Archive for the ‘Pete Carroll’ Category

Should ‘SC Tank 2009?

August 17, 2009

If you could tear yourself away from the interminable coverage of “unanimous-gate” a few weeks back, the Pac-10’s publicity campaign during its media days provided one of the more interesting stories of the offseason.
Coach after coach stepped to the dais and proclaimed the conference the best in the country. On its face, it may seem like typical posturing. However, the offensive on the part of the West Coasters clearly reflected a well-coordinated plan to boost the conference’s profile nationwide.

Why now?

Well, the question of whether or not USC should have been snubbed from the BCS title game the past few years has been debated ad nauseam. The Trojans keep on rolling out-of-conference opponents and churning out NFL draft picks. However, if you’re looking for the main reason why the Trojans end up on the short end of the stick, it’s undoubtedly the company they keep.

Fair or not, there’s no denying the national perception that the Big 12 and SEC are a cut above the Pac-10. Last year, the fact that the upstart Mountain West Conference owned the conference in non-conference games certainly supported that idea. A more persistent problem would be the conference’s crappy TV contract putting its teams behind the eight ball.
Most importantly, though, Homerism suspects USC’s seemingly permanent place atop the conference standings is perpetuating the notion that the Trojans’ conference mates are closer to the Big East than the Big 12. Every conference has its elite programs, but none have put the league title in the same kind of stranglehold as ‘SC, winner of seven straight championships. Some may interpret that streak as a sign of just how great of a run Pete Carroll’s team is on. The flip side: the rest of the conference is watered-down. Thus, when USC drops a game to Oregon State or UCLA, it’s a major black mark on the resumé.
(Columnist George Schroeder has put forth a similar argument. Dr. Saturday contends that the Pac-10’s monolith simply needs a foil, a la Oklahoma and Texas. If the esteemed Doc’s assessment is correct, though, it seems logical that another team winning the conference would be a good place to start.)
As unappealing as this may seem to the “win forever” crowd, a conference championship for a team like Oregon actually could go a long way raising the national opinion of the Pac-10. And what better time for the Trojans to tank than now? After all, USC is breaking in a brand new quarterback, re-stocking almost its entire defense and facing a brutal schedule. As talented as Carroll’s players are, the odds of a national championship this season are stacked against them. If the ultimate goal is unattainable, why not let another school in on the action for once?
Tanking or not, the Trojans’ run of Pac-10 titles is in jeopardy. California looks particularly strong, and the Ducks could give USC a real push. Plus, programs like Arizona, Stanford and UCLA appear to be in an up cycle and should be a stiffer test than they’ve been in the past.
We’ve heard that line before, though. Despite any misgivings about the Trojans, USC still remains the consensus favorite for the Pac-10 crown with good reason. Those slivers of doubt do open the door for a plausible hiccup, though.
Maybe winning forever actually involves losing every once in a while.

A New Twist in the USC Investigation

July 30, 2009

The NCAA investigation into the USC athletic department took yet another turn today, as the Los Angeles Times reported that the football team had employed an outside consultant to advise on the Trojans’ special teams play. In fact, coach Pete Carroll confirmed today at the Pac-10 media day that he has brought in multiple ex-NFL coaches in consulting roles after receiving approval from the university’s compliance department.

Sounds innocuous enough, but, like everything else, the Association actually has rules governing this kind of thing (bylaw

“An institution may use or arrange for a temporary consultant to provide in-service training for the coaching staff, but no interaction with student-athletes is permitted unless the individual is counted against the applicable coaching limits. An outside consultant may not be involved in any on- or off-field or on- or off-court coaching activities (e.g., attending practices and meetings involving coaching activities, formulating game plans, analyzing video involving the institution’s or opponent’s team) without counting the consultant in the coaching limitations in that sport.”

Sounds like a clear violation, but I guess it depends on the definition of “coaching activities.” In the end, it may come down to savvy.

Pete Carroll Can’t Win for Winning

April 29, 2009

With fall feeling so far away and precious little else left to write about, “the media” are trying to mine every last nugget out of last weekend’s NFL draft. The dominant storyline emerging? An astounding number of Trojans taken–11 in all.

As documented by Inside USC’s Scott Wolf, ESPN’s draft coverage turned into a Trojan lovefest (he he), including a Homeric paean to Troy from analyst Herm Edwards. Similarly, Dr. Saturday interpreted the weekend’s goings-on as confirmation that Pete Carroll’s team stands above all as the “empirical recruiting monolith” of college football. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times also marveled at the migration from USC to the pros.

Yet, Dufresne, Wolf and the Doc also nodded to a more cynical view of the Trojan pipeline. Tom Dienhart of Rivals just comes write out and says it: USC’s whole has been less than its parts. ‘SC fans my find this assertion on Dienhart’s part pretty objectionable:

“USC’s Jimmys and Joes have been more desirable than any other school’s in the past five NFL drafts. Over the weekend, the Trojans paced all schools with 11 players selected in the NFL draft. Since the 2005 draft, the Trojans lead the nation with 43 players selected.

