Huskers' head coach Bill Callahan also speaks on Trojans' 2006 home opener.
Sept. 12, 2006
Press Conference Archive
Football Press Conference
USC football head coach Pete Carroll
"This is a big exciting time for us coming home, getting home to the Coliseum for the first time in so long. We have been waiting all offseason to get this done. There is a great build-up and it's a great event for us, particularly that we have such an extraordinary opponent, just for the University of Southern California to play Nebraska is a big deal. They are on a big roll right now. They have come out of the chutes flying the first couple games, they finished up strong last year, they have a lot of confidence and I know they are pumped up about their team. Billy has done a great job there getting this thing going there and this is going to be really exciting match-up for us. We are looking forward to it. It has been nice coming off the bye. We had a chance to re-group after the opener. We've done the things we wanted to do. The objectives of trying to get the young guys play time and all of those things we do worked out fine. Yesterday we just introduced the start of the game plan and today we'll hit it full-flow and were rolling."
On the status of Sedrick Ellis
"He's getting operated on this afternoon (arthroscopic). He's got a little cartilage problem. It just locked up yesterday, so we are just going to go ahead and do it right away and take care of him and get him back as soon as possible."
On how long Ellis is expected to be out
"A few weeks is what we are hoping, at the most. It could be less than that depending on what they have to do. Fili (Moala) will start there. Fili Moala has been working there and played really well there in the game last week, so he jumps right to the spot and takes over and away we go. Chris Barrett starts at the three technique spot and we were fortunate that those guys were rotating last week so it will work out that he'll be ready to step in. We are going to miss Sedrick for a couple weeks here. He had a great first game and is a terrific football player. This creates a great opportunity for Fili to jump in on the nose spot and for Chris to play on a full-time basis. We'll take a good charge at it and hope these guys do real well for us."
On whether it was tough on the players having the bye week last week
"No, I don't think so. We worked so hard, worked straight through with only one day off, basically, going into the first game, so knowing that they'd get almost three days off here. I think they really looked forward to this break and to get the legs back. We go into the first game kind just running right out of camp. That's the way we've done it. We've been used to this, accustomed to this rhythm before and it has worked out for us. Were expecting that we should come back feeling strong and for the most part healthy and in pretty good shape. I think the guys kind of look forward to it, pointing towards it."
On his thought of teams starting off the season with the likes of Louisiana Tech and Nicholls State
I think that schools have their opportunity to orchestrate their season as way they want to and there is a philosophy here as how you do it. Everybody gets their own choice on how they want to go about it. Our situation in particular has worked out really well for us to go to really difficult opening opponents and pointing towards the big game, even the away games and the difficulties that those present, the Auburn game, the Va. Tech game, the Arkansas game and even, a wonderful trip to Hawaii, but still a big trip. Those things have set us in motion in a good way. They way we've done it has worked out really well. We have tried to maximize the benefits of a big challenge early and bank on that for the rest of the season and use it and it has worked out well for us. The other side of it is, when you have an opponent that you have a real opportunity to beat you get a lot of chance to play young kids and move guys through the depth chart and give guys opportunity to get play time that they might not get otherwise in big matchups. There is different ways to look at it and there has been success, lot of success for the teams that have taken on the schools that give the other schools an opportunity. It is a great opportunity for La. Tech and Nicholls state to go play a team like Nebraska, so there are positives that come out of those exchanges. It really depends on how you look at it. They've done a really nice job, they've played really well and respected the opponents and the match-ups and they've played them like they are capable of playing them. They didn't lose any ground struggling with those teams, so I'm sure they feel really good about that, their confidence is piqued and they are ready to go. I think it is just a philosophical way of going about it and I can see why they do it and I know why we do it our way."
On Chauncey Washington maybe not playing this week
He is going to practice today, so we'll see how he does. He's still not fully healed. He's able to play and make it back. He did well in the Arkansas game in the amount of plays we gave him, but it just hasn't totally gone away yet. We are going to try and nurse him through the week and hopefully he'll be able to play some more and just kind of keep going. He's getting stronger, feeling more confident about it. He's real weary that it is going to linger like you are talking about, so we are trying to get through that and we are almost there."
