Coach discusses state of team heading into Spring Huddle on Saturday at Coliseum.
April 24, 2009
USC Football Depth Chart (as of April 24, 2009)
Pete Carroll Comments From End-of-Spring-Practice Media Luncheon
"I can't believe it went so fast. We've had a really eventful, good spring with some obvious issues you have to deal with as you do every spring. We've grown with the information with what's going to happen at critical spots. We've had new coaches transition in. All of these things have come together in really good fashion and we don't feel like we've had to take a step back at any time. The spirit of the team and the work and competitiveness in practice has lasted throughout the spring, which is absolutely the No. 1 criteria - to get the work attitude right. Just judging from years past, when that takes place, we're on track and we'll make for good preparation to get into summer and fall camp.
"Again, at quarterback, we've come to the point where we have to make a call on it to play in the spring game. At this time, Aaron Corp is in the lead position for a number of reasons. He's been in the program, he knows the system very well, he communicates very well from the sideline to the huddle and his work at the line of scrimmage is good. He's a very good athlete and is the best runner we've had at the spot since we've been here. He has shown it at numerous occasions and picks and chooses his times really well. And he's thrown the ball very well. He came in with a little bit of an edge and held that.
"The great surprise of spring was the ability of Matt Barkley to pick up the offense. To be able to go out and compete from the first days he was on the field and not take a step backwards at any time. He's extraordinarily gifted in terms of understanding the game and the position of playing quarterback. He'd have to be. He's done things unlike Matt Leinart, John David Booty, Mark Sanchez, guys who've been extremely effective in the program. He's done things unlike those guys in that he's been able to pick things up and been incorporated into the full flow of practice from the first day he was out here. I expect he'll play really well in the spring game and have another big day and show more so why this competition is so close right now. Mitch Mustain has had a good solid spring but the other guys have kind of stayed ahead of him and he'll continue to battle and do everything he can to get playing time and his spot.
"I think Jeremy Bates (new quarterback coach and assistant head coach on offense) has done a marvelous job. The transition that he went through and the transition of the players at his spot, has been really well done. I hope you see why we feel fortunate to have hired him and I see why so many guys in the NFL and other schools really wanted his services. He's a terrific coach.
"We addressed the linebacker spot with extraordinary focus because of the magnitude of the guys that left the program, I think it was natural. From the first couple of days on, Chris Galippo took over at the MIKE linebacker spot. Malcolm Smith has been spectacular throughout the spring. Mike Morgan has done a very nice job holding up the outside linebacker spot. We've had nothing but good stuff from those guys. It's a very thin group with just a couple kids backing up. It's going to wind up being a very spotlighted position in camp when the freshmen come in. Jarvis Jones, Frankie Telfort, Marquis Simmons and Kevin Greene, these guys will all be factored in and find a way onto the playing field. We are counting on these guys to make contributions.
"The other transition is with Brian Schneider coming in to coach special teams. He's a great worker and a tremendous coach in the classroom and on the field. He coaches in the style that we love. He's very energetic, very aggressive and very creative on how he organizes his drills. We hope to see a real impact and there's no question he's already had a big impact.
"The biggest question mark still out there will be in the kicking game and the kicking aspect. Joe Houston and Jordan Congdon continue to battle for the placekicking duties and the kickoff duties with Jacob Harfman from Mt. SAC coming in (in the fall), who will be a big factor in it. He's a big-legged kid who can also punt. I don't know how it will work out. Billy O'Malley has been the only punter (in spring) and he'll battle with Jacob in the fall."
(Which guys, who were injured, did you really miss having out there this spring?)
"Joe McKnight not being able to be out there on a full-time basis was a big deal because Jeremy didn't really get a chance to work with him and see how far he could take his range of plays that he brings to us. That's a part we didn't get done. A good and bad part of the tackles getting banged up with Charles Brown and Butch Lewis going down, it forced Tyron Smith and Matt Kalil to play on a regular basis throughout practice for almost 10 days. It was good for the young guys, really hard on them but helped us progress some. Kristofer O'Dowd not being out there forced us to really work and focus on the backup center spot. Jeff Byers spent time there. Alex Parsons did really well there until he broke his hand. That will benefit us in the long run. Luthur Brown for sure would've been a great bonus. He would've competed for a number one spot at MIKE or SAM, but unfortunately his shoulder kept him from doing it."
(How much a can guy down on the depth chart really move up with a good spring, like Curtis McNeal?)
"If you were going to pick an MVP of the spring, Curtis might have been the MVP. He was a highlighted player throughout. Our coaching staff totally believes in this kid. He's tough, he's instinctive, he's fast, he's creative. He can catch the ball. He blocked beautifully in pass protections. He's a terrific player and he showed it day in and day out. He was tough enough to hang through it all. He carried the ball twice as much as everybody else and made the most of it. He's going to play for sure in the fall, there's no question. He's going to play for sure and we wouldn't mind him playing a lot.
"Another guy off the top that had a very good spring was D.J. Shoemate. He had a great spring at fullback. The number of things that we can do with him because of his receiver background showed up. He's probably the most improved player on the team and really developed a role for himself. (Fullback) Stanley Havili has been a very effective player for us, but we have not found another guy who can do those same things. D.J. has found his way. He can carry the ball, runs it well, has solved the mysteries of the offense and the schemes and what we're doing with him. Because we move him so much it's a difficult position to learn, but he's handled it well and been very productive. We'll see a lot of him tomorrow and we won't hesitant to play him in games right now. It's a huge bonus for him."
