Pete Carroll-Dick Tomey Talk About Saturday's Game At The Coliseum
Sept. 1, 2009
COACH CARROLL: It's great to finally get here with the opportunity to start the season. We've been waiting. And it takes so long to get to this point, and so much anticipation and so much hard work and all of that and all of a sudden it's just upon you and we're ready to go.
We've had a very good camp. It's gone well for our whole program. We've had transition in a couple of areas and the coaching and the players and things that we've had to get through. We feel very comfortable with the transitions that we've made. The decisions that we've made for people that are going to play and across the board right now. And we're going to get off to a great start.
This game we're honoring a young man, Ryan Davidson, who is close to our hearts. He passed last year, last spring. And give the family an opportunity to be with us and spend a special day with us once again. He goes back to the Leinart and Reggie Bush days when those guys first adopted him when he came into the program, so we miss him. But we'll have a nice tribute for Ryan and his family.
Also in this game, there is a tribute to respecting your opponents in the game itself that we'll take part in for the first time. I think it's a nice gesture, and it won't take long, but it's something that we want to do.
And the fact that Coach Tomey is in charge of the FCA and all that makes a difference, and we like to honor the efforts and the work that he's done in bringing this to light to college football, so we'll honor that.
So it's about the football. We're cranked up and ready to go. We've had a highly successful camp, very competitive. We've had to make it through the couple injuries that we've had. And I hear a lot of questions about, of course, stricken by the fact that kids don't get to play with us. But the focus goes to the guys that are playing, and the guys that will step up in those opportunity roles, and we'll try to make the most of that.
We'll be faced with this throughout the season, and our mentality is to be right about it. So we're going to make the very most of it, and, hopefully, our guys will play up to the caliber that's necessary for us to play good football to get going.
I think it's interesting for us to go against San Jose State, in that Coach Tomey has been an extremely successful football coach. He's a guy I've known for years. Studied under him when I was a GA years and years ago, and watched him have success in all different kinds of settings. But what he's done is he's assembled a tremendous staff. His coordinator, Keith Burns and Steve Morton and those guys have been here. Kent Baer's on that staff and Ken Margerum, a bunch of really good coaches. And you can tell in the way they go about their game and the way they scheme that they have great expertise and background.
They're a very difficult scheme to go against on both sides of the football. So with the little bit of change on their offense, we have some uncertainties. Defensively, we know we're going to get a world of problems and issues from them.
So as we prepare for this game, we've had a long time to do this. We've encompassed a lot of the things that they can do, and in the hopes that we can get our kids prepared for the variety of things that we'll be facing.
The fact that we have a new starter for the first time at quarterback, that's a concern always. It wouldn't matter. It's been a concern back when Leinart started against Auburn, and Booty and Sanchez, and all these guys. It's always a concern, and we have that same concern now with Matt taking over.
Matt Barkley's had a great introduction to our program. We could not have accomplished more in the time that he's been with us in spring football and fall camp. He's a gifted player, but he's young. So we have to bring him through that. Just like we had to bring our other guys through that.
We don't feel any differently about it than we felt with other guys. That's because Matt has been amazing picking up our system, fitting in, taking over and handling this. He would have to have been a very unusual kid, an exceptional kid, to accomplish what he's accomplished. He's just impressed us from the first day he got here and he won the job under the circumstances.
With that also, on Saturday's scrimmage, Aaron got to play and he showed in a couple of plays that he's willing to go for it, and he's ready to go. So we'll have Aaron available to us. We really didn't know that until he took off and hook slide his way into the secondary on a run. I don't know if that's hook slid or hook slide, but that's kind of what I was waiting to see from him. So anyway, he's proven that he's ready to go. He's in the game plan, and ready to go at a moment's notice if we need him.
We expect to have the benefit of a very experienced offensive team playing around our quarterback. We have guys at all spots coming back that have been there before, even with Kris going out. Jeff Byers is going to start at center for us, and Alex Parson's going to back him up. Kris may make it back this week, and maybe he's another week away. We'll find out during this week.
Ronald Johnson, you know, going out of the lineup allows David Ausberry to start officially with Damian Williams and two terrific guys in our program that have played. So we feel good about the guys that supported the offensive side of the ball.
