Here’s Pete Carroll’s press conference transcript with more information on Stafon Johnson’s status.
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, well, fortunately, this morning we got great reports about Stafon (Johnson) responding to the accident and also the surgery. He was awake this morning. Communicating with everybody and his spirits were good. He’s not talking, but he was doing his way of making some sense of stuff and writing and all that.
It was very uplifting for his mom and family and all, and for our guys that got a chance to get down there.
It was just an absolute accident. It just hit him wrong, and he’s had obvious consequences.
The doctor said today that they expect him to play football again and all that. They don’t know when. He’s got a very intricate surgery that took place that he’s recovering from now. Fortunately, everybody responded beautifully, and the emergency people took hold of it and he’s okay.
We’re all sending our best wishes and prayers and all of that for a great recovery for him. He’s a wonderful kid in this program. He means something to everybody here, and it affects everyone. We all feel it.
I got asked the question already. Do you feel some effect? Of course we do. We’re connected. This is a very tight program and a very tight team. Stafon’s been a spiritual leader and a leader on the field in all ways for a long time here and a beloved guy. So this is something that does affect you. We all will feel it for some time.
We’re going to turn that energy and pull for him and do everything we can to support his family and help them through this as well as we possibly can.
So this morning everyone has been very encouraged. It’s a great sign. He was out all night last night and nobody could really communicate with him at all until this morning. So that was the first time, and the signs are great.
Q. Could you reiterate one more time the prognosis for his playing future?
COACH CARROLL: It’s very openended right now. The doctors can’t say. They can’t predict. They have to wait and see. But they say that they plan he will be able to play, and there won’t be any problem with that. But we don’t know when, so I can’t help you anymore that.
Q. There was some discussion on whether he was in the middle of a rep or if it was his last rep because of the freakiness that it hit him in the neck and not the chest?
COACH CARROLL: All that I do know about it is it was his last set of his routine. Understand, too, this guy is an expert lifter. He just lost control of the bar on his first rep of his last set and dropped on him.
Obviously, if he could have done something about it or if anybody could have, they would have. It was just a shock in an instant, and, unfortunately, that’s what happened.
You know, I can’t tell you how many times that he’s been in the weight room working hard and knowing what to do. He could teach our program as well as anybody and all of that. So it’s just an unfortunate occurrence, so that’s it.
Q. Are there concerns that or are you maybe encouraged by the fact that this is positive kind of news? Is that going to help the team moving towards the football game?
COACH CARROLL: We’re just you’re on the wrong wavelength there. We’re concerned about him right now. The concern about the effect of this and having the affect on the game is not even an issue for us at all. I think our concern for now is Stafon and his family and everybody handling what’s going on.
We’ll be okay on. We’ll handle this and we’ll support any good news is great for everybody’s spirits as well. He would be just the guy to do that with his way of handling it and dealing with it, being such a studly kid in the program. He’s going to give back to everybody else when everybody else is kind of wondering if he’s going to make you feel good. And that’s what he’s done in the morning response. He’ll probably continue to do that as much as he can, and that’s the only way you expect Stafon to respond, really.
Q. When something like that happens, where he goes, is that on you?
COACH CARROLL: Just an unbelievable stroke of synchronicity. His mom happened to be working at that hospital yesterday. So she was there. She got a call that Stafon’s had an accident. I think the trainers got to her first. She said where are they taking him? And she said, Well, they can’t be taking him here. That’s where I am. She couldn’t even understand what happened.
So she’s working there all week, as a matter of fact. She’ll be on hand. She was there last night. She was up all night with him, and will be on call throughout until he gets out of there.
Q. What kind of concerns do you have about the surgery?
COACH CARROLL: The intricacies of dealing with all of the things that are going on that none of us really think about what’s going on in your throat, you know. I’m not going to get into it because I don’t know anything.
But from the things that control speech and breathing and digestion and all of the different issues, everything got affected to some extent. So it’s hard to imagine what the doctors were working with to try to get everything back and reconstructed the way it needs to be.
But after seven, I think, sevenplus hours of surgery last night, which was really available because he’s so fit and so strong and handled it so well, they were able to continue to do all of the intricate stuff that they had to do. Now we have to wait to see how everything hooks back up, really is what it amounts to.
COACH CARROLL: They don’t know that yet. They don’t know that.
