Q&A with Herbstreit: 'I'm always amazed by a place like USC'

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ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit was on campus Tuesday and Wednesday to shoot "College GameDay" commercials and visit with Trojan coaches and players. The former Ohio State quarterback, who has worked for ESPN for the last 15 years, also sat down with USCRipsIt for a quick interview to talk about the Trojans, his relationship with Coach Carroll and the much-anticipated USC-Ohio State game this fall:

0611herbespn.jpgUSCRipsIt: What are your overall thoughts on the 2009 Trojans coming off spring ball and heading into the fall?
Herbstreit: It's one of those teams every year, you know that SC is going to be one of those teams that's going to be competing not only for the Pac-10, but national, championship. I learned a long time ago never to question their team. When you think about when they lost Carson Palmer, you thought they were going to take a step back but Matt Leinart went in and won at Auburn and away they go. Reggie Bush and LenDale White leaves, now Sarkisian's gone. This program always overcomes losses of players and coaches.

So here we are in 2009 -- you lose Sarkisian, Nick Holt, an NFL quarterback in Mark Sanchez and a lot of great players on defense and yet you look at the players coming back, and even though the quarterback position hasn't defined itself, as long as Pete Carroll continues to coach, it will. They have a way of being able to reload and this year will be no exception.

USCRipsIt: The USC defense lost a lot of talent from 2008, so how do you see that side of the ball shaping up this fall?

Herbstreit: If you go back to two years ago, a similar thing happened. Last year, another few guys left. I was just talking with Taylor Mays, who's going to be a four-year starter, and he's saying this is the best secondary that he's played in. So here's the best safety in college football that's not just saying what I want to hear but being truthful that this is the best secondary he's been in. The defensive line will be loaded, which takes a lot of pressure off the linebackers. When you have a great defensive line and a dominant secondary, you're going to be able to have a great defense. As long as Pete's in charge of the defense, it'll be one that's going to continue to set the tone and get the offense back on the field.

USCRipsIt: What do you think about the new additions to the coaching staff?
Herbstreit: I'm always amazed by a place like USC. When you win as much as USC does, you're going to lose great people, and it brings you an opportunity to bring in more people you believe in, and Pete's been able to do that for a number of years. He's lost several people that have appeared at the time as irreplaceable. As fans and analysts, we can sit here and say that as long as Pete Carroll is at USC, he will put the people in place to make USC successful.

USCRipsIt: You get a chance to talk very candidly with Coach Carroll quite a bit during the season and then random times like this week during the offseason. How did you develop that relationship and how does it help in your work?
Herbstreit: I've been real blessed that coaches have accepted my calls and me reaching out to them. I'm not looking for any secrets, I just love college football and I love preparing for my job. My preparation is to talk to them away from everyone else and get real with them. When I'm broadcasting a game, I almost know what they're thinking about as far as important factors in the game.

I've been doing this for a long time but hopefully I've built up enough trust so that whether it's Pete Carroll, Jim Tressel, Joe Paterno or any coach, they can share whatever they want with me, knowing that I'm using it for my own information. I get to talk to the Urban Meyers and Nick Sabans of the world and I just love listening to them. I owe it to my own craft to continue to keep learning. The game changes over the years, and if I said, 'Oh, I played in the '90s, I know what I'm talking about,' I wouldn't be doing my job.

USCRipsIt: You played at Ohio State and have covered many games at Ohio Stadium. What's it going to be like on Sept. 12 when the Trojans and Buckeyes meet in Columbus?

Herbstreit: Oh, it'll be great. I loved when Ohio State came out here last year. Anytime you get programs like Ohio State, USC, Penn State, Michigan, Florida, Texas, anytime you can get these teams on the same field in the regular season, you have to be so thankful. You just 0611herbosu.jpgdon't get a chance to see teams like this play anymore in the regular season. I'm pumped. I'm an Ohio State alum, but being an analyst for ESPN/ABC for the last 15 years, I feel almost as close to USC as I do Ohio State, my own school, because I love the people here. The greatest thing about USC is the people and the players are the kind of guys you want to take home and let them babysit my kids. They're just good guys.

I'm looking forward to seeing the matchup, and I'll be calling it like I did last year. "GameDay" will be there -- it'll be so hyped. The USC team will come into that atmosphere -- let's face it, these guys have gone into Auburn, Nebraska, Notre Dame, all over the Pac-10 -- and it's not like they're going to be in awe of the circumstances. If anything, they'll look at it as a challenge and it'll motivate them that much more.

And then for Ohio State, the X-factor for them is Terrelle Pryor and whether he can make enough plays to keep them in the game. And can they take advantage of the home field? It'll be fun. When the dust settles, the team that wins will be that much closer to competing for the national championship and the other one will be back to the drawing board.

USCRipsIt: Last but not least, do you have a prediction for how that USC-Ohio State game will turn out?

Herbstreit: Ohio State is going to have to win the game to prove to people that they can play with a team like USC. Even though it's at home and even though everyone's saying that USC lost Mark Sanchez and all the players on defense, there's something different about USC, when they have time to prepare, as they've proven in nonconference games and bowl games, they just don't lose. It doesn't really matter where the game is being played -- that's kind of a nonfactor in their case.

For Ohio State, the one thing I know is the Terrelle Pryor factor is the X-factor, much like Vince Young and Texas. The things he can do not only affect his own offense but the defense, the crowd in the stands and creates momentum. It's all about whether he's ready to be that guy. On the other side, is Barkley going to emerge that game or will it be Aaron Corp? Is that position going to be OK in that environment or will it cost USC some plays with turnovers?

The quarterback position -- it's always important -- but in that game, it's especially important because of the youth and superstar status of those players. Are they ready to become those stars they eventually will be? Are they ready that night with that much pressure? Or will there be some good and some bad? If it is, hold on to your hat, because we don't know what's going to happen.

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