Pete began with some examples of how people had expressed concern for him and assured everyone by saying that he was doing just fine. He said we were faced with some issues and that we would continue to do what we had done in the past, that was to take them head on. And, as before, he assured us that we would come through again and that things would turn out favorably.
On the NFL draft Pete said that it had gone exactly as the "NFL" wanted. That was sort of a knock on the over-blown predictions from the press, but he did not openly express the negative role I feel the press played in all the draft coverage. He is proud that 11 Trojans were drafted and said that 17 would begin NFL camps this year.
Pete talked about how good it was to have coach Nick Holt back. He also complimented coach Norton and new coach Dave Watson. Apparently in answer to questions raised previously, he assured us that he would continue to help coach the defense.
As for his remarks on spring football, he said that John David Booty was on fire but unfortunately for only one day. He did report that Booty's operation was a success and he is anxious to go, but they are holding him back to make sure things are done right. He complimented Mark Sanchez and expressed enthusiasm for the new dimension of using 4 LB's. Pete said that Chilo Rachal had jumped to the front, Jeff Byers had come back strong and that Kyle Williams had made a smooth transition.
Pete then shared some very encouraging progress by Chauncey Washington [like the first three grades were A's with one more to go]. By the way he dealt with this subject it was evident to me that he is planning a large role for Chauncey this fall.
Pete talked about the importance of the summer workout program run by Strength Coach Chris Carlisle. With a sparkle in his eye, Pete began relating his great anticipation for the 23 new freshmen arriving this fall. He said that 6 of them had run a 10.6 100M or better and they could play multiple positions.
As for the fall camp he advised us to watch the RB competition. Assuming Washington would be number 1, he then asked, who will be the flash? So much talent coming.
Here's an example of how he bonds with Trojan football fans. Pete began talking about how our opponents next fall will think we are down and that they have a shot – and then he appends the comment: I'm hoping we break their hearts. He talked about the first two games next year in humorous ways. I have chosen not to repeat his comments because I don't want to provide bulletin board quotes for our opponents. Let me just say that the entire room was in stitches.
I think it is OK for someone who has accomplished so much to sit back in the off-season and smell the roses. Pete did some of that when he returned a couple of times to the fact that only 41,000 fans showed up for his first game against San Jose State. Think about where we were and where we are now. Never to pass up an opportunity for humor, Pete said he didn't have any tickets for the season but pointed to Ron Orr and said he did. This brought laughter and a visible and good-natured reaction from Ron.
Pete introduced basketball coach Tim Floyd to a standing ovation. Coach Floyd is a funny man. He outlined his strategy for not awarding all our scholarships in order to build for the long haul. He also talked about the great opportunity to play in the new arena and that we would no longer have to apologize for our facilities. I would say that his basic message which sounded to me like an ad slogan was, "it is going to happen here".
There is a good back-and-forth between Coach Floyd and Coach Carroll. I think they respect each other and enjoy being together.
The question and answer part of the program then began. Question #1 was about Sanchez but the questioner was so far away that we couldn't hear it at our end of the ballroom. Pete expects a positive resolution of this issue.
Question #2 was about what position Allen Bradford would play this fall. Pete said he would be great at RB, LB or Safety and that he would play Safety.
Question #3 was about Stafon Johnson and whether a new RB could block well enough to start next fall. Pete said that the issue was not whether they could block well, because they can, but whether they could determine who to block. I guess that is where the learning curve begins for new RB's.
Question #4 asked about the progress of Desmond Reed. Pete said he still had a ways to go.
Question #5 I missed completely. Pete answered with a funny story about his only meeting with the owner of Jet's and being fired.
Question #6 was for Tim Floyd about the prospects for this coming year and Tim gave an upbeat answer, which included the term "miracle worker".
Question #7 was about Charlie Weis and next fall's ND game. You'll have to get Pete's answer from someone else because I don't want this report on the ND bulletin board. Let's just say that we'll be ready.
