In temperament, Carroll is a big-picture guy and understands the nature of the USC beast. "I want to have as many distractions and interferences as possible, so we learn to deal with it on a regular basis and don't have to click in and click out of that mentality," he says. This doesn't just include raucous practices, but also unique motivational tools that may come across as fun-and-games to outsiders, but are all part of his overall design. Unlike many of his surly, sleep-deprived brethren, Carroll seems to be having fun on -- and off -- the Saturday afternoon sidelines. There aren't many head coaches who would jump off into a pool off a high dive after practice, invite Snoop Dogg, George Lucas, and the Fonz to hang around the team, or don a "Ricky Bobby" NASCAR suit alongside alum (and good luck charm) Will Ferrell to fire up the troops. Then again, there aren't many coaches who have been ranked in the AP Top 10 for 56 games. "I'll do anything I can to teach and motivate, to help these guys focus on reaching a higher level," Carroll says.
The overall success of the program feeds upon itself, which is why the USC recruiting class is consistently ranked near the top. Carroll says that the sheer talent brought in every year serves as its own checks-and-balance system "We get guys who are puffed up, but when they get here, everybody is like that, so the level of competition around them evens it out," he says. "If they're not humbled just by coming in, they'll get humbled on the practice field." Carroll says it is a much bigger, but equally important, challenge to keep the guys way down on the depth chart engaged as it is to get the most of out stars like Heisman hopeful, quarterback John David Booty. "The more attention I pay to those guys, the better the juice is about the overall feeling of the team," Carroll says. "I want them to realize that without them, we wouldn't be a team. It might not be playing time, but we recognize them for what they do in practice, meetings, or drill work."
Collectively, it may be hard to keep success from going to the Trojans helmeted-heads, but Carroll understands the bigger picture. His overall record as coach of the NFL's New York Jets and New England Patriots is a pedestrian 34-33, (although he did take the Pats to the playoffs in 1997-98). And each campaign starts with a blank chalkboard, so it doesn't matter if numerous pigskin prognosticators have USC ranked as the preseason No. 1. Carroll is more concerned with meeting his long-term goal of being the best program -- ever. "I'm fine with it," he says of his pro record. "I think winning national championships is just as cool as the Super Bowl. I want to retire knowing we were good for a really long time. Nothing more."