Southern California Player's Press Conference 12/31
Matt Leinart – Junior Quarterback
Popularity since winning the Heisman Trophy
"We've been on top for a couple of years now and have brought the glory and tradition back of the great USC football teams. We've had players see a lot more attention. There are more fans, which is great. People are coming out to see us play. SC is the team to watch out there. Being the quarterback and winning the Heisman has definitely changed a lot. There's more attention from fans and people where ever I go. It's something I've had to get used to, but I'm realizing it's all part of the job and winning. I wouldn't change anything for the world. It's been overwhelming at times too."
On Dwayne Jarrett
"In fall camp he was having a tough time and he wanted to go back home. You could just tell. His attitude was pretty bad. I just kept getting on him. I was tough on him. I kept saying ‘we need you. You need to step up.' But, he made a lot of great plays during camp and we knew he was going to be special. He let his attitude get the best of him. In the first few games he had some drops, but he made some plays too. I told him to just have fun. ‘You came all the way here to play football and go to school. You might as well enjoy it. You're in LA.' Everyone was hard on him but everyone had his back. I took him under my wing and told him he could do it. Ever since then, he's been a stud at the receiving position as just a true freshman."
Comparing himself to Jason White:
"He's very laid back. I got to know him the week we were together (for the awards shows). He's just a good guy. He's very humble. We talked about the whole Heisman thing and you have to have to be a little bit different when you win that because of all the things that people will expect of you, He's a great guy and obviously a great quarterback. I've had a lot of chances to watch him over the last couple of years and see what kind of a player he is. He's been their leader for the past few years and if it weren't for him, I don't know if they'd be here today.
"I think we're both very smart. Obviously, he's not as mobile as he used to be, with his injuries he had in the past, but he can still get of othe pocket and make plays. But, most of the time, he's just back there picking apart defense. I think we're both very smart and very good in the systems that we run. (Oklahoma offensive coordinator Chuck) Coach Long, who I'm very familiar with, puts him in the best situation to make plays and do well. That's the same thing that (USC offensive coordinator Norm) Coach Chow does for me."
On the matchup with the Sooner defense:
"It's going to be a great matchup. We have the athletes and the speed and they have the athletes and speed to match our guys. We just have to execute our game plan. We've got to establish the run. We have to be able to run the ball and take what they give us in the air. I think we have a great game plan going in. We're not doing too much different. We're just doing our stuff and we've had some great practices the last couple of weeks to get us prepared for this game. I think it's all about controlling the ball because both offenses can score. We've got to keep our defense off the field as much as we can. We can't turn the ball over. The game is probably about turnovers and who can keep the ball the longest."
On Reggie Bush being named the team MVP:
"I voted for him. The team votes (for MVP). It's a cool award because your teammates recognize who they believe (is the MVP). I got to win that award last year. I've said all along that he's the best player in college football. He's so young, and it's tough. With all of the players that we have, he probably doesn't get as many touches as he should get. But, he's a very unselfish player. That's why he's so good and such a great person. I voted for him. I didn't even hesitate. I put his name right down. Obviously, the whole team felt the same way. He's impacted our team in a lot of different ways."
Reggie Bush – Sophomore Running Back
On his success:
"I just try to keep doing the same things that got me here and remain humble. I try to be a leader."
On winning the team MVP:
"Matt and I are a great 1-2 combination. I did find of kind of ironic at first to beat out a Heisman trophy winner for team MVP. But that's how things go and it's a great honor."
On head coach Pete Carroll:
"He makes it fun for our team. Everybody loves playing for him. That's one of the key things – it doesn't have to always be about just business. We do have time times when it's time to work and we have times when it's time to play. He's just a great coach and brings a lot to the table at USC. He makes it fun to play for him. At practice we have fun competing against each other. Our practices are intense, for anyone who's been there, but they're fun at the same time. We're all jumping around. You would think that we're playing a real game out there at our practices."
On the game itself:
"There are two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks and two Heisman Trophy finalist running backs. It's one of the most anticipated games for a long time."
On the recent success of USC:
"I sensed it from a recruiting trip, when I came here. Meeting the coaches, the type of people that they were, and the players – they seemed to be having a lot of fun. They just loved playing for Coach Carroll and the other coaches. I went out to see the practice and put it all in perspective in a game. They were out there having fun and having fun at the same time. It seemed like this program was on the uprising. They had a lot going for them."