On defense, we just kind of covered all of the normal things here. Of course, there is a big transition at linebacker with the four guys taking off in the league.
But Galippo and Mike Morgan and Malcolm Smith have had beautiful camps. And they've picked up in spring football with the chip on their shoulder to show that they could represent, and they could keep their level of play up to that which we have grown accustomed over the last couple of years. And we'll find out. We'll find out when we start playing games where that all fits together.
But we love their enthusiasm for us and being physical, and tough, and studying, and live up to the standards of the players in their position. So we're expecting a lot of great things out of the secondary with Josh Pinkard and Will Harris and Kevin Thomas. They're to support Taylor Mays, one of the best players we've had here since we've been here, on free safety. That is one of the strongest groups of our team.
Josh had a great year in the corner. In transitioning to go back to corner, he's excited about it and ready to take over. So we feel good about that. Few new guys up front on the defensive side, but everybody for the most part has played. So we're excited about it, and we think we have a good opportunity to do some good stuff.
Kicking game, let me say this also -- the kicking game, hopefully, will be a bigger factor for us. I think Brian Schneider has done a remarkable job for us. We can tell the difference on the practice field with the way we drill and perform up until now. I hope that will be a factor that will make us a better football team.
The kicking situations are all settled now. Jake Harfman's going to kick off. Jordan Congdon will be our placekicker, and Billy O'Malley will be the punter for us. The snappers are the same, Cooper Stephenson and Pousson. And our returners are going to be Joe McKnight and Damian Williams back there with the punts, and C.J. and Curtis McNeal at kickoff. So we're really pumped about that aspect of our team. We need to see it show up in every game.
So things have gone well, like I said, but now it's game time. We're just going to go at this first game the first opener with great excitement about it. The enthusiasm to get the season kicked off, and hopefully we can perform well enough to get ourselves a good win and get going through the schedule.
Okay, I think I covered everything.
Q. (Indiscernible on Mitch Mustain)?
COACH CARROLL: Mitch Mustain wound up as the third quarterback in the system due to the competition. And it was pretty clear in springtime that that was his place, and it hasn't moved much. Although, when Aaron was banged up in camp, Mitch performed well and did a nice job, and he's ready to play when we need him. He's been sick the last couple of days, missed the scrimmage last week. But other than that he's done a good job, but he's sitting in the third spot.
Q. I have the AT&T Ask Coach Question of the Day from a reader. And the question is, How does the elephant position get its name? Where does it come from, and when did you start using it?
COACH CARROLL: The elephant, that goes back as far as I know it goes back to the San Francisco 49ers. I think because it was an E word. They called it elephant for the special defensive end position, and it goes back to there. So it's just adopted from that time and that system.
It's not that glamorous a story. I will tell you Israel came to us from San Francisco. We drafted him here from SC, and he's of Nigerian background. He called his father in Nigeria and told him the day he got drafted that, Dad, I just got drafted by the 49ers, and they want me to play elephant (laughing). I think that was a little confusing for his dad.
Q. (Indiscernible on San Jose State)?
COACH CARROLL: It wouldn't matter, you know. We've never been concerned about who we're playing against or how it works out. We've had guys start in some really difficult situations on the road an at home. You know, we're fortunate that we're home it doesn't matter. We can play all different teams, so I'm sure San Jose is going to make it hard. They are a team that's very aggressive defensively. They take a lot of shots. Really good defensively. They rank in Top 10 last year in pass defense, and that's because of their style. And I'm sure if you talk to Coach Tomey he's going to come after me, and that's the way he does it. It's just his way, and that will be challenging.
Q. The tailbacks, is it the four guys and then the other two. Is that the way it's going to be?
COACH CARROLL: Yeah. That's kind of come out like that. We gave Mark Tyler and Curtis a lot of opportunities to see if they could get up in the mix with the guys. But really Joe has had a great camp. Stafon and C.J. and now Allen Bradford has probably had the best showing because we've given him the most opportunities to see where he's fit in. But he's taken advantage of that.
But, again, we're going to go into the season with who is starting tonight. It will change game to game who will take the first snaps for us. But we hopefully can carve out rules if are these guys, as we have in the past, where they can be effective in helping us, and we'll just take it as the game comes.