While that’s an amazing amount of talent, realize that over that five-season span, USC has won just one national championship – in 2004.”

Then, there’s this from Dienhart: “USC has dominated the Pac-10, winning a league-record seven consecutive conference crowns. But the Trojans could have won so much more, and have missed out on stamping themselves as the premier program in the nation this decade. Instead, that honor belongs to either Florida or Oklahoma.” (I love the Sooners, but it’s tough to argue at this point that OU should be ranked a rung above USC given this.)

Credit Dienhart for having the stones to challenge conventional wisdom regarding the Trojans. Like many other hardcore college football fans, Homerism tires of what seems to be excessive fawning over certain programs and personalities, such as Carroll and Tim Tebow. But, geez, Tom, what more do you want the Trojans to do?

Last I checked, USC has the best winning percentage of any D-I program during the last four years. During that period, the Trojans have won their conference every year and a slew of BCS bowl games. They’ve also obliterated every non-conference foe, save Texas, that has stood in their way.

Obviously, Carroll’s team has suffered some bad losses along the way, but who hasn’t? In case you haven’t heard, one loss is the new undefeated when it comes to crowning a national championship. If anything, when USC loses to Stanford or Oklahoma loses to Colorado or Florida drops one to Ole Miss, these games stand as testaments to just how hard it is to keep a team on point for an entire year.

None of this is to say that USC has gotten screwed at any point in time during the past three years. The Trojans have been subjected to the same nebulous BCS system that everyone else has. The results always have been justifiable.

Instead, take the USC phenomenon of “more talent, no championships” as evidence of just how hard it really is to win a national championship. There are just so many butterfly effect variables at play to determine who even gets a shot at the crown. So when you do win one, treasure it. For Pete Carroll and everyone else, tomorrow’s another day. All you can do is keep on keeping on.

On the Spot: Joe McKnight

March 16, 2009

USC all-purpose back Joe McKnight was the top-rated recruit in the nation when he signed with USC in 2007. He had a breathless high school highlight reel showcasing his elusiveness and top-notch second gear. He even featured prominently in two books (Hurricane Season and Meat Market) that showed up on Borders’ shelves before his first game.

Heading into his junior year with the Trojans, though, it’s fair to ask if McKnight is living up to the hype; this is a guy who drew comparisons to Reggie Bush. And it’s also fair to answer that he hasn’t come close.

To this point, McKnight’s CV makes him look like the Mickey Rourke of college football: an auteur whose bursts of brilliance when practicing his craft have taken a backseat to physical maladies and away-from-the-spotlight issues. McKnight tantalized Troy with 206 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in a runaway win over Illinois in the 2008 Rose Bowl. That same year, he led USC’s crowded backfield in rushing in the regular season finale against UCLA, averaging seven yards per carry and scoring a touchdown.

Major media outlets touted McKnight as a Heisman Trophy candidate, but ‘SC fans expecting big things from the New Orleans native in 2008 were sorely disappointed. On paper, McKnight’s numbers improved. Yet, overall, McKnight’s impact on the Trojan offense barely registered. His season culminated in a disappointing return to the Rose Bowl, where he ran for just 13 yards on all of five carries and suffered an early foot injury.
Exactly what role USC coach Pete Carroll plans on McKnight playing in the USC offense this season remains to be seen. For the second year in a row, McKnight will miss spring ball. However, while his last absence was the result of problems in the classroom, he’s rehabbing his Rose Bowl injury this time around. I guess that’s something to build on.
Bottom line: without a proven starter under center, USC may rely more on its ground game than it has in the past. If McKnight finally makes the leap, he could give Carroll and Co. the kind of do-it-all weapon who can take some of the pressure off a green signal caller. We’ll have a pretty good idea early on just how prominently McKnight will figure into Carroll’s plans early in the season, because his backfield is stacked, as usual. McKnight has been a Trojan long enough to know that it’s time to put up or get out of the way.

2009 Danger Games: USC-Arizona State

March 1, 2009

USC at Arizona State (Nov. 7)
Look-Ahead Factor: Nil
Letdown Factor: High
Kerouac Factor: Medium
Motivation Factor: Somewhat