Q. Did you go see him this morning?
COACH CARROLL: No, we went last night. We were there late last night. It was kind of a vigil of family and friends and people that were there. They really told us that he might not even be awake today. We didn’t know. This morning he just popped out of it, and it kind of surprised everybody.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s talk last week’s game, this week.
COACH CARROLL: Really our focus has gone directly to what’s up. This is a tremendous matchup for us going up to Cal. This is a team that when you look at threequarters of the work of this first season so far, you see just great play on all phases: Offense, defense, the kicking game, everything. Big plays. Execution on both sides of the football have been excellent.
Then they ran into this buzz saw up there in Oregon, and it just threw everything out of what can. Oregon had a fantastic football game up there in all phases. What you had seen in the first three days, the first three games was not present in that fourth game.
We know quite clearly about their system and the potential of this program. Their quarterback is good. Kevin’s playing really good football for them. Jahvid Best is a fantastic player. Their scheme and everything about them is just frontline championship style.
So without any hesitation, we know we’re up against an enormous challenge right here. The fact that they’re coming off a game like that, I don’t know how that weighs in good or bad. But that has no bearing on what we’re doing in our approach.
We’ve seen them at their best already. Hopefully, we’ll find ways to slow it down and control the thing and have a chance to win the football game up there. So the matchup is excellent. There is a good history to it. We’ve had great, close games over the years. We have a lot of respect for their program and what they do. Hopefully, we’ll carry out a wellexecuted plan to get a win up there.
Q. Can you talk more specifically about some things Oregon did that took them out?
COACH CARROLL: Gosh, it just happened in just an avalanche. There was a little bit of success early moving the football. There was a couple turnovers in the game back and forth. Then once Oregon started throwing the football successfully, it seemed like everything opened up. Then it was just a onesided football game from then on.
They were able to control the running game. Jahvid couldn’t get loose. They disrupted them in the passing game with pressure and a mixture of coverages and things. There was no one thing they did. It was really on no one aspect. It was the entire team played an extraordinary football game against Cal.
With the crowd and all that getting going, it was overwhelming for them. They had an enormous win over Cal. I don’t think Cal’s been beaten like that in I can’t remember. So there was no one thing. It was a bunch of stuff played really well by the whole football team.
Q. Does that teach you anything about scheming?
COACH CARROLL: Well, there’s always something. They were successful in everything they did. Of so how can you repeat that and plan is what you’d like to do. But we have our styles. They have their styles.
From one week to the next, I’m sure Cal looks at that film and they’re looking at all of the ways they could have taken advantage of things that just on that day didn’t happen. So we learn. We certainly learn. We try to make some sense of it and hopefully, get better having had that.
The other games they were really just pretty much in control and played great football. So you see them at their best for three weeks. Then you see them really kind of totally out of synch in this last game.
Q. Why is Kevin Riley playing better?
COACH CARROLL: Experience. You know. He’s a fulltime starter. He’s been in the program a long time and he was in and out of the lineup last year. He’s just taking command of the system. He’s very disciplined about what he’s doing. He’s a good thrower, good athlete. He can take off and run when he has to.
They have a great system. They’ve got great guys around him. So he’s got all of the things that give you a chance. More than anything it’s just being in the system. Now he’s the real deal. He’s the guy.
Q. Is scattering the box enough to stop Jahvid Best or are you going to need more secondary help?
COACH CARROLL: You got anything in mind for me? Could use a little help. You have to whenever you have a breakaway guy like that, you have to be really disciplined. Regardless of how you deploy your guys, whether you’re coming after them or if you’re loading it up with secondary force, you have to be in the right spots. You have to be consistent. You make a mistake and it just blasts down the line of scrimmage and he’s gone.
We’ll do a variety of things. We’ll try to figure out the right times to be aggressive in the running game, and the right times to pressure the quarterback always with the intent of staying in connection with him and not letting him get loose. He can just score from anywhere, so. It poses a tremendous challenge.
They’ve figured him out. They know how to move him all around. They use him as a receiver. He motions in and out of the back field, runs into it, catches balls. They do everything with him as a highlighted player should be used. They’re doing what we would think would be exactly the right stuff which makes it really hard to center in and focus on him. That’s the whole idea of moving him around.
He’s capable of doing all of that. He’s a very, very wellversed back. He catches the ball like a wide receiver running routes out of the back field so he gives you all of the problems of a threereceiver offense and two-back offenses at the same time when they’re in the huddle.
