Friday, September 12, 2008

Observations from a USC practice

Thanks to Dennis Slutak, the director of football operations at USC, I had the pleasure of attending the Trojans' practice yesterday to observe the SC coaching staff in action as they prepare their team for a big game this weekend against Ohio State.

One thing that jumped out at me right away was the number of students managers working with the players during the pre-practice period. They worked hard and were really efficient and well organized. That's a reflection of Coach Carroll and his staff. It also shows how proud the students are of their team and the role they play.

[As a side note, I thought it was interesting that the kickers used soccer balls during pre-practice.]

I can't say enough about Coach Carroll's energy level and enthusiasm. It's obvious that he has genuine passion for coaching and appreciates his job. From throwing the football with one of his student managers between drills, to running with his players as they move from drill to drill, to serving as the QB as his receivers run pass patterns against DBs in drills, it's clear he enjoys what he does.

And his players feed off of that.

Like the student managers, USC's assistant coaching staff were well organized and had great enthusiasm. LBs coach Ken Norton commands a lot of respect from his players and interacts well with them. I've got to believe he'd make a terrific defensive coordinator and, eventually, a great head coach.

There's little downtime during practice, with the coaches using every moment to work with the players on various details, even while they're going through warm-ups. Every moment is a teaching moment. They really maximize their practice time.

Despite having a practice facility right in the middle of campus, it's surprisingly private, though Coach Carroll is open to having NFL scouts and members of the press attend the team's practices.

Scouts from the Packers were at practice, as was Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland and Lions assistant GM Martin Mayhew, both of whom I had a chance to visit with.

The buzz on campus in anticipation for the big game was huge (and growing). Should be a lot of fun.

Thanks again to Coach Slutak!