Pete Carroll forced to focus on 2010

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Hopefully we won’t get washed out by a raging sea of Mountain Dew, but we’re off to venture into the frenetic head of Pete Carroll.

Could it be that the confident coach who endlessly preaches his “Win Forever” philosophy is really focused on winning next year? Is he actually capable of rational thought and making concessions of any sort? Could this be why Carroll has anointed true freshman Matt Barkley to be his starting quarterback this season?

Yup.

USC’s schedule is brutal, especially on the road. In Week 2 the Trojans play at Ohio State. Oh sure, they’ll walk into the Horseshoe with their usual sweatsuit swagger, but their demeanor upon leaving could be the polar opposite.

Five weeks later, USC visits South Bend to face Notre Dame . . . and if you believe some of the older folks amongst us, the Irish are back.

Even the Pac-10 portion of the schedule is rough. USC’s chief challengers, California and Oregon, have the luxury of home-field advantage over the Trojans this year.

Could it be that Carroll knows the hurdles might be set too high in 2009? Is that why he campaigned so darn hard to keep Mark Sanchez in school for a fifth year?

Without an experienced signalcaller, did he feel that an early season visit to Columbus would mark the end to his team’s annual national title aspirations? If so, that explains his selfish behavior at the press conference Sanchez called to announce that he was going pro.

So, now if things don’t go well — which at USC means you go 10-2 or 9-3 and claim just a share of your eighth consecutive Pac-10 title — Carroll has the ready-made excuse of having had a raw rookie at quarterback.

Much has been made of Barkley being named the starter over Aaron Corp, who is entering his third year at USC, and rightfully so. The timing of the announcement, a couple days before a mock game, was odd. Carroll’s statement: “He’s the starting quarterback at USC — it’s not a one-game deal,” was odder.

However, the fact of the matter is that the uber-talented Barkley was going to overtake Corp at some point this season. That was a given, especially since the schedule is as unforgiving as the people who surround the Trojan program. So, Carroll was probably thinking, “Why not now? … Corp can be the next Matt Cassel.”

That way the freshman won’t be a freshman for long, gaining valuable experience with each and every interception.

Then, this time next year — when the national landscape won’t be inhabited by any Tebows, Bradfords or McCoys — USC, with seasoned Barkley at the controls, will be ready to do something really special (something it hasn’t done since 2004). The Trojans’ 2010 schedule certainly is aligned with the stars.

USC opens the campaign with a Thursday night game at Hawai’i (the Trojans have already made plans to celebrate their blowout victory by continuing their stay on Oahu for a full day before flying out on Saturday). The 2010 non-conference schedule also includes hosting Virginia and a visit to Minnesota. And, of course, the Trojans take their turn, welcoming Notre Dame, Cal and Oregon to the fortress that is the Coliseum.

It’s a far cry from what USC is faced with this year . . . and Pete Carroll knows it.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.