Thursday, August 31, 2006

USC: Just one tackle away

One more "missed it by this much" reference before we start the catharsis that is the promising 2006 USC Football Season ...

In an example of how actually paying attention can positively affect journalism, Kevin Baxter of the Miami Herald / McClatchy Newspapers, wrote one of the best pre-season articles* about our USC football team. I’m not sure what makes him better at capturing quality quotes and insight, but we haven’t seen either from many other writers, including those in Los Angeles.

Baxter leads with a look into Pete Carroll’s mindset as last season’s Rose Bowl slipped away:
The question was so ridiculous, so out of place, USC coach Pete Carroll answered it first with a laugh.

Carroll's Trojans were within 19 seconds of their third consecutive national championship in January when Texas' Vince Young scored to give the Longhorns a 41-38 win and the title. And now, nine months later, the coach was asked if that left him disappointed.

"What do you think?" Carroll asked back, more amused than angered. "It was horrible. We just needed to tackle him one more time. It was horrible to be that close and not to finish it."
Next, without conjecture or rumor, Baxter illustrates, with simple facts and quotes, the Trojans' prospects and approach to the upcoming season:
"We're in a transition," said Carroll, who is 48-4 with four BCS bowl appearances, four Pac 10 titles and two national championships in his past four seasons. … "We have enough flexibility and background in our system that we can adapt to any style player. But it's our job to uncover what it is they do best."
Baxter goes on to describe how we are in a position to reload rather than rebuild, quoting John David Booty and Dwayne Jarrett, before providing some insight that (while putting the religious reference in proper perspective) shows how much he’s paying attention:
Jarrett ... went on to quote the Book of Luke, For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. And while it's clear Luke wasn't speaking directly of Jarrett or his team, the sentiments apply nonetheless. So don't expect either to complain about what has been lost when so much wealth remains.
The last is a nice quote from Carroll:
"We're at a point in our program where we should never be back to Square 1," he said. "We're trying to build a program where we have depth and continuity and all that, so we don't have to totally rebuild. ... But we don't talk about national championships around here. We really don't focus on that. We focus on performing really well."

Which means performing really well with who's there, not worrying about who’s left.
Nice job, Mr. Baxter. And from a southeast coaster, no less.

* You may have to 'subscribe' to this web site to see the linked article, but it's free.

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