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Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Spring football Q&A: USC coach Pete Carroll

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ever wonder what a coach might say about a quarterback competition the day before he announces a pecking order?

You're in luck!

USC coach Pete Carroll stopped by for a chat with the Pac-10 blog on Monday, the day before he announced on his Web site that Aaron Corp would emerge from spring practices No. 1 on the quarterback depth chart, ahead of true freshman Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain.

 
  Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
  Pete Carroll boasts an 88-15 record since arriving at USC.

That bit of stolen thunder aside -- and the announcement was mostly a foregone conclusion -- it's never a bad time to talk with a coach who's 88-15 in eight years at USC and has finished ranked in the top four of the AP poll seven consecutive seasons.

After all, he's got a new book deal to benefit his charity, A Better LA, and a new Web site for kids.

And he's got a football team that likely will be favored to win its eighth consecutive Pac-10 championship and again compete for a national title.

Word on the street is you guys have an intense quarterback competition going on over there: Where does that stand?

Pete Carroll: Guys have really battled hard and done well. We're pleased with the play at the quarterback position. The competition is going to continue. We'll name a guy who's going to start the spring game for us and then the competition will just continue. We've got to call something here after a month of playing. We'll find out what happens when we get back to camp in the fall.

You've told me in the past you prefer to anoint a quarterback as early as possible to allow him to develop into a clear leader: How will that be a part of the decision in the fall?

PC: We'd like to do that [name a starter], but you've got to do the right thing and let the competition play itself out. What that means is, in the past when we named Matt Leinart over Matt Cassel, it meant that Leinart was going first and Cassel was battling him. The competition remained on. It will be the same situation. It's a very hard-fought, close competition and in fairness it's going to take longer to know exactly what we are going to do for the long haul.

It seems like running backs Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler have asserted themselves this spring: Have they done enough to eclipse the established guys?

PC: I don't think there's any question Curtis McNeal has. Marc Tyler has been hurt most of the spring -- he's only had a couple of days when he's full speed. He's done well. But McNeal has taken advantage of the opportunity to be out there every day and he's really been effective.

You guys are pretty much rebuilding your front seven: How has that gone so far and who is having a great spring?

PC: Malcolm Smith, Chris Galippo and Mike Morgan, our linebackers have really jumped to the front and given us really good play. They've been out there every day battling. They give us good speed and athleticism and they've all played the last couple of years. Now they take over, they look like they are going to be really nice players for us. We're really excited about them. [Defensive end] Everson Griffen has had his best camp by far. Armond Armstead, we moved to strongside defensive end, has had a great camp too.

It seems like, on paper, this is your most experienced and talented secondary. How good is this secondary going to be?

PC: Led by Taylor Mays, such a solid guy playing in the middle back there, and Kevin Thomas had a great year at corner playing for us last year. Shareece Wright was a starter for us before he got hurt, and Josh Pinkard returns and he started at corner last year and is playing safety now and can play some corner for us. Also, [safety] Will Harris who's started a bunch of games is back. So it's as good a secondary as we've had since we've been here. We have really high expectations for these guys to be aggressive and really be a factor.

What does Rocky Seto, promoted this offseason to defensive coordinator, bring to the defense?

PC: He's been around since the outset of this program, so Rocky brings us great continuity and really in-depth direction of the littlest things that we are doing to the biggest things we are doing. He's been a big factor. He's had a great spring with these guys. I think we are as good as we've ever been at hawking the football, which is great. He has the most background of anyone I've been around in our specific stuff. He gives us great insights and great leadership there.

With Jeremy Bates and John Morton now running the offense: What have they changed this spring?

PC: Nothing has changed. Nothing's changed on defense really. We're just continuing to try to recapture the spirit of the offense and make sure we're utilizing our personnel well. The familiarity between Jeremy and the rest of the guys has been going along beautifully. When you're developing a quarterback, a lot of the focus goes to the quarterback position and Jeremy has done a good job of making sense of all that, so those guys have performed well. And we've also continue to do our installation like we have to do to keep this thing going. They've gotten along great. Jeremy has called all the plays in our scrimmages and our practices that isn't normal scripted stuff so he can work at it and practice at it, too. He's totally up to speed and has done a great job so far.

Running the Pac-10 blog, it seems like a rivalry has developed between the SEC and USC: Any chance we're going to get a matchup between the Trojans and an SEC power any time soon?

PC: I don't know. We've played a bunch of SEC schools over the years -- well, not a bunch -- we've played SEC schools and when we do we enjoy that matchup [USC went 4-0 in home-and-home series with Auburn and Arkansas, winning by a combined margin of 167-48]. There's nothing we can do about schedules that are already set. At the end of the year, if we are fortunate enough to play against those guys, we'd look forward to it.

Are you learning to live with the BCS process, or are you ready to lead a march on Washington to get the system changed?

PC: I don't have a better system for it. I advocate a playoff. Everybody in America wants a playoff -- in any sport, at any level, no matter where you are, to find out who the champions are. We want to do the same thing.

Heard about your new book deal that's going to benefit your non-profit, A Better LA, anything you want to get the word out about?

PC: We've been hard at
it to help fight the violence and things that are going on in the streets here and make sure we're doing our part. We've been very active for a number of years and have worked hard to continue to generate funds for the foundation, so we do have a book thing we are working on to bring proceeds to "A Better LA" and to enhance our fundraising efforts as we go along.