So we have to figure all that out and see if we can get deployed well.
Q. Is he the closest guy you’ve seen compared to Reggie Bush in terms of just explosiveness?
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, he’s very similar. It’s easy to say this guy’s like Reggie. Don’t think anybody’s like Reggie. But they use him in the same fashion.
He is equally as fast. There was something about Reggie that he could make things happen in an extraordinary fashion. I think Jahvid (Best) is a more consistent guy out of the back field as a receiver. He’s maybe a better route runner, running routes as a wide receiver than Reggie. And he’s got the magic because he’s got that great speed, and he’s a very consistent player, too.
He’s in the lineup all the time and plays almost every down. They don’t miss much of him. When they do take him out, Shane Vereen comes in and he’s a very good player as well. So they’ve got a great onetwo punch and great concept of how to utilize a great player.
He is similar though in his explosiveness. He’s averaging 7 yards a carry or whatever the heck it is. That’s pretty similar to what Reggie did.
Q. What is Jordan’s (Campbell) status?
COACH CARROLL: Jordan Campbell? He’s got a pretty serious ankle sprain. He’s on crutches and in a boot. So he’s not looking real good to be able to even get back on the field this week.
Q. What challenges does a 3-4 defense face to protect?
COACH CARROLL: Just the multiplicity of 3-4 defense. The difference is you’re not sure who the rushers are in the 3-4 defense. You know the three guys, basically. But that’s one of the aspects of the threefour that makes it more challenging than the fourthree system when you know the four down guys are always coming.
But this is a normal threefour mode we have to get into. It is different than standardly how we play in the 4-3 teams of the but we do have our way and all that.
It’s just a matter of figuring out who they want to rush and who they want to pressure. And they have a better athlete available in coverage as their eighth dropper than a fourthree team. So all of those are the issues and you have to deal with those.
Q. In the NFL, it seems like half the teams around are the 3-4. Why don’t more teams run it at the college level?
COACH CARROLL: I think the 3-4 system is a leisure. The coordination of the 4-3 systems doesn’t have as many complexities as the 3-4 system. And I think just the upbringing and the kind of the lineage that guys have learned has been more 4-3 oriented. So, therefore, it just isn’t as popular.
It’s a great system. If you’ve seen us, we’ve been in and out of the approach for years based on our personnel. And we’ve had a lot of experience with it. But there’s, you know, there’s reasons for it. Sometimes it gets as simple as we can’t find enough defensive linemen, and you can find more linebackers. But I think it’s intricately way more than that. It’s just a more involved system.
Q. How did Matt (Barkley) come through the game with his arm?
COACH CARROLL: He felt great compared to how he felt a week ago. The best comment was to compare him to Mondays. He said this Monday’s not even close this Monday to last Monday.
He didn’t throw a lot yesterday. He’s not 100%. But we saw him at less than 100% and liked the way he played last weekend. Hopefully, he’ll be better this week.
Q. You coached in the NFL for a while. Now you have Reggie and going against the press. Is there something about the college game that makes it harder? Or why do these fast guys thrive more at this level?
COACH CARROLL: No question. It’s general team speed. The NFL is the fastest of the fastest. The field shrinks with that kind of speed. So the speed differential is not as overwhelming. So that’s clearly the biggest issue. That’s why the littler guys have more. Not all of them, because there have been some great smaller backs in the NFL. But the littler backs have more success in college just because you can’t get a hand on them.
So it’s just as you elevate to that next level, you know, the guys are just so fast. They’re so athletic that the differential doesn’t work to your advantage as much.
COACH CARROLL: We feel very comfortable with Brice (Butler) playing. We feel very comfortable with Blake (Ayles) playing in the game. Those guys have consistently improved and they’re involved in the game plan. They’ll continue to be more so. I’m excited about that. Brice has really done a good job. Blake we’ve just been waiting for Blake to be healthy and consistent. He’s there now.
I think you’ll see us continue to find ways to get those guys involved. We need it right now. We need their ability to come back and part of the overall scheme. So you’ll see more of them. We like them.
Q. Can you talk about Barkley’s progression last week and his decision making in the pocket?
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, he was on the mark last week. He had a great football game. He had a couple of tough decisions to make. What he did is he got rid of the football with great anticipation and urgency and accuracy.
