points with practice swings of a baseball bat he keeps in the office, Carroll
insists that he doesn't play freshmen to gain a recruiting edge. "I'm
looking for the very most people can accomplish, the highest they can possibly
go. No ceilings. If I tell a guy, 'We're gonna redshirt you this year,' there's
no way he's going to prepare the same as if he's coming to play. I'm sending a
message about competition."
At a press
conference earlier in the day, Tessalone had passed out spring practice depth
charts remarkable for their inclusion of high school seniors, the parentheses
around their names admitting that, while this player may, at present, be
renting a tux for his prom, we have plans for him in the fall.
In another half
hour, Carroll would be zigzagging around the practice field, presiding over one
of the final afternoons of spring football. If the session seemed to have an
October intensity, there was reason for it. The Trojans knew they were running
out of chances to make an impression on the coaches. Carroll says of spring
practice, "For the older guys, that's been their shot to show us what
they're all about. In August, they know, the younger guys are gonna get thrown
ahead of them at times, in drills and scrimmages, so we can figure out where
know that if they land a truly special player, they'll be lucky to have him
around four years. "If a guy's only gonna be there for three years,"
says Mike Stoops, the coach at Arizona, "you might as well get something
out of him that first year. The great ones aren't going to be around that
There were the
Trojans after Bush's fumble at the end of the UCLA game, filing grimly off the
field, worried that their undefeated season was in jeopardy. The truth, of
course, is that it is USC's opponents who need to be concerned. If you didn't
beat these guys in '04, you may have missed your best chance for a while.