In games itself, and I've said this a bunch of times to you, it depends on how the game goes who gets the most carries. I can't tell you right now. We have a plan how it will work. And we'll be flexible enough to make good choices and going in the direction of the guy who is having the most good stuff happening.
Q. Once again, it wouldn't bother you to use three or four all season?
COACH CARROLL: I don't mind that at all. It's worked out fine for us over the years. I know it's a little unusual, you know, but it's not hard on us as a staff. And the kids get to contribute and get a lot of guys involved in the plan.
But then we're always I say the same thing I've always said if it goes one way where one guy's being dominant, we're going to go that way. We're just trying to win. So we'll see how it works out.
Q. Coach, I think one of the trademarks of the teams over the past few years has been this confident swagger. Given all the turnover and issues, do you sense that or is that something that's going to have to develop?
COACH CARROLL: Well, I can only go on what's happened at practice. That's how we're looking now, and how we're battling against one another. We've had so much work with ones against ones, you know, to accentuate the competitiveness and the speed and the challenge. And our guys have, you know it seemed like they maintained a good level of mentality.
We've got nice leadership of kids that have of been through a lot with us. Josh Pinkard and Jeff Byers, those guys have been around a lot. They and other guys have given us good direction. I feel like it's a strong mentality right now.
You know, there's always a bit of uncertainty, so that causes you to wait and see a little bit. But it's been real strong. I think the mentality of the team has been fine. We'll see how we handle the challenges of the regular season.
Q. If the scoreboard allows, do you play Aaron here or does Matt get all the snaps for experience?
COACH CARROLL: No. We'll play the game and see what happens. We're not trying to fit it together with numbers of snaps and everything like that. We're just waiting to see what happens. Aaron's a capable player. He's been in the starting position for us. We feel really good about his play. If we need him any time, he'll go. I'd love to get some play time for him if the opportunity is there.
One of the things that helped Barkley is when Aaron went out we doubled up on his turns, so he capitalized on that. That gave him the opportunity to seize that chance, so he's well ahead. Even in coming back with Aaron, but still Barkley has had 2 to 1 snaps over Aaron in attempts to get him ready.
Q. Couple of injury questions. How's Spicer coming along and when Pinkard moves over to corner, what's that do to the rotation of the safety in the corner and all that?
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, well, Averell practiced part of practice yesterday, and was held out at the end of it. We'll see. Today's the real day to see where he fits in. See how far he's come back. And then all of those guys that are injured on the way back, Nick Howell and a couple of other kids will see the doctors tonight. The other one was about Josh Pinkard?
Q. And who backs up and all that?
COACH CARROLL: This is a really good opportunity for us with Drew McAllister. A guy that made some nice noise last year when he had a chance. He made three picks in limited action last year. He's always been the guy that has been looking for a chance to get him in a role in the lineup. So he's closer to playing right now.
We really look to see if we can bring T.J. McDonald back into the mix right now as he returns. He practiced full speed yesterday to see where he fits into all of that.
Q. (Indiscernible on the QB decision).
COACH CARROLL: I feel like I'm getting ready. It wasn't a difficult decision. It was just one we had to take some time to figure out. And what became an issue to me was the timing of it. I wanted to make sure, in case you guys want to know this, I wanted to make sure that we gave Matt enough time to feel that he's the starting quarterback with some time prior if it happened today. With all of the media and all of the build up to it, that's why we called it when we did.
Q. 18 years old, just out of high school. What's different about him now?
COACH CARROLL: We're a much different style in the way that we count on the quarterback position to be part of the program. Matt was really the whole show and they spread the field out, let him fire the football all over the field. If he threw a couple picks they'd still come back in the game. That's just not our style. We've tried to really protect the quarterback position and make that position really highly efficient. And that's the low turnovers and, you know, try to get our completion percentage in the 60's and be a real productive aspect of the offense, but not the whole show.
And that has been part of the transition with Jeremy Bates working with Matt is to get him out of that mentality. For four years he really was throwing the ball 40, 50 times a game. He's capable of doing it. Handled it beautifully and won a bunch of games and all that. That's not the style of play that we play right now.