(Are you surprised on Matt Barkley's timing with his receivers?)
"He has natural anticipation, whether he's working with the youngest guys or the guys that have been around the program, he's forcing them to get out of their breaks. The ball is delivered so early, with good speed and velocity. Our guys have to be ready. One of the things young quarterbacks rarely show is anticipation. The ball generally comes out late because they are not sure of themselves. Matt hasn't been like that. He anticipates better than anyone we have. It's a big asset and a big part of us trusting his ability to make the throws. There's a lot of things that he does that he does better than any of them already. His big concern is managing the game and the offense from the communications standpoint. We did not burden him with that so he could show his range of play. Now he has to catch up with that as we go to camp. But of all the aspects, that's the least difficult. So he'll be right in the middle of this when we get back.
(What has Jethro Franklin brought to the team with his return to the staff?)
"There was an immediate connection when he showed up. They just took to him. He's got a great personality and a tremendous attitude. He's a tough guy to play for because he's so demanding, but the guys have responded beautifully. He's had a great impact on Everson Griffen. He's played by far the best that he's ever played for us. He's utilizing his great speed and explosiveness. He looks to be a real factor. We are still challenging his consistency -- to play at a high level every play -- but he's played as well as anyone who has played that spot for us in a lot of occasions at spring football. Whenever you have someone who shows up at that rush position, he can control more of a game than anybody can on defense and Everson has been an enormous factor, against good tackles. He's given our top tackles more than they can handle. Jethro and the other guys as well are working together quite well and we hope to see it grow.
(On the ability of Barkley to step in and command the respect of the upperclassmen on the team)
"In our program, we've been so quick to facilitate the freshmen's input for years. These guys, they all had the same opportunities. They played as freshmen and contributed then also. We have a different level of appreciation that isn't typical because of the way we've gone about it. And then, at any level, if a guy can play well, guys aren't going to fight it. It's only if you are forcing something that guys can't feel, that they can't sense. Matt's shown that he adds something and has a chance to contribute in a big way. And he has a personality and the knack to handle it. He's not pushing himself and he's well-liked.
(Considering USC is losing three NFL first-round level guys, how good can the Trojans' linebackers really be?)
"We'll find out. We're really pleased with them. Cush and those guys will hate me for saying this, and guys like Clay and Cush and Kaluka would never admit to this, but we are faster than we were. Michael and Malcolm can really run. They add a lot. Rey would beat Galippo in a race, but he'll beat most MIKE linebacker in a race. We felt the speed on the field and the pursuit. They've learned well and been trained well under the old guys. Ken Norton has done a great job challenging these guys to live up to the level of play and it's been very good. We've been pleased. The biggest question mark is how the young linebackers develop and fit in. Jordan Campbell has had a good camp and he will start with the No. 1s (Saturday) because of Michael Morgan's ankle. It's wide open. Uona Kaveinga has played well and elevated his status. But it will be Jarvis and Frankie, Marquis and Kevin. They will come in and see what they add to it all. They have to.
(Would Nick Perry move to LB?)
"No, Nick's done a nice job. He's going to get more opportunities. He'll play at both sides of the DE spot in this game. We're not thinking of moving him.
(Is this your deepest defensive line?)
"In that they all play at pretty much the same level. We're solid. We have enough guys to rotate. We're playing seven guys in a regular rotation right now. With Hebron Fangupo coming in from junior college, he was really earmarked to come in and compete at Fili Moala's spot. Averell Spicer has done a nice job there. Derek Simmons has done a nice job. We'll see if Fangupo can help us out there. At that point, if he can contribute, we'll be as deep there as we've ever been.
(On playing first team vs, first team in the spring game)
"We want to make it as competitive as we can make it. That's the priority. Our guys are so accustomed to it, they don't know anything else."
(Is there a clear No. 3 receiver?)
"No. David Ausberry has had a great spring and done a beautiful job. We are watching the emergence of Jordan Cameron at that position as well. Brice Butler and Travon Patterson are right there. We see guys in roles, not a clear cut third. But David plays like a starter in that regard. In this game, Travon will play as the third receiver, to move him around, because it's the right mix for us. He'll play as the third guy and David will flop over."
(On moving the QBs around in the pocket)
"We always move our quarterbacks. We've tremendous play-action emphasis in our offense. What will happen by the nature of the player, they will utilize their legs more so when it fits. Mark was more apt to run than John David or Matt Leinart. Aaron and Mitch are much more equipped to run as well.
(Anyone else surprise you this spring besides McNeal?)
"Tons of guys have. D.J. Shoemate had a great spring. David Ausberry had a great spring. Curtis McNeal had a fantastic spring. Marc Tyler is making a big push toward the end of camp. The big move to make Tyron a starting right tackle was a big deal and he's latched onto that and trying to hold it. Nick Howell has done really well at right guard. Not that that's a big surprise, but he's elevated his status. I think Everson Griffen is a real happy emergence and surprise. Brian Baucham has had a really solid spring. He's been very productive. He's been a real pleasure to see him come in. He makes a lot of plays, gets his hands on a lot of balls, creates a lot of turnovers. He's had a very good spring. That corner position with him and T.J. Bryant and Marshall Jones, those guys are all battling for the third cornerback spot. They're all doing well and it's not clear cut at all who the third guy is."