On the Nebraska program reaching elite status again
This is a great program. They've done a really good job the last few years battling in recruiting, they won a bowl game. I think this is a great opportunity for them as they talk about it as they jump back into a level they'd like to get back to. The program they have is one that is always going to be good, it's just how good. I think when Frank Solich was here, I think he was 10-3 when he got let go, so expectations are extraordinary. That's only to the fault of Bob Devaney and coach (Tom) Osborne, the extraordinary numbers they were able to put up for year after year, so it makes it really difficult on the next guy. Bill's got it going and it's obvious that he's a great football coach and knows what he's doing. He's got great schemes and principles and now as they fit it all together with the recruiting they are on the verge of it. I know they are very excited about winning their division in their conference, so this is that year where they can really make that jump back to where they want to be. I know this will be a great opportunity for them here and I know they will be revved up and ready to go."
On the running back situation
"We are going to mix our guys throughout the week and go as we have. See what happens by the end of the week, see who makes it through and whose ready to go, who has a good week and just leave it in a real competitive mode. I know that makes you all uncomfortable about it, but it is the best way for us to do it right now, we'll figure it out if it changes and when it does, hopefully we will adjust impeccably."
On Nebraska having a similar running back situation and if that makes it hard to prepare for
"No, I don't think it makes any difference at all. They hand it off and you try and tackle them. They've got a nice group of guys to that they are able to play and they are working though that. I don't know what their philosophy is about it. There really is something to be said, and any running back who has ever played the game wants the ball, wants to get the rhythm of the game and feel that. That's okay and they get to do that when they've won that spot and they are decidedly the obvious candidate, but until then, they are doing the same thing we are doing. They are doing pretty good. Their guys are all averaging six yards a carry for two games, so they are off to a good start. Our guys got off okay, so we will just see where it goes, let it take shape and let it play itself out."
On going for it on fourth down
"We have no reason at this time to change our approach. It is just our style, the way we do things. We have a really good belief system on how we are doing it and how we are going about things. When we do that, we are willing to take the field position that we give up, that's part of the deal. This isn't just a mindless `we are going to go for it to prove it to you,' we do it for reasons, hopefully there is some thought be hind it. It is our belief in our offense and the belief in our guys to make plays and we are not going to adjust that until there is reason to and I haven't found a reason to yet."
On if he had spent any time in Nebraska
"Just passed through a couple of times while I was at Iowa State. Drove through a couple of times, coming and going, very enjoyable.
I have a couple of in-laws there and had a chance to visit with them awhile back, I mean a longtime back and was kind of introduced to the energy of the Nebraska following. They have an extraordinary love for their team, their university."
On which aspect of the team does he think coach Callahan has had the biggest impact
"I think he has totally shifted the emphasis of that program. This was one of the great running programs in the history of college football and they've shifted to become a team that is relying on a classic drop-back passing game. It has taken a little bit, like we did in our first year, you have to find your way a little bit, but once they got going, they've been very productive. They've found a really good quarterback in Zac Taylor and they've transitioned. It seems like, for whatever reason, their following was anxious to see more of a throwing game, more of a wide open game. Now they are finding their stride, trying to find out the right balance to make it highly productive like it's been. They have all the technology. This is a very high-tech system that they run. This is exactly like an NFL system...that's the big change over the years. I don't know if anybody will ever recapture the style that they had, very unique and most extraordinary. The way they were able to run the ball, the way coach Osborne developed over all those years and I don't think it is going to be copied."
On the pressures of coaching at the high profile schools
"I think it is only natural. Nobody wins forever, although you try. It is so uncommon, that it is almost normal. To have a run and make your way and have good seasons, back to back and stuff like that, potential and then it subsides. Transitions and attrition and stuff like that occurs. That is one of the great challenges and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to try and compete against. We have the chance to see if we can hold a program at a high level longer than everybody would consider normal. You fight against whatever that is that changes. I'm thrilled to be in the middle of that competition, trying to figure that out. To see how well we can stay up in the top end of this thing and produce really big, successful winning football teams and see how long you can go. There is no goal in mind, I'm sure there was no goal in mind for those guys either, you just want to keep rolling and do the best you can."
