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Pac-10 coaches come not to bury the Trojans but praise them


Notes from Thursday's Pacific 10 Conference media day and news from USC and UCLA:

Praise was being laid on thick at the Pacific 10 Conference football media day Thursday in Los Angeles.

By the reporters, sure -- 39 of them made USC the third unanimous choice in 46 years of voting (Times reporters, by policy, don't vote) -- and by the coaches.

Jim Harbaugh, Stanford's first-year coach, offered the most blunt -- and, some might say over-the-top -- assessment:

"They may be the best team in the history of college football," he said.

That caused USC's Pete Carroll to quip, "I love Jim, don't you? I'm glad he thinks that."

Then there was first-year Arizona State Coach Dennis Erickson, who said, "You want my evaluation of USC? They should be in the league I was really successful in, the National Football League."

Washington State Coach Bill Doba also considers the Trojans the team to beat.

"What Pete Carroll has to guard against is overconfidence, preparation and really, really bad luck," Doba said.

* In the projected race for runner-up, California was picked second and UCLA third, followed by Arizona State, Oregon State, Oregon, Arizona, Washington State, Washington and Stanford.

* All head coaches were present except for Mike Riley of Oregon State, who was attending a memorial service after the death of athletic administrator Jim Gilstrap.

* Stanford's Harbaugh, you might recall, raised eyebrows -- and reportedly the ire of Carroll -- when he said this year that this would be the USC coach's last season with the Trojans.

But he wasn't about to get into that again.

"Any update on the future of Pete Carroll?" he was asked.

Harbaugh's response: "That ground has been plowed."

However, the coach did talk tough while making some general remarks about his team.

"The three things we want our players to do is to play hard, play hurt and play to win," he said. "The love of the game must be genuine, and a lack of earnestness will eliminate any man from a football team."

For Booty, it's all talk, talk, talk, talk, talk

USC quarterback John David Booty, who waited four years to become the face of the Trojans, appeared eager before the first of what would be five hours of nonstop interviews.

"Today is really the first day it's hit me because there are so many people and so many questions," he said. "Usually it's just one or two a day, and now to have a couple hundred is a little different."

Booty was able to sneak in a salad during his last group interview over lunch.

"I'm tired," Booty said, grinning. "But I know that's all a part of it."

* Carroll said the perception of a logjam at tailback heading into training camp is not entirely accurate because several of the 10 players are recovering from injuries or surgeries.

Sixth-year senior Hershel Dennis, for example, had an arthroscopic knee surgery after spring practice, Carroll said. Sophomore Stafon Johnson had shoulder surgery, C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford have been limited because of abdominal problems, and incoming freshman Marc Tyler is still not fully recovered from a broken leg, Carroll said.

* Unlike the last few seasons, when USC players were housed in the Cardinal Gardens apartment complex near campus, the Trojans will stay in dormitories on campus during training camp.

* Fullback Jody Adewale, who had turned down several overtures to return for a fifth season, decided to rejoin the team, Carroll said.

The return of Adewale bolsters a fullback corps that includes redshirt freshman Stanley Havili and incoming freshman Jordan Campbell.

Bruins are ready to experience success

UCLA has 20 starters back, creating bold predictions of a klieg-light season for the Bruins.

"It's a huge advantage to have a great deal of experience, with players who know what it takes to play and perform in a football game," UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell said. "To have that experience on both sides is a great, great place to be in."

Yet, Dorrell was quick to point out all that was "on paper."

"Is our team mature enough to handle that kind of pressure knowing what the expectations are?" Dorrell asked before answering: "I believe that this year this team has the maturity to do that. ... We have the team that understands the pressure of what it means, to understand that every game we walk into, we're not going to sneak up on anybody."

* Chris Markey, who led the Bruins with 1,163 yards rushing in 2006, is expected to be ready after sitting out spring practice because of a stress fracture in his right foot. But the Bruins have only Khalil Bell as an experienced backup. Derrick Williams was forced to quit football because of repeated concussions.

That could leave playing time for redshirt sophomore Ryen Carew or even incoming freshman Raymond Carter.

Dorrell said the decision to use Carter or redshirt him would depend "on whether we can get him an X-number of plays."

* Tight end Ryan Moya may have to redshirt this season because of an ankle injury, which kept him out of spring practice. Moya, a junior, played in six games last season before suffering a broken leg against Oregon.

* Redshirt freshman Kai Forbath has some big cleats to fill in succeeding All-American kicker Justin Medlock.

Forbath wobbled through spring practice, showing a strong leg but inconsistent accuracy.

"With Justin, I knew he was good from 52 yards," Dorrell said. "When we got to the 35-yard line, I knew we were in range. Whatever Kai's range is, we'll find it. The thing I don't want is for Kai to think he has to be Justin Medlock."


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