Carroll to give juniors advice

Times Staff Writer

One week after its stunning loss to UCLA in the regular-season finale, USC returns to the practice field today to begin preparations for the Rose Bowl against Michigan.

"We've had plenty of time to deal with it," Coach Pete Carroll said Friday. "I'm way ahead preparation-wise, having done a lot of film time. I need to make sure and connect with the players about the opportunity we have and I look forward to it."

During the run-up to the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, Carroll also said he would address juniors, sophomores and freshmen about leaving school early for the NFL draft.

Defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson, who has only four sacks this season, has told Carroll he will return for his senior season, but All-American receiver Dwayne Jarrett, All-American offensive tackle Sam Baker, nose tackle Sedrick Ellis and linebacker Keith Rivers are among other juniors who must decide by mid-January whether they will make themselves available for the draft.

Last December, Carroll brought in a former NFL personnel executive and an agent for a seminar with players about the evaluation process and the pros and cons of leaving before exhausting their eligibility. After the Rose Bowl loss to Texas, junior running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White, offensive linemen Winston Justice and Fred Matua and safety Darnell Bing opted to turn pro.

Bush was the only Trojans junior selected in the first round.

Carroll said he was still formulating a format and date for this year's presentation.

"I've had informal conversations with our guys who are affected this year and we'll talk more," Carroll said. "But I'm just going to try to teach the landscape to all of our players. It's really obvious that they're giving money away when they don't maximize their opportunity."

Rivers requested an evaluation from the NFL -- "just to know for myself where I stand," he said -- but he probably would return to play on a team that will be regarded as a top contender for the national championship next season.

"I really want to come back and play on a great football team," he said. "You can't beat being in college. I've only got a couple years to be a student under my parents' wings for a little longer."


Sophomore cornerback Kevin Thomas, who suffered a broken foot against Arizona State on Oct. 14, said this week that he would try to practice today and play in the Rose Bowl.... The Trojans also will practice Sunday and then break until Thursday.


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