On if winning a couple of National Championships buys you some leeway
"No, I don't believe in that. You are what you are the next time you go out. I expect the fans to holler at you when you don't do good and cheer for you when you do well. That's part of the deal. To wish for it to be some other way, you are living in a dream world, it's not going to happen like that. So you have to battle and go for it. The teams you mentioned to be on top and to have that chance they are fortunate as I'm sure they know, just to have the opportunity to be there. The battle to stay there is exceptional to have that chance and to try and go for it and if you do it, you get a chance to separate from the crowd which is kind of fun."
On the importance of depth with the injuries you have
"I always look at these challenges as opportunities, they are that. We are facing one major challenge in the guys we lost last year, that's the first thing everybody has kind of talk about, about this season. We take that challenge on with the anticipation of showing that we can do that. We know that there is going to be other issues that come up during the season, we've already seen how it happens. This is a coach's challenge, this is extremely challenging to figure out the right moves to make and the preparation of the young guys who get to step up and their attitudes and mentality and maintaining also the mentality of your team which can go in the wrong direction if they don't understand how to deal with it as well. We've have these situations for years and I fortunately feel comfortable dealing with them. I hope again we can show that we do have the depth and we do have the competition on this team that can withstand these types of issues. It isn't like we haven't had them over the years. We've dealt with this before. You just have to do it really well. We have a way we approach it and talk and challenge our guys and I think I may have already said it. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Fili and Chris Barrett and they have to maximize it and do something with it and we are counting on them doing that".
On Taylor Mays ready to take on the responsibilities in the defense that Josh Pinkard had
"He's going to start in this game. He is ready to do it with the help of Kevin Ellison. Kevin is really good at the communications part of this game the understanding of the schemes and principles and adjustments and all that. So we'll rely, as we already were relying on him, but even more so. He has to make sure when he says something to Taylor that Taylor acknowledges it and he's got to hope he's got it. He had a little better feeling for Josh, but they hadn't worked that long either, so we haven't fallen off that much there in terms of communications. It is a lot to ask from a young kid. This is an exciting spot to watch, how does he handle it. He's prepared beautifully and he's ready to do it. He played well last week, so he's been out there before. Again, it is a very high-tech high-propelled passing game he is going to face, so it isn't going to be easy."
On going up against former NFL coaches
"It's fun to go against these guys. Fun to get the challenge and know the spectrum of their background and the success that they've had. It's a big event. He's coached in world championships situations and worked with great coaches and worked in great settings and background with (John) Gruden and all the stuff those guys did. I have great respect for what he's been through, what he knows and how he is going to assess and evaluate, and game plan. This is really cool. This is great stuff. I look forward to it. We've got guys all over our conference, all over our schedule that are NFL guys. It is just another aspect of what it adds to the coaching staff. You don't have to have an NFL background to be a great coach, it just adds a whole other element and experience that has some value to it, that perspective is fun to deal with."
On the similarities in the offense that Nebraska runs with what we see in practice every day
"They all have similarities, I don't know how much they talk that way. We see a lot of similarities. Who does that benefit, I don't know. They get the same benefit out of that. They obviously do a lot of things similar to what we do and they do things like they do. That comes out of something other than just watching each other, stuff we have picked up from watching the NFL and we've brought from years past so there is some stuff that crosses over."
On Callahan inheriting talent, but not necessarily the kind to run his style of offense
"He's doing pretty good now. The receivers catch the ball real well, they've got really good group of tight ends that they use in multiple ways, they have good speed at receiver, they've got four tailbacks that can catch the ball and their fullback is a good receiver as well. They've got the right ingredients. Their quarterback is excellent. He is a pocket NFL-style quarterback with a big arm, big good-looking kid back there who moves around well when he has to. He's got a lot of good stuff. They don't have a lot of depth at quarterback. I know they have a very young quarterback situation following their starter. Sam Keller just went there to be their starter for the future, but he's got guys in the right places. I'm sure they are really excited about the fire-power they have. (0n the defense) Big, strong, really big group, very physical. Play really good base defense that led the nation in sacks last year, great pass rush and they do that through the four-man rush and also the pressures. It is a real strong group and they haven't given up an inch in the first couple of games."
