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USC FYI

Jeremy Bates looks forward to calling chess games

In his first season as play-caller, Bates plans to make it entertaining, and he's not worried about critics.

September 03, 2009|Gary Klein

USC fans skewered Lane Kiffin on Internet message boards. Steve Sarkisian did not fare much better.

So any USC play-caller not named Norm Chow, it seems, is in for a tough go with the Trojans faithful.

Jeremy Bates is not worried about it.

USC's first-year quarterbacks coach and play-caller plans to tune out whatever criticism might come his way after Saturday's opener against San Jose State and beyond.

"This is a game of entertainment," Bates said Wednesday. "The fans pay a lot of money to go to the games and they're going to have their opinions. . . . But we're focused. We can't deal with distractions and things outside of the building, so we're not going to worry about that stuff."

Bates, 33, called plays last season for the Denver Broncos. He said he would miss having two game-day items available to NFL play-callers: a helmet-radio receiver that allows for the relay of instructions directly to a quarterback; and photographs that are available after each series.

But Bates, who played in college at Tennessee and Rice, is looking forward to coaching amid USC's game-day atmosphere after spending seven seasons in the NFL.

"We've been [at the Coliseum] for a couple scrimmages and we've had a good turnout, but I can't wait for it to get full with the band," Bates said.

For Bates, calling plays is "a chess game," and he is well aware of the reputation San Jose State Coach Dick Tomey cultivated as the architect of the Arizona's famed "Desert Swarm" defense.

"I grew up watching it and it's a challenge," Bates said.

It also could be a challenge managing Matt Barkley, who will become the first true freshman to start an opener at quarterback for the Trojans.

Barkley was sharp through most of Wednesday's workout, but he had another pass intercepted during the team scrimmage drill.

Bates said the Trojans would try to play "smart football" to avoid the chance for turnovers against San Jose State. Asked what that specifically translated to for Barkley, Bates said, "If a guy's covered, you don't throw it to him."

Barkley has acknowledged that he will have some "butterflies" when he leads the Trojans out of the Coliseum tunnel on Saturday.

Not Bates.

"This isn't my first year coaching football," he said. "This is our job."

Coach Pete Carroll is not worried about Bates' ability to handle public scrutiny.

"He called plays for the Denver Broncos -- you can't get any more exposure than that -- and he did a great job," Carroll said. "I don't think he's going to have any problem at all.

"Maybe the past expectations are a little bit different in some regard, but I think he's going to be just fine."

Atmospheric change

A crowd of more than 90,000 is expected Saturday, a stark contrast to the last time San Jose State visited the Coliseum.

On Sept. 1, 2001, Carroll made his debut as USC's coach. Only 45,568 fans attended the Trojans' 21-10 victory.

"It was quiet enough that I heard the band play every time they played," Carroll said.

Quick hits

Redshirt freshman cornerback Brian Baucham has missed practice this week because of illness, putting sophomore T.J. Bryant on track to be used in nickel situations Saturday. . . . The Trojans received a commitment from Kyle Prater, a 6-foot-4 receiver from Proviso West High in Illinois. Prater chose the Trojans over Illinois, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

--

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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