Smith Planning to Set Loftier Goals for First Trojan Football Team

Times Staff Writer

The Larry Smith era is under way at USC and the new football coach is not talking about rebuilding the program, just redirecting it.

The Trojans faltered the last two seasons under former coach Ted Tollner with 6-6 and 7-5 records. At USC, anything less than eight wins and a major bowl bid is a break with tradition.

Smith, the former Arizona coach, is well aware of USC's football heritage and embraces it.

"When I say redirection, I'm talking about goals," he said. "I'm not here to judge the past. But when I came here, maybe the program was shying away from the great tradition that is here, to keep the pressure off.

"My opinion is that you set your goals the highest you can set them," Smith said. "I feel you shoot for the moon. After I was here for a week, that's what I found with these players. They felt very strongly they could shoot for the moon. So why hold them back? Why downplay the great tradition?

" . . . It's here, so let's use it. It's a momentum factor, it's not pressure. I'll put more pressure on myself than anyone else will. So will the players."

Smith revived losing programs at Tulane and Arizona. At USC, he will be expected to reach another level, the 8-, 9-, or 10-win category.

As the new coach, he comes in with more experience than any USC coach since Howard Jones, who molded the Thundering Herd teams from 1925 until he died in 1941.

"This is the third time I've gone through a first year in a program and it's much different from the previous two," Smith said.

"My first year at Tulane was my first head coaching job with a new staff. We came into a losing situation, a true rebuilding situation. Four years later at Arizona, I had 60 to 70% of a new staff, but other problems--a lot of drastic changes in philosophy among the players, and there was an ongoing (NCAA) investigation. There was turmoil.

"Here, we have more of a chance because eight of the nine coaches I've brought with me. The other coach, Ron Turner, was with me my first year at Arizona. That makes the transition smooth. My only negative thoughts are that I still don't have all my coaches moved in."

Smith said there was no problem in identifying the goals at USC. "We didn't come in here trying to sell the players that they can win," he said. "They know they're going to win. It's more of how do you get the top plum.

"It wasn't difficult at Arizona to get them from 5-6 or 4-7 to 6-5 or 7-4. But when you get to a program that's been averaging 8 wins, to get up to 9 or 10, you have to get specific. You have to knock out the errors and penalties and you have to take care of everything to be the best team you can be."

Smith would not predict publicly how many wins he expects at USC his first season but he wrote a private prediction on a piece of paper and hid it in the corner of his desk.

Reporters will be hunting for that piece of paper in late November.

Randy Tanner, USC's senior flanker, was asked to describe how Smith comes across to the team.

"He doesn't raise his voice too much, but he he has a way of motivating the team," Tanner said. "When he talks, everybody listens. He tells it like it is. What sticks with me is that he says, 'Those who stay will be champions.' What that tells me is that we'll work our behinds off."

Tom Roggeman, who coaches USC's inside linebackers, startled reporters at a recent press conference.

It's not what he said, but the way he said it. If he toned his voice down, he'd be merely shouting. He has the manner and vocal cords of a Marine Corps drill instructor.

Roggy, as he's known, has been compared to former USC assistant Marv Goux in concept, if not style. Goux was the longtime motivator on the staffs of John McKay and John Robinson.

A sampling of what the emotional Roggeman expects of his inside linebackers:

"To play inside linebacker for me, you have to have a mean, tenacious attitude and go completely crazy on the field.

"I want a player who is so nasty that nobody wants to get next to him for fear that he'll kick the living daylights out of them. But off the field, he should be a perfect gentleman. I want him to smile, pat little kids on the head and kiss his mom."

Trojan Notes

The Trojans began two-a-day drills Monday, working out in shorts. They will put on the pads Thursday. The Trojans will live and work out next week at UC Irvine. Coach Larry Smith has 13 returning starters, 7 on offense and 6 on defense, along with 17 incoming freshmen and 4 junior college transfers. That doesn't count 29 walk-ons. Three defensive linemen, Deryl Henderson, Gary Willison and Anthony Ervin, who were academically ineligible during spring practice, didn't report. Henderson started seven games in 1986, Willison four.

Smith on the Pacific 10 race: "The conference is as tough as I've ever seen it. I think quite a number of teams have a chance to win and we're among them." . . . Quarterback Rodney Peete worked out this summer in Green Bay, Wis., where his father, Willie Peete, is an assistant coach with the Packers. . . . USC will open the season Sept. 7 against Michigan State at East Lansing, Mich. The Monday night game will be nationally televised by ABC. Of USC's first seven games, five are on the road, including consecutive meetings with Washington and Notre Dame.

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