On needing guys like Lawrence Jackson to step up with Ellis out
"It is a classic though that the guys next to him have to all of a sudden step up, I hope they just do what they are capable of doing. I don't want them to do any more than what we ask them. It's an opportunity for Chris Barrett and Fili Moala to step to the front , if that's the same thing I don't know. They are going to get more playing time. They did really well last week. There is just more responsibility and they will have to play more plays most likely in this game."
On Nebraska having Sam Keller to help them potentially get ready to face USC
"I actually did spend some time with that, trying to figure out what Sam could share with them because he did watch us a lot during the season last year. I would bet it is a totally different scheme that they are running compared to what they did at Arizona State. He was pretty hot against us, so maybe he's got some feel for it. I would think if they asked him he'd have something to say, I don't know what it would be."
On whether he expects to learn more about John David Booty on Saturday
"Sure, every game is a new challenge. A different style of defense for him. This is a totally different approach to the way they play defense that will give him some more experience. His first chance to play in the Coliseum, I'm sure is going to be a great thrill for him to finally start with his school here and he's really pumped about that. He has certainly a lot of growing yet. He's just getting going here. He was an epitome of poise in the game last week and I would expect the same this week again. He is just very calm, composed kid and I'd expect that would happen again. But you know, he hasn't had a lot of problems yet either, there wasn't a lot of adversity in that game last week. He was really in control the whole time and played really well. He'll continue to grow. This will be a nice experience for him at home."
On if he's had any interaction with former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne over the years
"As a matter of fact I did. I called him a few years ago, a number of years ago, since I've been here and talked to him about some stuff. I don't remember the book he wrote, but there was some stuff in there that I found interesting and wanted to ask him about it, so I called him and we had a lot of fun talking. I have great regard for him. I knew his whole thing from way back when, way back when Monte Kiffin was there and the whole history back there when they won back to back championships before he got the job. He did such a remarkable job and he was on top for so long and I talked to him about that.
On whether there were changes due to a new quarterback this season
"Not because of the change, no, we've just done our normal development of the offense. We've added some things we felt were necessary. We haven't let a whole lot of stuff behind. We basically kept everything. There is nothing we felt we couldn't do with John that we did with Matt, so that part has all been the same and we've added a few things as we do each year as you just grow with the offense.
On what you thought of Reggie Bush on Sunday
"I thought he looked really good. I thought he played really well. I loved the way he baited them in that first punt, made them think he couldn't catch back there and tried to draw the coverage in so he could break one. They used him really well. He caught passes out of the backfield, he caught passes as a wide receiver, he looked very comfortable, he looked very fast and I think that had to be a very successful illustration of picking a kid, evaluating him, getting him to play and contribute in a big, big win in a program that needed it badly to get started with the new coaches. I think it worked out just beautifully, the only thing was he just didn't break one and other than that I think he played great. He'll play better, he missed a couple of pass protections, but he'll get better at that."
On coach Payton saying that he loved the way USC used Reggie Bush
"I thought they did the same stuff we did with him. It's just logical, I don't think there is any genius there. I think it just makes sense. They made him a threat in the kicking game, they made you have to pay attention to him getting out of the backfield and lining up out of the backfield and he caught the balls they threw to him and they used him in all the running stuff and some little trick things. It was really well done. I think we spent a lot of time working on it and we figured out a good way to use him and it just makes sense, they went ahead and did it too. He's going to be a big factor for them. I think what's really exciting about this is that a lot of people watched that game. I think a lot of people that wouldn't normally watch the Saints play watched the Saints play just because of Reggie. That's an extraordinary statement about the kid and who he is and what he's all about. With the excitement we could feel outside of that area, you can only imagine inside of the area as much as they love their football, this is really a beautiful thing that he is there and I'm really excited for him and for that whole program. This is a really cool thing that happened and really excited to see that they did it right. They got him out there, all over the field where everybody knows he's out there and he's a big factor.
