Making it to a bowl game is a great reward for a team's hard work and success during the regular season, but bowl games are also a valuable tool, which allow coaches extra practice time to build for the future.
That certainly is the case at USC, where Pete Carroll uses the extra month of practice to evaluate and develop the returning players on the roster.
"We saw a lot of young guys doing stuff again like we are trying to do here," Pete Carroll said after Saturday's practice. "It worked out really well."
The Trojans lose first-round talent to the NFL every season, but what separates Pete Carroll and the USC program is the ability to transition year to year with relatively no drop off.
In the first two practices of the Rose Bowl preparation, several young players have received extended time with the first-team, and have opened some eyes.
"I thought (Aaron) Corp did really well today," Carroll said. "He had a really good day. Aaron made a bunch of good plays yesterday, and he came back and did even more today.
"Without Mark (Sanchez) out there it's a chance to really focus in on the quarterback position."
Shoemate, like Havili, has shown the athleticism to be a real weapon in the passing game as well as the running game.
"D.J. Shoemate is starting to make plays for us out of that spot (fullback)," Carroll said. "He had a couple good blocks yesterday and caught the ball nice today."
One player that will really benefit from the extra practice time is Nick Perry, who got a late start on his freshman season.
Perry has been moved around lately in an effort to see where he fits in best. The versatile freshman has moved inside this week to play the three-technique.
"Nick Perry has been doing some good stuff. We are moving him around a little bit to see what he can do," Carroll said. "He made a big play to win the day today."
As USC gets deeper into bowl preparations one position that will get a lot of attention is linebacker, where the Trojans will have to replace Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Kaluka Maiava and Clay Matthews.
"Obviously, that is a big transition position for us. I think you can see all of these guys feeling it," Carroll said. "Kenny (Norton) is making it real clear to these guys that it's time for them to make some statements about where they fit in.
"They are battling like crazy out here."
Carroll feels comfortable with the transition in the secondary and defensive line because several players have received valuable experience in 2008, but sees the linebacker position as an area of uncertainty.
"It's really the linebacker spot that will be the big question for us," Carroll said. "We are looking at that.
"We are trying to get as much information as we can now on the guys that have been with us."
Seto Still Undecided
Seto did say that he is intrigued by the possibility of becoming a defensive coordinator, and feels he has what it takes to be successful in that position.
"I think I can teach. I think I have the ability to bring people together," Seto said. "There is more to it than just understanding X's and O's; you have to be able to lead men.
"You have to be a leader as a coordinator."
Coach Carroll added: "He is a great coach. He has done an awesome job here. He's had an incredible run here coaching the secondary. He's really, really a good football coach and big asset to us."
Seto said he is excited about the opportunity but still needs a few days to make a final decision.
"This probably is the heaviest that I have considered something," Seto said. "I wouldn't say it's 100 percent. We are still seeking God on this one."
News and Notes
- Tailback Joe McKnight didn't practice on Saturday. After practice, Pete Carroll said he was being held out because of a bruised tailbone.
- Rey Maualuga continues to receive awards and honors. The senior linebacker was named the CBSSports.com Defensive Player of the Year.
Maualuga and Taylor Mays both made the Football Writers Association of America and CBSSports.com All-American teams.
- Pete Carroll praised Aaron Corp, D.J. Shoemate and Nick Perry as players that have stood out the last two practices. Perry has moved inside and worked as a three-technique the last two practices.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at email@example.com