So even to his benefit, I think, we're more of a balanced attack. And, you know, we've always taught that. We tried to be 50 50 in every game. And if you look at our numbers, we've pretty much held that up over the years. And that calls for the quarterback to be part of the offense, you know, and a functioning part of it. But not the whole show.
Even when Carson was here, after Matt had won the Heisman Trophy, we still thought the exact same way. We felt like it was a good winning formula for us. So now we're trying the process has been to bring Matt into that mentality and accept that, so that's what's going on.
And it wouldn't be any different if Aaron or Mitch or anybody else was playing quarterback. We'd be going at it in the same manner. That's the same way we've done it for a number of years.
Q. Can you realistically compete for the national championship with a rookie quarterback?
COACH CARROLL: Well, we'll find out. It's not game 12, you know, where we'll know where we are.
Q. What do you think though, you know?
COACH CARROLL: I think that we have a quarterback that's unusual. He's so far ahead of the curve, that it's hard to predict what he's going to be able to do. He's blown us away with how he handles things, so I don't think there is anything he can't do at this point.
But as coaches deal with first time starters, you know, maybe we do it in different ways, but I think the way to do it is to give the guys a chance to get off to a good start. Hopefully, he can be an efficiently functioning part of the offense. And we'll see how far he can take us. We have a really nice football team.
I don't think I've ever said -- correct me if I'm wrong -- that we start the season contending for a national championship. We star off the season to win the first game. Then we'll see the second game. That's how you look at it. I don't look at it that way.
So if we're able to put together -- it's and enormous challenge to get the season underway. If we're able to put some games behind us and start winning some football games and then the momentum will go, and we'll see where it takes us.
But we won't know that. That's focus and really even directing, you know, attention to that is not worthwhile to me other than to help you in your questions and stuff.
So I don't look at it that way. We'll find out. And if that's something that happens and we have a first time starting quarterback and we get that far along, that would be pretty cool. We'll see what happens.
Q. So you've had enough time to know he's a starter. When in your own mind did you think this guy could be a starter? Was that back in the spring?
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, it really we kind of note that it was after the fifth practice. We came off the fifth and practice and he was five days old and he's doing what he's doing. We were amazed. You know, the first day could be luck, second day maybe, five practices old he was really spinning the football and having fun, and not all tied up. He just had an ease and grace about handling this new assignment, and he's still a high school kid.
So right from the beginning, that's when the signs started to show. How far could he come? How long will it last? Could he hold on to this potential that he was showing? He's done that. He hasn't taken a step backwards. He's had a tremendous assent here, and we'll see. We'll all find out. I don't know. I know I'm supposed to know. But we'll find out when we start playing games of the.
Q. When you look back when Mark was named the quarterback, Mark Sanchez, he had a couple of years to learn about all the other distractions that come with being on campus and all that, is that a concern? That Matt doesn't have that?
COACH CARROLL: Everything's a concern. This is an enormous transition for a guy. Fortunately he was in spring football in school before the summer. So he got to be here then. He has gone through the transition as well in school. Handled his classes well. Had a great summer, got a couple courses done, all that kind of stuff and worked out with everybody. But he's really well ahead of a normal freshman.
But still it's the first time in the dorms and all that stuff. As the semester starts and all that excitement and all, I think that Matt has a way and a make up and mentality and personality that gives him a great opportunity, great chance to handle this beautifully in the end. And he's got great support from home and all that.
And he was coached by a tough demanding coach in high school and with expectations and standards and all of that. That, I think, all gives us a tremendous candidate for him to do what we're asking him to do.
Q. You say that everything's a concern with a freshman quarterback. What is your biggest concern?
COACH CARROLL: Just everything. I mean, it's everything. Just talking about it. You know, school, relationships, the hours, it's the build up of the games. It's the new arenas, new settings, all of that, new friends and everything that goes along with it. There is a tremendous amount of transition.
Think how cool this is going to be if this kid can hold it together. And I think he gives us every indication that he will be able to, so, you know.
