Talking Football with USC's Nick Holt

USC defensive coordinator Nick Holt had the Trojans playing dominant football all year. Kevin Carden caught up with Nick Holt for an in-depth one-on-one interview. Holt discusses all things football including Pete Carroll, recruiting and much more.

Q: Sedrick Ellis has received many honors in the last few weeks and made just about every All-American team. As a coach how rewarding is it to know you helped him develop into one of the best players in the nation?

A: I'm just glad that he has had a successful senior year. I'm glad he came back and everything worked out for both he and Lawrence (Jackson) and we just have to finish it up strong with a great game in the Rose Bowl. Everything will work out in the end for these guys. Some day they will be stars in the NFL so I am really happy for him.

Q: Obviously Sedrick Ellis has amazing talent but what is it that separates him from the other defensive linemen in the nation?

A: Like you said he has a lot of talent. What separates him is he is so tough and he's so physical and he's tenacious. That's what separates him.

Q: With the All-American teams being announced lots of guys on your defense got recognition but one player that continues to fly under the radar is Kevin Ellison. Why do you think he doesn't seem to get the credit or attention that he deserves outside of the USC program?

A: He's probably not flashy and maybe doesn't have all the numbers but people don't take into account all the stuff he does for us as far as getting other guys lined up, how smart he is and how good a leader he is by example and his work ethic. What's good about Kevin (Ellison) is he's got next year for us so I think his productivity as far as numbers might even get better. There are guys on these All-American lists that possibly wouldn't play for us quite honestly.

Q: On defense you lose four big time contributors in Sedrick Ellis, Keith Rivers, Lawrence Jackson and Terrell Thomas. What have these guys meant to the USC program and how tough will it be to replace not just their play but also the leadership that they provide?

A: You just look at how many games they have won. That incoming class of 2003 which also includes a couple of guys that are no longer with us that left early, and that's Lendale White and Reggie Bush, those guys have probably won more games than any other class in college football. They have won two National Championships. They have won at least eleven games every year and not only are they great players but they have taught our guys how to work. They are great kids. They are smart kids, all of them will graduate. So that class of 2003 is an extraordinary class, possibly the best class ever that this program has seen.

Q: This is now the second time you have been a part of the USC coaching staff under Pete Carroll. What are a few of the main things you have learned about coaching from Pete Carroll?

A: There are so many. I think the best thing is dealing with players and being on an even keel and knowing how to prepare for games and how to get the kids ready. I think he is very masterful at the art of preparing football teams week in and week out. He does just a phenomenal job of doing that.

Q: What coach besides Pete Carroll has taught you the most about football?

A: John L. Smith and my high school coach.

Q: Every year there are a handful of teams that rise up and play at a high level but you guys have been able to sustain great play over a number of years. Why do you think you have been able to sustain it more than any other program?

A: I think it is because of our head coach and the staff that we have had. The tenacity of our work ethic and doing everything better than it has ever done before, whether it's holding a high school camp, whether it's recruiting or a practice. I think we just hold our standards so high and that stems from the top.

Q: After looking at film of Illinois what was the first thing that jumped out at you about their offense?

A: Their athleticism on offense. They have a great running back. The quarterback's athletic and their skill just jumps out at you and then you try and look for weaknesses, maybe an offensive linemen here and offensive linemen there and they don't have any. Their offensive line is athletic. What you see is their personnel is really, really good and then they do a great job with their scheme. So not only do they have good personnel but they have the scheme that really compliments the personnel and vice versa.

Q: With the big three of Rashard Mendenhall, Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn, Illinois looks a lot like Oregon in what they try and do on offense. Do you think that is a fair comparison?

A: Schematically they do a lot of the same things and there are some other teams that we have played in the past that do a lot of that stuff. Whenever you have a running quarterback and they spread you out it makes you work a lot harder in preparing. You have to prepare for so many different things, the passing game, then the running game and the option. They do it all and they do it all pretty well.

Q: You guys obviously have one of the best recruiting staffs in the nation. When you are looking at tape of a high school player what specific attributes are you looking for?

A: Toughness and if they have a motor, if they are flying around and playing hard. Those are the things that got to stick out. Football has to be important to them and the way they demonstrate that. The way you can tell that is by how hard they play. So that's the number one thing. Then when we get to know these kids we really want to know their personality. They better love football and it better be important to them because it is just so hard here and we expect some much of our guys. The competition is really fierce here so you better love football if you are going to make it here."

You guys got the top rated recruit in the nation by Scout.com last year in Everson Griffen. He really came into his own with a big game against Oregon State and like the entire defense he finished the season on a high note. What can we expect to see from Everson in the next few years?

A: You can expect a fierce competitor. You are going to see a kid that is going to be nonstop rushing the passer and a kid that plays hard nonstop. That is really the neatest thing about Everson (Griffen). Not only is he fast but he plays really, really hard and he plays the run really well. That was a real pleasant surprise. There is no doubt he is one of the better ends in the country now.

Q: On the defensive side of the ball who are some of the players that you expect to really emerge and make an impact next year?

A: We are really looking for Fili Moala to step up. I think there is one kid that we think is going to be a real special player and that's our corner Shareece Wright. He's a kid that not many people know about but we think he is going to be really special. I think Shareece Wright and Fili Moala and maybe some of our young guys on defense can rise up like Malcolm Smith and DaJohn Harris but if there is one kid it's Shareece Wright.


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