprained his knee and will not require surgery as far as we can tell, but we have not been told what the duration of his comeback will be. We will wait and see how (linebackers) Matt Grootegoed and Melvin Simmons come along. Our expectations our not high, but our hopes are high that they will play because they want to so badly. We thought later in the week they may have a chance to return and give us some work."
On play of walk-on linebacker Collin Ashton last week at Arizona: "Collin has been here for a couple of years and came here with some long-snapping ability. We don't have that many walk-ons, so we were really happy to have him here. He's probably gained close to 30 pounds since he has been here. He's always been tenacious and a guy that won't give up. He's battled and his opportunity popped up. He just kind of surfaced through the ranks and when he played, he did a nice job. We knew he would play smart and made a lot of plays. He didn't play a perfect game, but he played well and I think he had the time of his life. It was a great moment for him and a great statement about kids who are in that situation. You have to battle and keep fighting and developing. If you have that belief, good things can happen. It was an unbelievable opportunity and now he will be playing against UCLA."
On UCLA defense: "This is a really good defense and the scheme is one that I recognize because of the background of my best friend in coaching. I know where their stuff comes from and I recognize they do a great job of coaching. I really respect the job that (UCLA defensive coordinator) Larry Kerr has done. It's really been the strength of their team throughout the season. Dave Ball had a great year and has taken advantage of a wonderful scheme. He is a tenacious player. Rodney Leisle is a good player inside as well. They have a really nice defense. You look at last week's game and they played very well. There were a couple of returns that Oregon had that separated that score. They played well on defense and gave them a chance to win the game. We have a lot of regard for them and we have to play very well. Statistically, they are at the top of the Pac-10 Conference for good reason."
On comparison of problems of UCLA under first-year head coach Karl Dorrell compared to Coach Carroll's first year: "I don't know what those problems are specifically. When you look at our first year, our defense was ahead of our offense. We played in similar fashion."
On team being favored against UCLA: "Our players have no idea about what the point spread or who the favorite is in a game. That just doesn't enter into their minds. Our focus is on our preparation and getting them ready to win a football game. It doesn't have anything to do with the other guy. This game is a little bit more fun because everybody knows everybody and the relationships with the other team. It makes this a special week and a good match up. Point spreads and who is the favorite...that is what you guys talk about. Our guys don't have any idea about that stuff."
On how high the ceiling is for WR Mike Williams: "He is loaded with talent. He doesn't have any areas of his game that he can't show at any time and he is about as good as it gets. He is not going to be a track star. He is not going to be the fastest guy you will see, but as we see around the NFL and college football...that is not even a factor anymore. These guys make space when you have the kind of body structure that Mike has. He is always open. Mike doesn't get covered and an illustration of that is his last touchdown catch last week at Arizona. The guy is all over him and Mike caught a ball that was out of the guy's range. Mike does that all the time. He has got extraordinary abilities and is a natural athlete. He has great sense and creativity to make plays. He loves to run with the ball and blocks well. He is running with the ball after the catch way better than he did last year. He is going to be one of the best players in America...he already is right now. He just needs the other elements around him in terms of the quarterback and the system. He needs the confidence and belief in him that our coaching staff has for him. All of that together makes Mike a great package."
On quarterback Matt Leinart's streak of not being intercepted: "He has been very comfortable with the rhythm of the reads that has to make. He has not left the structure of the passing game very many times. He has scrambled a little bit and has been effective when he has done that. He has had great protection so he is on rhythm. Our guys are working very hard to get open and they are getting open. The scheme is getting them open. It's been very machine-like. It looks like it's too easy at times for Matt. He is so comfortable with what he has to do, you don't see him stressing in any way. He is not struggling. His confidence is sky-high with what we are doing. He can't wait to get back out there again and run the offense. His smarts are what have separated him from other guys at this time. To come in and be so well poised and in command of the offense in such short notice, I think, is what startles us. It shows the consistency. It means he gets in and he has put together a terrific season."
On quality of the offensive system: "I think the system has a lot to do with it. I think we have seen that exemplified in the difference for Carson Palmer between his junior and senior season. We changed everything and shifted the emphasis in terms of protection, routes, timing and priorities and he jumped off the charts. Matt has had the opportunity to take advantage of that. Carson is an extraordinary talent and Matt was the best quarterback coming out of high school arguably when he did, so these guys have loads of talent behind them. They are able to take advantage of a system that has given them great opportunity and success."
On future of the program: "We are a couple of recruiting classes away from establishing great depth on the team and competition. If we have great competition across the board, we are really going to be difficult to beat. We are a couple years away from doing that. We are on track to have a good year. I can sense the strength is gives you by having terrific depth because it forces your players to have to compete to be their best. It just elevates your game. It's like what happened last week in preparation. We practiced against ourselves and our guys came out and played better football than we have all season. I know that's a key for us to get to a high level. We are not there yet, but we have the capability to see it. We can see it happening, the potential to have a long-standing winning program is at hand. We are really jacked up about that. I'm hoping that we can a statement about our program that we can finish well. We have this chance to finish this thing off and establish ourselves as a tough finishing program. That is something that is critical for long-standing success. We are getting close to that."