Question #8 was something about Greg Gunther but I didn't catch enough to give a report. People were having so much fun that the noise level kept interfering.
Question #9 was for both Tim Floyd and Pete Carroll and asked about what was needed to improve for their teams. Tim said that the big men had to get better. Pete talked about Washington and how his level of performance was important to the team.
Question #10 began with the assumption that we were a target for the NCAA and asked Pete to respond. Pete disagreed with the premise saying the NCAA was not our problem and that the troubles leading up to the NFL draft were agent driven.
Question #11 was about Ryan Powdrell and whether his future was on offense. Pete said Ryan had a great spring, would stay on offense and had a future when we needed a power back. A little smile came onto Pete's face as he pointed out Ryan weighs 260 lbs.
Question #12 asked for Pete's reaction to ND wearing the green jerseys. Pete said he was surprised and marveled at the decision. Pete said that Sam Anno had predicted the green jersey trick in spite of the other coaches saying no-way.
Question #12a was a follow-up question about going back to both teams wearing home colors at the SC/UCLA game. Pete's answer was a total surprise to me. He said he favored it and that even though it was against the rules, the visiting team could still do it. The penalty would be the loss of one time-out. He said he's thought several times that it would be worth it but others have talked him out of it. He then asked the audience how they felt and the majority felt it would be worth losing a time-out to restore that old tradition. Maybe this fall?
Question #13 asked about the Defensive Line. Pete said Ellis is excellent and on track to follow in Mike Patterson's tradition. He then went through the entire DL roster and gave comments on each. As for Chris Barrett he said he did very well, and get this, ran a 4.6 40 this spring. [Folks, think about a DT running 4.6.]
Question #14 wanted to know Pete's policy on players also running track. PC said he wanted two sport athletes and encouraged that.
Question #15 asked about the recovery of Kevin Ellison. Pete said that Kevin had a great re-hab, played well in the spring (ahead of schedule), and is the starting strong safety.
Question #16 asked about players who come-out early for the NFL draft. Pete gave a long and complete answer. He said that his orientation had clearly shown the financial benefits of staying but that the players were making their decisions for non-financial reasons. He is now going to start the orientation program in the freshman year to see if it will have a greater impact.
Question #17 was about the Raider decision to draft Darnell Bing as a LB. Pete said he had all the physical tools to be a good NFL LB but was better prepared to play safety at this stage of his career.
Question #18 asked about special teams and whether they would be better. Pete, looking skyward, said he hoped so. He talked about integrating the abundant LB talent into the ST's and said that our new punter was untested in games. Almost as an afterthought and in sort of a teasing manner, Pete said to look for going for it a lot on 4th down again.
Question #19 asked Pete to analyze UCLA for the coming year. He did and to summarize his remarks, they have a big challenge.
Question #20 was about the future of Luthur Brown. Pete said he is a great talent, has on-going issues with his back, that we are working carefully for the long haul, and that Mr. Brown will be a fantastic player.
Pete then said – two more questions.
Question #21, Tim Floyd was asked about the focus for next year. Coach Floyd gave a thoughtful but humorous answer. Basically he said that he liked beating UCLA and next year his goal was to be so good that no one would think that a Trojan victory would be a fluke. He obviously did not like the NCAA tournament announcers referring to our victory with that dismissive word.
Question #22 asked Pete about David Kirtman. Pete shared how happy he was for David being drafted by his hometown Seahawks. He said that Kirkman was the first Fullback taken in the draft and he complemented David on his work ethic while at SC.
John Jackson took the podium again and introduced this year's film summary of the football and basketball highlights. Everyone at my table seemed to feel that they had indeed gotten their money's worth and had a good time to boot.
If anyone is still with me this far into the column you deserve the Pete Carroll commendation for endurance. You see, Pete is going to do this six more times in the next few weeks. If you don't have a ticket, I suggest you get one.