On the other Pac-10 teams so far this season
"Cal has had two totally different sides. They played a very difficult game the first game and came back and played a terrific game against Minnesota. Oregon got going and then they were fortunate to beat Fresno and we understand why that is hard, Fresno is a good football team, but they were fortunate to get that one. Washington played really good against Oklahoma. UCLA had a great start and then they came back to struggle a little bit, but found a way to win as they have been doing. I think it is a little bit of wait and see. For the most part, everybody is scoring their points again and the offenses are looking pretty productive again. A lot of challenges. A lot of challenges this week with the matchups. It is going to make everybody stronger. This is going to be a very difficult year. It has been interesting, though, an interesting start to it."
Nebraska football head coach Bill Callahan
"This game against SC will truly be a measuring stick for our program. We're pleased with the start, but we've got a long way to go yet. We're excited about the challenge of coming out to Los Angeles and play against a premier program like SC."
On QB Zac Taylor's development
"He's got such a great feel for the program. He's acquired a lot of poise. He's grown and developed and he manages the system beautifully. You couldn't ask for better guy and character at the controls. This guy is really outstanding in terms of managing the offense and getting people in the right personnel group and making the right decisions. He's been really good for us and he's really allowed our offense to grow and flourish a little bit more."
On his running backs, including North Hollywood's Marlon Lucky
"All these guys, they possess the traits and the tools we look for. They're outstanding backs and good competitors and they just love to run the ball. Not only that, but they love to block and receive and go out and do all the things you want your backs to do in order to be complete. These guys are good backs and they compliment one another in so many ways. They're unique in that we have big backs, we have a little bit of the smaller backs, we have speed backs, and of course Marlon, he has it all. He has the ability to do it all, whether it be to run inside, outside, catch the ball down the field, block, protect. He's really matured in the last few years, so it's great to see him come into his own these last few games."
On Nebraska's black shirt defense
"A year ago we came off a much improved year. Since my first year we led the country in sacks and tackles for losses. They were a disruption front. I would tell you they've done an excellent job. They were kind of portrayed by great guys - Adam Carriker, he does a excellent job coming out of the edge as a base end. On the other side, the open side, the OE is a guy by the name of Jay Moore who certainly has pro ability and has quickness and strength and size, the things you look for from an open-side pass rusher. And then a year ago we lost two good players inside but we replaced them adequately so far with a guy by the name of Ola Dagunduro from California, and also a guy by the name of Barry Cryer. That front four has led the way and if we're going to have any success at all, they're certainly going to be a big part of that."
On the impact of NFL-style football in Nebraska
"In so many ways our fans have embraced the change and the new culture of what we're getting accomplished. They like to see the ball in the air, they like to see balance. A lot of us go out and track better athletes in a lot of different areas in the country. Being where we are geographically in the United States, we go from border to border, coast to coast, in order to get our players, so this has really opened up the door for us to do some national recruiting and really attracted some top caliber athletes - whether it's running backs, receivers or corner backs -- into a collegiate program that can really feature their skills."
On what he sees in USC
"They're awfully talented, and that's where you start you start with talent. From what I can see on film is there's no holes, no weaknesses; they're strong in every area. There's not one area where you can say there's a weakness you can attack. They're really solid across the board. That's really impressed me. Defensively, you can see they're really improved. They're faster and quicker, there's more hats to the balls. What they're doing with their speed is outstanding. I think they have real good instinct and a really good competitive nature about themselves on that side. And offensively they just continue to roll. They're running a lot of backs right now through the grinder in terms of rotation. And of course the wide receivers are premier and the quarterback is outstanding. They present a real challenge for our football team in every respect."
On Nebraska fans making a point to travel to every game.