Sam Baker – Sophomore Offensive Line
On Watching Tape and games of Oklahoma O-Line
"I've watched them all season. They run a good scheme, all across their front they're very athletic. They're kind of like ours, you don't catch a lot of big O-lines that can still move well, they're very impressive."
Surprised with success despite youth.
"A lot of people counted us out early. In the Virginia Tech game we came out real sluggish and we were surprised too, we thought with Matt Leinart the Heisman Trophy candidate that we'd go out there and just throw the ball around and it'd be easy. Matt told me early that it's going to take a while and just be patient with it and it'll come."
Countering Oklahoma's movement on defense
"We used to run that when we had Omar Nazel. Omar Nazel used to do the same thing when he'd walk around and at the linebacker position drop back, sometimes he'd rush, so we've seen it all. They run the same scheme as Arizona because Coach Stoops' brother is out there doing that, but they really run the same thing as our scheme."
Younger guys aware of football tradition of both schools
"It's a great football tradition. It's exciting for me because my generation didn't hear much about USC growing up. My dad always told me about the great tradition at USC, and to have it back to power and Oklahoma back to power it's kind of a neat thing."
California-Texas Tech Game
"Cal's a great team. I don't know that they played their best game last night, but I was really impressed with Texas Tech, they really have some good athletes and I think it really kind of shocked Cal too."
On Pac-10 team losing to Big XII team
"I don't know how that translates, or how it translates at all, but it does make you turn your head a little bit. I think every team is happy just to play where they're at."
On Staying focused
Sometimes you just kind of sit there and are like ‘Wow, you know,' but I think the coaches do a great job, especially at USC, I don't know how it is at other places, but they do great job of keeping you grounded and making sure that you're just focused on your job and that you don't play outside yourself, you don't try to do too much."
"He was the first guy I met from USC when I was kind of a young buck. He was really one of the reasons I came to USC just because he was such an awesome guy. It's hard to see him go, just a great guy like that, but I learned so much from him. Coach O would fire us up, he tried a pass rush on me and stuff like that. He's the biggest competitor on the field, he'll fire everyone up, whether you're a kicker, not going to do anything, he'll fire you up. He just does a great job of getting a unit together and going out and working as hard as you can."
On Matt Leinart
"When I first started running with the ones last year, I always envisioned the huddle as this big serious thing, and Matt comes across making jokes and just kind of relaxing. With Matt what you see is what you get, it's not a front for anything, that's who he is."
Dominque Byrd - Junior Tight End
On his parents' opinion of USC:
"My parents loved (U)SC, but I think my mom kind of wanted me to go to Notre Dame. But, in the end I felt like this was my family, from the get-go".
On his parents' opinion of Coach Carroll
"He's a real personable guy, and outgoing and all that stuff, so they didn't see any problem with Coach Carroll."
On how he expects the game to start:
"I think, especially in a game where there's two really great teams matched up, sometimes it takes a while, it's kind of like a boxing match, you feel each other out, and we take our shots when we can, like we always say, we prepare the same for every game. We haven't tried to do anything different. We all say we're a fourth quarter team, we know that the game can't be won in the first three quarters. That's something that Coach Carroll's trying to make every person on the team understand, and we try to take that to heart."
On the coaching staff:
"One of the great things about our coaching staff, is their ability to make second half adjustments. Whether we're up or down in a game, we never feel like we're out. We have faith in those guys next to us and our coaches that at halftime they're going to make those adjustments and it's going to happen for us and we're all going to play together and in the fourth quarter we always feel that we're going to come out on top."
On the halftime adjustments against Stanford:
They had a huge play, breakout (82 yard TD) run, but if you watch us on camera, we're jumping around going into the locker room. Some people may think that's weird, but we all build on the energy from each our teammates, and I think that was were our season turned itself (around and we realized) that we're a high-caliber team and we wanted to go out there and win every game"
Alex Holmes - Senior Tight End
The attention from LA
"In LA there is so much to do, until we started to do really well, people didn't really notice as much. But we are certainly getting a lot of attention now. It's gotten so bad Reggie [Bush] and Matt [Leinert] need security from people seeking autographs."
On Coach Chow and the TE position
"The tight end position is developing into something very important. From day one Coach Chow told me that he loves tight ends more than anything else. So I think that is true. I just want to play and that's it. God willing, I will be able to play at the next level."
Coach Carroll transition from the NFL
"I think the college game and the NFL are really different. He is perfectly suited for the college game in my opinion. I can't really comment on the NFL, I mean that has nothing to do with us. From day one he has formed a great relationship with the players and that has continued throughout his tenure here and that is why he is so successful."