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Pete Carroll used USC background to build Super Bowl roster


Familiarity works well for Pete Carroll. Carroll's Seattle Seahawks delivered a performance for the ages in Super Bowl XLVIII with a roster drawing heavily from players he coached, recruited or played against in his time at USC.

That knowledge helped bring each of the players responsible for the touchdowns in the 43-8 drubbing of the Denver Broncos to the Pacific Northwest. Linebacker Malcolm Smith played for Carroll with the Trojans and won MVP honors after scoring on a 69-yard interception return. Carroll recruited Percy Harvin in the hopes of making him the next Reggie Bush, an electric weapon that could be used in a variety of ways on offense and special teams; Harvin blew the game open with an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Running back Marshawn Lynch, who scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, starred at California and faced Carroll in two de-facto Pac-10 championship games. And wide receivers Jermaine Kearse (23-yard touchdown reception) and Doug Baldwin (10-yard touchdown reception) were on Washington and Stanford teams that upset Carroll at USC.

Other major contributors from the title campaign fitting the criteria include cornerbacks Richard Sherman of Stanford, Brandon Browner of Oregon State, Walter Thurmond III of Oregon, center Max Unger of Oregon, wide receiver Golden Tate of Notre Dame and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane of Cal.

With the exception of Harvin, acquired for a first-round pick in a trade last March, the rest of the group were bargains that allowed the Seahhawks to build up talent and depth at minimal cost: third-day picks and undrafted free agents or players acquired through trades.

Carroll had the advantage of knowing what players are like -- their personalities, strengths and weaknesses -- long before NFL teams were started their draft evaluations.

It is an approach that the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills seem to be trying to replicate. Former Ducks head coach Chip Kelly brought six Pac-12 alums to the Eagles. Ex-Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone uncovered a gem for the Bills in undrafted cornerback Nickell Robey from USC, who had nine tackles in a home-and-home series with the Orange in 2011 and 2012.

Fellow USC standout Robert Woods had 18 receptions for 175 yards and three touchdowns during the two games against Syracuse, which had to play a role in the Bills selecting him in the second round in the 2013 draft.

(It is worth noting that San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh hasn't had the same luck in his first three draft classes, though one-time Stanford recruit Eric Reid looks like a home run.)

But the window is open for only so long. The last handful of players recruited by Carroll to USC just completed their final season of eligibility. Soon, Carroll and the Seahawks will have to go back to scouting the old-fashioned way.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.



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