USC’s Pac-10 rivals should be smelling blood in the water. The Trojans enter 2009 with more questions marks than any of Pete Carroll’s teams in recent memory, with major holes to fill all over the defense and at quarterback.
The top challenger to the throne has to be Oregon. That should make the USC-Oregon matchup on Halloween at Autzen the conference’s game of the year. If Carroll has proved anything during his time in Troy, it’s that he has an unmatched ability to get his teams primed for a big game. ‘SC fans have no reason to fear their boys will leave Eugene with a win.
Of course, what goes up inevitably comes down. As amped as the Trojans have been for quality opponents, they’ve shown a tendency to be equally unfocused against lesser competition. If anything, then, it’s the week after a big game that should have Trojan Nation concerned.
That takes us to USC’s trip to Tempe on Nov. 7. Coming off what Homerism expects to be a win over the Ducks that solidifies the Trojans’ spot back on top of the Pac-10 heap, a road trip to face the Sun Devils definitely qualifies as a danger game.
Two losses by at least 20 points to USC can’t sit well with Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson. A coach with Erickson’s history of building up downtrodden programs recognizes an opportunity to take down the king of the mountain when he sees it. He’ll have his squad ready to go for what will likely be a rowdy night game in the desert.

Unfettered Capitalism

February 24, 2009

New York Times article published today revealed that USC head coach Pete Carroll raked in a whopping $4.4 million in 2007.

A study conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education found Carroll to be the highest paid private university employee in the country in the 2007 fiscal year, one of 88 seven-figure earners.
This isn’t going to be some rant about the outlandish compensation of college coaches, a la the spectacle that occurred at UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun’s postgame press conference last weekend. Coaches such as Calhoun and Carroll and Urban Meyer and Rick Pitino are worth every penny. (Charlie Weis may be a different story.)
Sure, we may be stumbling through the most significant financial downturn since the Great Depression. But ultra-successful college sports teams–particularly in football–tend to be profit centers for universities, generating substantial returns on the investments athletic departments make in them. Also, if wasn’t USC shelling out that kind of dough for Carroll, it would be Tennessee or Daniel Snyder. It’s the way the labor market works. If top professors want to complain about excessive coaching salaries, they should consider how they’d feel if their salaries were depressed artificially on the open market.
However, news like this drives home that at the end of the day, this is an obscenely lucrative business for college coaches. Believe what you want about their care for their players–or their schools. Taking care of your players’ best interests before your own isn’t going to get you to the point where you’re being paid $4 million per year to coach football, though. It’s not going to help you stay there, either.

Who’s Minding the Offense?

February 20, 2009

The rube in Homerism wants to believe that USC coach Pete Carroll’s performance at Mark Sanchez’s farewell press conference showed his genuine concern for one of his players. My cynical side says it was motivated more by his genuine concern for the state the Trojans’ quarterback situation.

Nothing like a quarterback derby to get college football fans talking and coaches’ blood pressure rising. Some of the top programs have clear-cut replacements for departed signal callers. Georgia, for example, plans to install fifth-year senior and one-time starter Joe Cox as the man following Matt Stafford’s early declaration for the NFL.
Other situations like USC are a bit more muddled. Here’s a look at the spring quarterback competitions to keep an eye on:
Just kidding.


Can the Trojans continue to plug in quarterback after quarterback and not miss a beat? With last year’s starter Mark Sanchez making his debatable move to the NFL, USC will have a full-blown quarterback competition going this spring. The list of candidates is long and distinguished. Redshirt freshman Aaron Corp appears to be the frontrunner and is considered the most athletic QB prospect Carroll has had. Super-transfer Mitch Mustain from Arkansas has the billing, but he has yet to really take the reins. Incoming freshman Matt Barkley also is generating loads of buzz, even though it’s tough to see a true freshman playing quarterback in Troy.

Year one of the RichRod era for Big Blue failed to identify a Pat White-type quarterback with the tools to trigger the spread option. The news that the relatively underwhelming Steven Threet was heading out for greener pastures has heightened the uncertainty in Ann Arbor. Consequently, year two could find a freshman under center. “Underwhelming” would be a compliment when discussing Nick Sheridan’s play in 2008, but as of now, he’s the only quarterback with any experience in coach Rich Rodriguez’s version of the spread. That probably means he’ll get most of the spring snaps. Early enrollee Tate Forcier will learn at Sheridan’s side. However, both may be keeping a seat warm for when promising recruit Denard Robinson arrives in the fall.
Just-good-enough John Parker Wilson has departed, leaving an opening for a more feisty successor to take hold of the job. The depth chart currently shows redshirt sophomore Greg McElroy on top, he of 11 pass attempts in 2008. McElroy looks the part of a Nick Saban archetypal caretaker. Dual-threat freshman Star Jackson, a four-star recruit who redshirted in 2008, offers a little more pizzazz.
The Cornhuskers got off to a solid in coach Bo Pelini’s first year in Lincoln, thanks in large part to the steady play of QB Joe Ganz. But Ganz is gone–probably off to coach eight-man somewhere outside of Omaha. Pelini and his staff will have a chance to evaluate four signal callers vying for the starting job this spring: sophomore-to-be Patrick Witt, juco transfer Zac Lee, dual-threat prospect Kody Spano and Cody Green, an athletic early enrollee out of Texas.