The Carroll connection

Posted Feb 23, 2010

Pete Carroll’s background in recruiting college players, and coaching against them, gives the Seahawks’ new coach a ‘head start’ at this week’s scouting combine

During his introductory news conference, new general manager John Schneider was asked if the Seahawks would have an advantage in the NFL draft because of Pete Carroll.

After all, the team’s first-year coach spent the past nine years at the University of Southern California, so Carroll recruited many of the players now in the NFL and coached against even more.

“I think it’s going to be huge,” Schneider said. “You’re talking about a man that’s accomplished a ton in college football and has been recruiting top-notch football players.”

Carroll, who was sitting at the same table with Schneider, then told a story about unpacking the first box as he was moving into his office at the Seahawks’ headquarters. In it was a notebook that included a list of 23 recruits – four who ended up being first-round draft choices, including former USC running back Reggie Bush; and five who went in the second round.

“For awhile, we’ll have an advantage a little bit with the kids coming up,” Carroll conceded.

Carroll and Schneider will get no argument from Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network.

“I think what Pete Carroll has is a head start over most of the other head coaches in the NFL,” Mayock said Tuesday during a conference call interview to promo the network’s coverage of the scouting combine that begins Wednesday in Indianapolis.

“He comes out of the college ranks. He knows his team. He knows the Pac-10 intimately. Most of the head coaches around the league don’t even get involved in the draft until the seasons are over, and then they get brought up to speed by their GM.”

Not Carroll. He walked into the building last month already in the fast lane.

Of the 329 players invited to the combine this year, 11 played for Carroll at USC last year: running backs Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight, wide receiver Damian Williams, tight end Anthony McCoy, tackle Charles Brown, guard Alex Parsons, center Jeff Byers, defensive ends Everson Griffen, cornerbacks Josh Pinkard and Kevin Thomas and safety Taylor Mays.

Last year, four USC linebackers were taken in the first 104 picks – Brian Cushing (15th by the Houston Texans), Clay Matthews (26th by the Green Bay Packers), Rey Maualuga (38th by the Cincinnati Bengals) and Kaluka Maiava (104th by the Cleveland Browns). Seven other Trojans also were drafted, including quarterback Mark Sanchez with the fifth pick overall by the New York Jets.

In 2007, 10 Trojans were drafted, including three in the first round – defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (No. 7 by the New Orleans Saints), linebacker Keith Rivers (No. 9 by the Cincinnati Bengals) and tackle Sam Baker (No. 21 by the Atlanta Falcons).

You get the picture.

“We’ve been in the realm of evaluating the kinds of guys that we want, and I’m hoping that that insight and that experience that we’ve had – and also our approach to playing young guys – is something I know John was excited about,” Carroll said.

“To give you an insight, most head coaches in the league are really concerned about playing rookies. That’s been classic that that’s the way they’ve gone. But in the years I was at SC, when I kind of became in charge of the personnel, we centered on a philosophy of forcing our young guys to play, and making them show us who they are and where they fit in in the efforts of finding out who were the championship kids that might be only on your campus for a month.”

It’s an advantage in the parody process that is the NFL which the Seahawks must exploit.

“I think his knowledge of past draft picks – how well or how poorly they did in the draft – and this year’s class will help,” Mayock said.

Mayock has an obvious take on just who the Seahawks should take with the sixth and 14th picks in the first round: a left tackle to replace Walter Jones and a quarterback to eventually replace Matt Hasselbeck.

“I think they’re going to end up taking a left tackle with their pick at six, and I think they need to,” he said. “When you come back around at 14, then you’ve got to ask yourself a couple different questions: How long is Hasselbeck going to play? If (Notre Dame’s Jimmy) Clausen’s available, are you looking at Clausen?”

But Mayock also said a defensive end “makes an awful lot of sense” at No. 14, adding that Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan would provide value as well as meeting a need.

“Do they have to look at running back and safety? Yeah, they do,” he said. “But I think offensive tackle and somebody to rush the passer ought to be prominent among those first three picks (they also have the 40th pick overall in the second round).”

Mayock was then asked about the Seahawks considering a “franchise” quarterback with one of their first-round picks – either Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford or Clausen.

“I think they have to,” he said. “And I say that every year about the higher picks and teams that need quarterbacks. Hasselbeck (will be 35 in September), he has been injured. You’ve got to – especially with a new regime, with Carroll and Schneider – sit there and close the door and say, ‘OK, if one of these two guys, or both of these guys, are franchise quarterbacks and they’re sitting there at six and 14, do we pull the trigger at either level for a quarterback.

“That’s the first decision those two guys have to make with the door closed.”

Schneider’s take? He’s not closing the door to any avenue that will upgrade the talent level on the Seahawks’ roster.

But regardless of which players the Seahawks take at six, 14 and even 40, it’s a safe bet that Carroll already has a book on them.