It's kind of funny. It's actually parallel to watching Mark do the same thing in New York now. It will be interesting to see him handle this. Coaches are looking at it in a similar light. He's got New York. We're in LA and it's pretty big time. And it's very close to a similar situation for these guys. So it will be fun to watch.
Q. You didn't think he could make it there.
COACH CARROLL: If he can make it there, he can make it anywhere.
Q. Would Matt have a chance to beat out Mark Sanchez for the starting job?
COACH CARROLL: Well, we go about it in the same way he we always do and give him the competitive opportunity. In spring football, I think Barkley had more snaps than the other quarterbacks to find out how far he could take it, gain the information. We do that at every position as much as we can to find out how soon a guy can contribute to the program. So it's no different.
So I don't think it would have been I think he would have been remarkable anyway, but I don't think it would have been the same kind of opportunity for him. I think Sanchez was so far ahead and so adapted to the program and all of that, I think it would have been really difficult to see that happen, because Mark was just so far along.
Q. You already know you're going against the traditional grain of being successful with somebody with this much inexperience. Did you really have a choice?
COACH CARROLL: Well, I think that's a good question. That's a really good question.
What was the choice right here? We had a chance to look at Matt and Aaron in the springtime, and Aaron was a little bit ahead for all of the obvious reasons. He had been in the program. He had been around. He was more comfortable with the terminology. We weren't even able to allow Matt to handle all of the terminology in spring football because we didn't want to burden him.
But as he picked up his stuff and got ready to go here at camp and with the opportunity that was given to him, he just championed this golden opportunity and did great. He won the job.
So that's the way we look at it. But also you can't deny the fact that Aaron got hurt and missed two weeks or whatever it is here and broke his leg as well, you know.
And taking care of a player and looking after the kid as if I was a dad, worried about his health just as his own mom and dad were. So we wanted to make sure he was right. We brought him back very carefully, and he just did make it back Saturday.
So I think, under the circumstances, Matt won the job with an opportunity with the circumstances that were given him. So, Aaron's going to do everything he can to change that when he gets his opportunities and as he plays in the game and practices on a daily basis.
To me, to answer the question, it all comes in the competitive setting we provide for the guys. Who is going to come out ahead and who is going to win. That doesn't stop. It's not like, okay, that's done and we quit competing. The competition keeps going, the mentality keeps going, looking for opportunities to grow and get better.
One of the things about quarterbacks I've learned over the years is that they do not feel like they're themselves when they're back ups. Matt Leinart was not a good back up. He couldn't handle it. Until he became the quarterback, he never showed his true manner in the way he could handle it. And I think it's the same for Aaron. Matt's always been the star quarterback. To see this opportunity, I see him embrace it. See how he feels with it. He's seemingly doing very well.
And the other side of it, Aaron has to battle back out of this discomfort that he feels by being a back up right now. He's not going to settle for it. That's perfect. Exactly the way he should do. He should be of that mindset, and, hopefully, we'll be able to figure it out and continue to make good decisions.
I really -- whether it's challenged or whatever, it's unusual -- I really like this decision. The way we've gone about it, and the opportunities we've presented. Jeremy has done a great job bringing Matt through this, and we really believe playing him gives him a good chance to do it.
San Jose and Dick Tomey will do everything they can to not let that happen. It's going to be exciting to see what happens.
Q. (Indiscernible on Joe McKnight).
COACH CARROLL: Joe has a whole variety of things he does for us. He can run routes like a wide receiver and can do things in the backfield, because of that we use him in all the things the tailbacks do. There are other guys also that do things well. So Joe's going to do everything that's in the offense. But we'll do things that he does well, and orchestrate properly and show him off in ways we think he can help our football team. We don't know until we work with him, and we're going to try to make this a really good decisions.
Q. (Indiscernible on starting Barkley)?
COACH CARROLL: I don't see it as a gamble as you do. Under the circumstances, I see this as a good solid decision. As always you don't know until you start working with it.
We're going to try to make this a really good decision too. We'll see what happens with it.
