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Does Carroll’s Departure Affect USC? (Probably Not):

As Pete Carroll leaves USC for the National Football League, several questions come to mind.

How badly will the Trojans be affected?

As this appears to be the end of an era, will the Pac-10 Conference have a variety of champions in upcoming years?

Can UCLA quickly close the gap, returning the Bruin-Trojan rivalry to the level it used to be?

“We won’t fall,” says USC athletic director Mike Garrett.

“We’re too good.”

But the timimg of Catrroll’s move to the Seattle Seahawks is awful for USC. It comes at the peak of recruiting season and will cost the Trojans some players who had verbally committed to them but not yet signed binding letters of intent.

Then there are the undergraduate defectors from this season’s team — receiver Damian Williams, defensive end Everson Griffen, and tailbacks Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson turning pro, and quarterback Aaron Corp transferring to Richmond.

Remember that UCLA ad a couple of years ago declaring USC’s monopoly of football in Los Angeles was over? It was laughable, so embarrasing to UCLA that Coach Rick Neuheusel felt compelled to reveal he didn’t know about it and didn’t approve it.

It was the work of an overzealous person in the Bruins’ advertising department, but maybe it was just premature.

Even with Carroll, USC would not have been favored to win the Pac-10 next season. Defending champion Oregon will likely be favored, as the conference’s Rose Bowl representative has a large number of returning players.

Carroll’s era, consisting of seven straight conference championships and two BCS championships, will rank with the greatest of all time. His first and last seasons were disappointing, but his overall record was 97-19.

Now it’ll be interesting to see if the new coach is devoted to Matt Barkley at quarterback as Carroll was. The new coach’s options declined when Corp left, but Mitch Mustain is still available.

And how about the tailback situation? Many people close to the program felt McKnight received preferentual treatment because he was a nationally acclaimed out-of-state high school player. Putting it another way, they feel USC would have done just as well with Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable getting more carries. And how about Curtis McNeal from Venice High? Will he get a chance now?

Carroll told me after spring practice McNeal would play in the 2009 season. He told me the entire coaching staff was impressed with McNeal’s ability, including his blocking. But even after Johnson suffered a neck injury in a weight-lifting mishap McNeal didn’t play.

It was likely Carroll would return to the NFL at some point following less-than sensational head coaching stints with the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

Now seems the right time for him with Seattle offering $6.5 million a season, even better than his $4.4 million annual salary at USC. And with the NCAA closing in on USC for violations involving Reggie Bush and McKnight.

With his boyish looks and boundless energy, Carroll was a perfect fit for college football. But times change.

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