Oct. 18, 2007
Q. Mo, with the variety that USC brings to the running back position, how does that make you have to adjust your game?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Well, the most difficult thing is adjusting tackling wise, because if there’s a speed guy back there, you have to run more. If it’s a power guy, you get lost sometimes in who’s back there; it’s easy to miss a tackle. The most important thing is to be sound in tackling.
Q. Stafon Johnson practiced a little yesterday. Do you expect to see him? I mean, have you scouted him whole a lot?
Maurice Crum Jr.: We watch everybody and we prepare. If somebody is questionable, we prepare (as if) they’re going to be in the game.
Q. Zibby, last week Darrin (Walls) said maybe that was the best game he played being around the ball. Talk about how the season has gone for him as you’ve watched him develop.
Tom Zbikowski: That was definitely one of his most physical games. I know there was a couple times where he was just completely jamming the receivers out of bounds. We saw him earlier in the year making plays against Penn State, getting the ball. Now I think you’re starting to see the physical aspect of his game. He’s really starting to step up and it’s really helping him become an overall player.
Q. What do you think was the tipping point with him for that physicality? He said yesterday that he got sick of hearing the same thing, that he wasn’t being physical enough.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I’m not sure exactly when it was, but, I mean, you’ve seen it the last couple games, really him starting to become physical.
Q. The uniforms, what did you think when you first saw them? When did Charlie kind of bring that up to you guys?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I thought it was a good idea. It was a change up from what we usually do. So I embraced it.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I’m down for anything that’s different. I like ’em. The pants are a little yellow. But, I mean, I like anything different.
Q. There was some mention about the pants. Everybody liked the jerseys, but the pants were iffy.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Bright yellow pants (laughter).
Q. If you’re going to do a retro ’77, did Charlie kind of get into the spirit with something a bit throwback him definitely? I don’t know if there were vintage hooded sweatshirts from 1977, anything like that.
Maurice Crum Jr.: We’ll leave that alone.
Tom Zbikowski: He can answer that for you (laughter).
Q. How are you feeling, Mo? Do you expect to be ready to go for Saturday?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, I’m feeling fine. I practiced yesterday. It’s just one of those crazy things. But it’s been getting better every day.
Q. Take us through what type of injury it is, how it affects you.
Maurice Crum Jr.: It’s tough to push off and go. Playing linebacker, playing football, period, you need your feet to go sideways and stuff.
Q. Coming off the UCLA game, not being able to really be out there a lot against BC, how frustrating was it to have that type of injury when you guys were really starting to get something going, not being out there with your team?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, it’s very aggravating for me not being out there on the field, the game being somewhere close. Just wanted to be out there to help. It’s always tough being a competitor.
Q. You guys — talk about this USC team, what their offense brings, preparing for both quarterbacks, multiple running backs.
Tom Zbikowski: There’s a talent level at all their positions. I know for me personally, they got a real good tight end. Faced him a couple times. The receivers are always good. For us in the secondary, we’re definitely going to have to play (well), be around the receivers and try and make plays off the ball.
Maurice Crum Jr.: For us up front, I mean, the line, the running backs, as a team, they just fit well together. Everybody knows their role on the team. Everybody does it really well. It’s definitely a challenge.
Q. How hard is it as a safety to prepare for two different quarterbacks, not knowing necessarily which guy is going to be out there?
Tom Zbikowski: It’s not too bad. It’s not like one’s like a scrambling quarterback or something. They both fit into the system pretty well. They both have their targets that they’re going to try and hit. It’s not too difficult, but you definitely look at both of them and see what they struggle with, if it’s man to man, if it’s disguising coverages, if it’s cover two or something like that, you have to try and look at what they struggle with.
Q. Is it different, though, obviously if (John David) Booty is in there, they’ll be able to open up the playbook more, but you’re not going to know that until game time?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, you got to prepare a little more for somebody who has been experienced, who has been playing a lot more. You know, talent wise, they both can make all the throws that need to be made. But definitely, he has a little more experience, a little more comfort with throwing to those receivers.