San Jose State Head Football Coach Dick Tomey
On status of quarterbacks
The quarterback situation is that we are going to be playing both guys. We think Jordan La Secla probably at the end of spring had the best of it. They have competed very well this fall. We just haven't scrimmaged enough to really know who is going to take a shot in the nose and bounce up and complete a ball. We just need to watch them both play and we are very comfortable with that and I think they are as well because they both know that they both deserve a shot. As far as our football team is concerned, we're looking forward to this game. I think this game has helped us ever since last January because I told our team last January that in order for us to be able to compete, we were going to have to redefine ourselves. Each individual was going to have to redefine himself into a better version of himself and I think in many cases that happened. I think in that way this has been something that has helped us and obviously we are playing Utah next week so we are getting two of the best teams in the country back to back. We're excited about that. This is the fifth year of our program and in the last three years, we have the third best record behind Boise and Hawaii and just percentage points ahead of Fresno and Nevada which is probably something many would be surprised at. We have made enormous progress academically and we have more than tripled our attendance. Most of that just speaks at how far off we were when we took that job, but there has been enormous improvement and yet we are very frustrated because we slipped last year and finished very poorly so we are excited to play again.
On status of defense
Well to me, defenses are not identified by what they play but how they play and I think our defense with Kent Baer, we had a little different scheme than we had at Arizona but we are playing with a real passion. We played very well last year except I don't believe we finished well nor did our whole football team. We played very poorly in the last part of the season so I think we are trying to play defense with a passion and we are trying to be stingy. We were a good bit of the year last year and we have a chance to be better this year in my estimation.
On memories of playing USC
Well we can't take much because last time we were in the Coliseum I think we were ahead 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, but we weren't playing just SC. I think SC is on a run with Pete that is maybe the best in the history of the program. So we understand this is a whole different ballgame and the biggest difference with me is that I'm 71 and I'm somebody that has got a few more years under my belt since I was last there, but I am very pleased about game and very enthused about coaching and very fortunate. I feel good and I have a terrific coaching staff here and there are a bunch of players that have been with us now for three or four years and we really, really believe in them. They have come here and really made a difference to San Jose State and I love them all dearly for it.
On sportsmanship initiative and pre-game handshake
I have said publicly that I have not always been a model citizen in terms of after-the-game handshakes. My wife Nancy has always monitored my behavior after a game and she'll say `what were you doing, what were you thinking?' I'll just say `I wasn't in a chatty mood.' I think it's incumbent upon coaches to try to present a little more sportsman-like face of college football and I think that's what this is all about. I think obviously the network television stations have made it a habit and a practice to zero in on the coaches in major games throughout the country. I think it's important for the coaches to have the maturity maybe in some cases that I have lacked at times. I think it is a good initiative. I don't think it is going to cost anybody anything. I think it is just going to present a better face of college football and something I think will be well received.
On recruiting in Los Angeles
We had two guys drafted in the third round last year off our team that were both high school players from L.A. that were virtually unrecruited out of high school. They came here and ended up being in the top 60-70 players in the draft and I think there is just a ton of players in Los Angeles. The Trojans and Bruins can't get them all. They are going to miss them and some are going to develop after they leave to an extent that was not imaginable at the time. We're going to recruit L.A. and we are going to recruit the Bay Area and Northern California. We really don't recruit out of state very much because frankly we just have a difficult time affording it.
On coming after freshman quarterbacks
We come after all of them. We come after all quarterbacks. I don't care if they play 5 years, 10 years, no years. That's just the way we have played. That takes different forms but that is part of what we do and part of the way we play. That's not going to change, but Matt Barkley, he's an impressive guy. We watched him in high school and all of the SC quarterbacks are just guys that for us were untouchable, but we admire them and we believe they're good players. I know that he's not only a good player, but he is surrounded by a supporting cast of offensive line and running backs and receivers that will give him a chance to be very, very successful.
On preventing players getting wide-eyed walking into Coliseum
I don't think that will be a big deal. I really don't. We went to Nebraska last year and it is a much more intimidating environment because it's like 90,000 or 95,000 and they are all there five hours before the game. They were just crazy. You know, we looked up in the five minutes or four minutes into the fourth quarter and it was 14-12 and we screwed it up. So I think our guys will act like they belong, now whether we play like we belong will be another thing because SC is a much better team than Nebraska. I don't think it will be the environment, it will be their players. They are so well coached in what they do, but the environment is not going to be a problem.