On if he will be around to enjoy that success: "Well, I'm in good health right now (laughing). I plan on being here for as long as we keep this thing going. To me, and I have said it before, that the marker of success in my viewpoint is long-standing success. It isn't about doing it one time or winning one national championship and not being able to do it again. Doing it year after year after year shows that you establish a long-standing winning tradition and I'm hoping that we can do that. That's why I say we are just getting started in what to me is a long run here of something special. We are going to go for it and I guess I have to be here to do that."
On recruiting out-of-state: "I think we have this tremendous market right here of young talent here in Southern California of guys in a competitive environment. We have a great base for recruiting here and we will always live with that. We will try to excel at recruiting right here at home. We would be crazy not to do that. With some visibility and success, it offers us a chance to go around the country and look at some kids that can accent the recruiting base here. We will continue to do that. We will never focus our attention out of the state. We have one guy that recruits out of state and that's all we will need. We will always in the hunt for some kids. If there are some special people that want to come out to Los Angeles and play on this stage, it's a great place to play and we find the response is very good. It's better now than it was a few years ago. We are pleased about that and trying to make the most of it. I think that is our formula. Everyone would like to recruit in California and we understand that so we have to do our best here. We have to find those special kids out-of-state that can help us win. That's how we are going about it."
On if Coach Carroll has regrets of spending time in the NFL: "Oh, no. Not a bit. I had a great time in the NFL. It was a wonderful experience to compete at that level against the best coaches and players in the world. They have all of the support and technology to be the best. That's why I still love watching NFL games to see that level when it happens. I love those experiences that were there. As much as I like that, I found something I like much better. I'm having more fun here. Do I regret it? I don't regret any of it. Had I listened to some friends who told me that you have to be coaching college to do well...at the time I was too wrapped up to do it. This is the best place for me, so I couldn't be happier about it. There isn't an aspect of coaching at USC that I don't like. I think being at the University of Southern California with the makeup of this job couldn't be better at any level at any place. I have this tremendous opportunity to bring in talent from right around here that loves the university and wants to be a part of it. It gives us a chance to be successful at a very high level. To me, coaching is fun but winning is really fun. Knowing that is here and recognizing that and not looking like the grass is greener somewhere else, it's not going to affect me. Maybe I'm too old to be affected by that. The opportunity to be really good on a long-term basis and have a chance to see that on a regular basis really means something to me."
On emotion of UCLA week: "I don't mind that it's different from other weeks. There is just a special aspect to it that makes it cool. For the players, the one thing that they are reminded that they represent a great deal. They are representing a lot of people who love this university and love this rivalry that have been here before. They are those people. It's why they call it a rivalry. The emotion will be intense. I hope our atmosphere is always intense. I don't know want our guys to play a whole lot better than they have in the last couple of weeks because that means they have been holding back. I'm hoping that we play well enough to win. All of these games have importance. To go to the Coliseum with the crowd that is going to be there and walking through the stadium, it's really special. It's a once in a lifetime thing."
On growing up and watching the USC-UCLA game compared to the Cal-Stanford game (Carroll grew up in the Bay Area): "Oh, I never watched the Cal-Stanford game (laughing). This game was always the one. Watching the game as I was growing up, seeing the USC song leaders on the sideline...the horse and lighting of the Coliseum in the afternoon. I was fortunate enough to watch a game when I was a senior in high school when Sam Dickerson caught a touchdown pass in the corner. I was sitting seven rows from the top on the other side of the Coliseum and I had no idea what had happened. A friend of mine went to school down here and I just wanted to be a part of it."
On which team he was rooting for at that game: "Well I was sitting on the Trojan side...what are you talking about? (laughing)."
On how he thinks the UCLA offense will attack the USC defense: "Well, we are late in the season. I think they will do what they do best. They will work hard at the running game. They do a nice job with a controlled passing game and then try to bomb you down the field with (wide receiver) Craig Bragg. Bragg is a terrific player and I think he has had a great season. I think they will look for their chances to do what they do well right now. We have shown some vulnerability in some areas. Hopefully, we can adapt to whatever they are doing. It should be a physical ballgame."
On thoughts if USC wins next two games and finishes No. 3 in the BCS to Ohio State: "My opinions have not changed on this. This is the system that we live with. It is what it is. No one has ever asked me to change the system, but if they did, I have some viewpoints on that...not the system itself but the format at the end of the season. If this isn't the right system and there is a better one...then someone should endeavor to figure that out. Right now, this is the system and I'm not complaining about it."
On use of cornerback Will Poole on punt returns: "We will continue to use Will as a returner. Greig Carlson has done a wonderful job for us, but I like Will being back there too. I wish we had more opportunities to see him earlier in the year. He's a special football player. He makes things happen. He gets the ball in his hands; he's going to pop something big. We will continue to use him well. He is all over special teams and is one the field as much as anyone on our team. It's about competing and trying to find the right guy."
On what he would do to change the BCS: "I really love the traditional matchups of the bowl games and I would love to see up playing the Big 10 every year. I know I'm old fashioned, but I love that match up. I wish that's what happened and then at the end of it, let's play the thing off and let's go. The problem with that is that you still have to have some sort of selection process and maybe this is the best process. You still have to have a process because you can't play forever in a playoff system. You can't have March Madness. You have to do it in a couple of weeks. I have no idea how to do that, but that's not my job to figure it out. I would like the best team to win. That's not illogical, but it's not happening right now so I'm not going to worry about it."