All-Americans, Heisman Trophy winners and more than two dozen NFL draftees have been delivered by one of the most successful football programs in the nation. At the helm of the USC Trojans’ fierce squad is head coach Pete Carroll, who maintains dominance on the gridiron by recruiting the cream of the crop. He tells us what he looks for in potential recruits.
STACK: You’re known for your ability to recruit athletes across the nation. How do you develop a broad scope of the talent that’s available?
Pete Carroll: You have to know your areas. As a staff, you need to develop and maintain a good rapport with schools and their coaches. You cast a wide net and stay as on top of it as you can.
STACK: How do academics impact the football recruiting process at USC?
Carroll: USC is one of the top academic institutions in the country, which is a big selling point to all of the athletes we recruit. If you are going to thrive at USC, you need to be able to compete at a high level on the football field and in class. Both are extremely important, and they are important to the young men we recruit, as well as to their parents.
STACK: How often do you recruit an athlete for a position different from what he usually plays?
Carroll: So many guys play multiple positions in high school, and the ones we are recruiting often play those different positions equally well. We’ve had many student-athletes come here who could do more than one thing well and do it at a high level.
STACK: How do you determine the other position an athlete might be good for?
Carroll: We like to give incoming freshmen every opportunity to show us what they are capable of doing at an early stage. But we also try to put them in positions where they will succeed and develop confidence. For some, the transition is quicker than others. Determining where they will play is part of that process.
STACK: What characteristics set a D-I athlete apart from a D-II or D-III athlete?
Carroll: Depending on the position, it is a matter of being a few steps faster, a few inches taller, a few pounds heavier. The desire and effort can be the same, but some people just have more raw material to work with.
STACK: What role does a highlight reel play in the recruiting process at USC?
Carroll: It’s a big part of the evaluation process.
STACK: What specifically do you look for in a highlight reel?
Carroll: We look to see if the student-athlete is a playmaker. Does he catch your eye? We look to see that he is competing hard on every play—that he is a true competitor. And we look at his physical attributes, of course.
STACK: Can you offer a key tip for compiling a reel?
Carroll: Keep it simple: game film, game highlights, but doctoring it up is not necessary.
STACK: What advice can you offer athletes who want to play in college?
Carroll: Just work as hard as you can, on the field and in the class. Try to maximize your ability, and that will translate into putting your best foot forward, regardless of the level you end up competing on