Q. Can you talk about the constant need to overcome the adversity this year? Obviously, the losses, Mo’s injury, guys leaving the team. It seems like there’s so many things that have been piling up that you have been forced to try to overcome this year.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, it’s definitely been a rough year for us, up and down. But the most important thing is that the guys who are here are here, and everybody is trying, coming to work. As long as we have that, we can’t complain. We just ask that guys don’t quit.
Tom Zbikowski: The team has gone through a lot. I think it’s made us closer as a team. I think it’s almost helped us that we’ve been playing better and better week in and week out, you know, working to win and playing hard every single week. I definitely think we’ve become closer as a team.
Q. When you say guys don’t quit, I’m sure you mean on the field. At the same time you have guys deciding to quit off the field. Does that become frustrating?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Not too much because what we focus on most is, you know, day to day performances, what we do from day to day. The guys who are here are the guys who are here. If you’re in, you’re in.
Q. What do you think is the biggest difference between their offense this year as opposed to last year? Receivers that aren’t there any more? Do you see much of a difference?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I don’t see much of a difference. They have great recruiting classes. I don’t really see that big of a drop off in talent at all. They’re USC. They’re always going to have talent.
Q. Anything different?
Tom Zbikowski: Not really. I mean, they always have the next Reggie Bush, the next Dwayne Jarrett. They always have a stockpile of talent.
Q. I’m wondering if you can describe how you’ve seen the other guy’s lead this year. Mo, how have you seen Tom lead?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I’ve seen Tommy just being in guys’ faces, just kind of like keeping comfortable. He’s kind of their fallback guy. If they need help, they know they can go to him. He’s just always been there for him.
Tom Zbikowski: Mo has gotten more vocal. Being focused on the small things, making sure that, you know, when we’re in the huddle that we’re not getting lazy, just all standing around. Him calling plays all the time, making checks. I mean, really helping out leading the defense and being more vocal. Definitely even his plays, you know, his playing has stepped up, too.
Q. Charlie, aside from yelling at the officials, seems pretty even keel on the sidelines. (Defensive coordinator) Corwin (Brown) seems like the exact opposite. He’ll yell at you coming off the field, on the sidelines. How much do you think you respond to that and how much do you think that’s helped you as a defense, having somebody that will get up in your face and challenge you?
Tom Zbikowski: For me, I always enjoy somebody getting in my face every once in a while. Just helps you as a player, gets you to refocus. As a player, you need it every once in a while. I think for the most part pretty much everyone has responded well. It’s nothing personal. He’s trying to make us the best player that he can possibly make us.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, like he said, we don’t take it to heart. We let it go once it’s over because he wants to win. If he can’t play, he plays through us. He wants us to do the best that we can.
Q. Even in a positive sense sometimes when you make a big play, he’s fired up and in your face in a positive way. Does that help?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah. It’s definitely kind of like, `I just yelled at you, but if you do it right, you see what happens.’ Because everybody gets happy because we’re all on the same page.
Q. Does it foster a sense of he’s one of us as opposed to…
Maurice Crum Jr.: We definitely feel like he’s a part of us because he relates well to everybody. He kind of tries to know everyone on somewhat of a permanent basis so he can just kind of get a feel for the different guys.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Trevor (Laws)? Obviously, we know what he brings on the field. It seems like he’s meant so much to this team this year in particular with his energy, how emotional he is on and off the field for you guys.
Maurice Crum Jr.: I think on the field he’s definitely done a great job of setting the bar for a lot of young guys to let them know that this is how we want guys to play around here. If you want to be considered good or great, Trevor sets the bar. It’s up to the next guy to go beyond that and keep setting that bar.
Q. How emotional he gets, does that also help with teaching the younger guys, showing how much it means to him?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, it’s definitely a big positive because sometimes guys just don’t know what it takes. Sometimes you have to just be a guy. You can look at Trevor and know that he cares. He comes to work every day. The way he plays shows that he cares. He gives his all.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I mean, he really doesn’t even have to say anything. For the younger guys, you just have to watch him and see what he does every day really. His actions speak much louder than any words can.
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