He threw a couple of balls with a couple of loose rushers that were just strikes as well as the stuff he set up and was cleanly protecting in the pocket. He’s amazing that he’s this well equipped.
But he was able to make some throws that not just to get the ball off, but to put the ball right on the mark and read the route and the coverage the way he needed to. It was great stuff.
Q. The first time we’ve heard you say that. You’re comfortable with him?
COACH CARROLL: We’re fine. All of our playbook has been installed. The things we choose to do we try to monitor to make sure that we can do things that he can do well. But he’s capable of throwing and has been introduced to everything that we’ve ever had.
So the game plan’s maybe a little bit smaller because of his history and his background. But, hopefully, it’s not easy to detect what we’re doing. We know what we’re calling. They’re not supposed to, you know. So we should be a little bit ahead.
We don’t feel any restriction in his ability at all. There is none. It’s just the background and the reservoir of understanding the stuff we have to be careful with. And not be too overzealous, because he’s such a good thrower and bright kid that he can handle everything. We need to do things he can do really well. That’s what we’re trying to nail every week.
Q. Stafon’s been your goal line guy. Do you have an idea?
COACH CARROLL: We’re working on it. We’ll see what we’re going to do about that.
Q. What do you think of special teams on Saturday?
COACH CARROLL: Much improved. Really, much cleaner across the board. The coverage guys were really on it. We missed one opportunity on coverage. We made a mistake on the kickoff coverage. But the rest of it was fantastic…highlighted plays, big hits.
D.J. Shoemate, Garrett Green, and Ryan McMahon all those guys had great plays covering kicks. Jake kicked the ball very well. I loved that Jake was able to pull off that little kick that we worked on during the week and executed perfectly in the game. That’s just a sign of his comfort and his readiness now. So as he takes over the punting spot you can see that he’s got a big leg and he’s a bigger weapon for us there. And he kicked off adequately.
So we didn’t hit our field goals once Garrett Green got hurt, and the holder situation had to switch. We didn’t handle the place kicks as well as we’d like. But I think we can get back on track there.
Our returning game has been on it. We’re on the verge in the kickoff return game. Damian Williams is a very dangerous punt returner. He’s really hitting it like you want and has created a threat for us that we feel is very consistent. We’re going to count on him to make some plays there.
So I’m really pleased. We’ve got some good play out of our young guys, too. I thought Jordan’s getting the chance to play was an active part of it. And the guys are really going to grow. And you might see more of the young guys come in and help us.
Q. How’s Green doing?
COACH CARROLL: Garrett practiced yesterday. So I think he’s okay.
Q. Are (Armond) Armstead and (Ronald) Johnson still on track for Notre Dame?
COACH CARROLL: I don’t know, that. Nobody’s ever told me Notre Dame specifically. As far as they’re concerned, yes. They’re on track.
Q. Have you seen anything to indicate that Cal will have Syd’Quan (Thompson) on Damian this week?
COACH CARROLL: They don’t do that. They don’t play like that. They have a system of defense that they play. I’d be surprised. Maybe they would flip him to that side. But they’re a multiple scheme team. They’re not a oneonone double a guy team. They don’t play like that. They play a different scheme than that.
Q. How much does what happened yesterday take you out of that?
COACH CARROLL: I hope not one iota. The assessment coming off after looking at the film and being really strictly scrutinizing what’s going on is tech kneeswise we need to help ourselves and stay out of the way of the officials by just being cleaner and sharper.
Most of the time when we have the bulk of the penalties were really holding penalties. Which there is techniqueoriented stuff there that can keep our hands effectively inside and know when we have to release guys and be more strict about it. So very, very close calls. But calls that could be made.
We have to adapt more so to the way the officials are calling the game so we don’t position ourselves poorly. Lot of that has to do with moving your feet and hand placement and stuff, which are really physical things that we think with great attention to detail we can effectively change. We’ll find out. We’re on course, and we’re on a rampage right now to clean stuff up.
Q. Have you noticed anything different about Cal’s on offense without Alex Mack in it this year?
COACH CARROLL: No. He’s a great player. But we’ve watched these guys for years. Schematically they’re continuing to grow as always. They continue to do new things. But when you have a player as good as Alex, you do get away with some stuff. He’ll compensate for other guys and do different things. But their scheme is exactly the same, really, as I said. They do a few new things like they do every year, but they haven’t changed.