"I think it's great that the Nebraska people support the program the way they do. For the people who don't know anything about Nebraska, the fans, they live and die with this program. And I mean it. They follow it, they travel, they listen to it. It is very, very followed. And when they travel, they travel in a pretty good following. Just playing around the conference was impressive to see the fan following. When we would go places in Texas or when we went to Oklahoma or when we went to the Alamo Bowl, it was a very impressive following. They've got a long history of that, and we're excited that there will be a good contingent of them out there in Southern California at the Coliseum on Saturday night."
On playing Louisiana Tech and Nichols State in preparation for USC
"I think there was a lot of be gained. We have a lot of newcomers on our team, guys that don't have much experience so it's always a good competitive-natured game when you have guys who need to get plugged in right away and get time. Really when you're progressing like we are and trying to get back on top, you really need to get as much experience as you can. These games are valuable in that regard. We really play a long season out here, and with the Big 12 championship game you're looking at potentially a 13-14-game schedule throughout the season. There's a lot of things to be gained. You get the opportunity to keep your team healthier because you get to rotate a lot of players earlier. You keep yourself sharp so that when you do face a team like SC, at least you have a little background and a little preparedness about your team so that you can take on a top caliber team like SC."
On going up against another former NFL coach
"I just think Pete's a great coach no matter what level. I think he's just an outstanding person and coach. It's an honor and privilege to go out and play against the Trojans. They're such a storied program and I followed them out of pro football and I coached a lot of guys out of there in pro ball. So this is an opportunity to really match wits and really try to compete to the best of our ability and measure up to the standards we're trying to meet. This is a great challenge and we couldn't be more excited. We've got tremendous respect for what coach Carroll has done and it's going to be a great game."
On how far Nebraska is from getting back to the top
"It's a work in progress. We're continuing to show progress and improvement through the years. This is our third year since we've been here and we've made strides in a lot of areas whether it's been special teams, offense or defense. We came into Nebraska and changed a complete culture. You look at Pete and when he came to SC they were in a pro-based system. You look at Charlie Weis at Notre Dame and they were in a pro-based system already. At Nebreaska, it was option-oriented, so we had to flip the entire culture of Nebraska football and in doing so we made this transition into a pro-style attack. And a lot of the kids - God bless them, they're great kids - really were not suited for a pro-style attack so it's taken some time to develop the depth and the talent that you need to compete with this type of system at national basis at a high level. So we're still a ways away, but we're making great strides and Saturday will be a test of where we're at. It certainly won't define the season, but it will be a game we'll utilize for improvement and we'll get better no matter what the outcome."
On how USC compares depth-wise to teams in the Big 12
"I think they're very deep. You look a t the last four or five recruiting classes where SC has been ranked No.1 for four out of the last five years, so they have a wealth of talent in that regard. They're talented across the board. You can see it on film that the competitive level is very high, and that's because you have the talent and competition. Across the Big 12, Texas is probably in a league until itself in a lot of respects because of their ability to recruit and dominate the state of Texas in recruiting. It's unparalleled from what I've seen since I've been coaching that they can go out in the spring and have their entire class filled before their season even begins. I'm talking about the `07 class, and now they're beginning the `08 right now, so it's really impressive. But there's dominance in recruiting there that I've never seen before in college football. They're probably a little bit unusual in that regard. And Oklahoma is always strong and there's a lot of teams like A&M that are very strong, and there's a lot of teams that are still building up here in the north like Kansas -- they continue to improved their program.. I'd tell you that Texas stands out as the one program in my mind that really has a lot of depth."
On the change in the development of how Zac leads the team
"I think the biggest change is the experience. He's more comfortable and confident in what he's doing. So you see examples of him audibilizing and picking up new plays without a second thought. The things roll off his lips pretty quickly in terms of verbiage. He's mastered it at a very unique level, mastered it at a much faster rate than I've had guys in pro ball master a system. He's intelligent, smart and articulate and he's a competitor. The guy is premier in my mind and he'll only get better and he continues to get better. So there's a growing process there that he's really grasped onto and really embraced in to allow himself to get better.