For Taylor Mays, Jeff Byers, Josh Pinkard and the rest of the 2009 senior class, Saturday marks the last trip down the tunnel and their last chance to play in front of the home fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
And as Carroll said earlier this week, the younger players and coaches are hoping to send them off with another home victory.
"It's a great group of kids. Hate seeing them go. But we'll be excited as always to see them go on and move on ahead," Carroll said. "We'd love to send them off on a great note and finish out these games this season by letting them win and go out like that."
Among the group are two players that have overcome several obstacles and injuries over their career that have stretched out over six years, in Jeff Byers and Josh Pinkard.
"It will be the end of all the jokes about the 14 year vets and all that stuff," Carroll joked. "They've been around forever.
"But those guys have really paid the price physically. The reason that they're here for their sixth year is because of the injury situations that they've had to overcome and endure."
Byers redshirted during both the 2005 and 2006 seasons after suffering season-ending hip and back injuries and missed Fall Camp in 2008 while recovering from Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Pinkard, a versatile defensive back that has contributed at both cornerback and safety, missed the majority of two seasons after tearing ligaments in both knees.
"Jeff's had a myriad of things that he's gone through and dealt with," Carroll said. "And Josh with both the knee injuries and so they kind of stand out in my mind and I think in our team's mind."
Both players have bounced back from their various injuries to lead the Trojans as team captains this season and have careers in the NFL ahead of them.
"Both those guys are captains on this team and great leaders for us, and great kids in the program," Carroll said. "They're kind of emblematic of why we celebrate the seniors."
Taylor Mays also sticks out as the most highly-regarded NFL prospect in the class. At 6-3, 235 pounds, Mays is one of the top athletes in all of college football and is a two-time All-American.
"Taylor Mays has had a fantastic career, started every game but his first one that he ever participated in," Carroll said. "He's been an extraordinary Trojan in so many ways and has given back to his teammates and to his school and the community and all of the beautiful things that he's stood for."
This senior class that is filled with high character young men, has only lost twice at the Coliseum, and is looking to cap off their experience with a win against Arizona in the regular season finale this Saturday.
McKnight Still Uncertain
McKnight dressed and attempted to practice Wednesday but wasn't ready and spent the majority of the time watching from the side.
"He tried to go today and he didn't feel like he could open up," Carroll said. "He tried and practiced early in, so we have to wait another day and see how he does."
"C.J. (Gable) is getting a lot of work and Moody is getting a lot of work to go along with Allen (Bradford)," Carroll said. "If that's the way we go, we are ready to go with those guys but we will wait Joe out and see how he does."
Carroll said that he could wait until game day to make a final decision on McKnight.
- Taylor Mays' return for his senior season not only allowed him another year to learn and mature as a player but it allowed the young safeties in the program to learn from his work ethic and determination, which he learned from former USC safety Kevin Ellison.
"This was extraordinarily important for these guys, it helps Drew (McAllister)as well, in a number of ways. Probably the best way, is the way he studies and how serious he is about trying to understand what the game is all about," Carroll said. "He learned and shared that growth with Kevin (Ellison). Kevin was just instrumental. Kevin will be factoring into guys upbringing in this program for years. He was such a great example and Taylor just lived it out and passed it to Jawanza (Starling) and T.J. (McDonald) and all of these guys."
- One area that Mays has improved on the most in his final season in college is his ability to read and diagnose plays, Carroll said.
"He's made it in what he's seeing. He's able to diagnose what's going on really well. He's in really good command of this system, such that he can correct guys, positions guys, place guys in the right spots and giving them the heads ups and alerts," Carroll said. "The kinds of awareness that is necessary for really being a contributing factor to other guys play and all."
Will Harris and Jeff Byers will play in their last games at the Coliseum this Saturday.
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