USC influence emerging in Seahawks' offense

RENTON, Wash. -- When Pete Carroll's offense at the University of Southern California was clicking at a record rate, there was a set schematic makeup behind its efficiency.

Carroll's offense relied on two or more running backs, some bigger to run between the tackles, some shiftier who could use their speed on the edge. On the outside the Trojans regularly had a larger receiver able to use his height advantage on shorter defensive backs.

And orchestrating it all was a smart, talented quarterback.

Even though Carroll was a defensive coach by trade, his offensive beliefs were unwavering.

"At the end of that first year (at USC) I vowed that if this is my last coaching job I ever have I'm going down with the stuff I want to be my offense instead of just hiring the offense as I had done in years past," Carroll said.

That was nearly a decade ago.

Fast forward and Carroll is unabashed in bringing that same approach to Seattle. And with the arrival of bruising running back Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks offense is starting to take on a similar appearance.

"We're using exactly the same approach, philosophy now. It was so successful for us with such consistency, balance as well, that's what we're trying to recreate," Carroll said Wednesday.

Seattle's offense still has a long way to go before it even remotely approaches the potency Carroll's teams at USC displayed, especially between 2003 and 2006. The 2005 Trojans rewrote the Pac-10 record book in nearly every offensive category -- a team that featured Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White and Dwayne Jarrett and scored 638 offensive points in 13 games.

"They always had electric backs and coach Carroll found a way to get them the ball," Seattle running back Justin Forsett recalled about the USC teams he faced while at the University of California. "It was always fun to watch. ... As a student of the game you respect that and they were very explosive on offense. That's what you have to strive to be on offense."

The Seahawks enter this week against Arizona ranked 27th overall offensively and a lowly 30th running the ball. But the case could be made that last week's win over Chicago was the first time Seattle's offense looked anything like the unit Carroll projected having.

And the framework of Seattle's offense is almost a carbon copy of those USC teams.

There's the two-headed attack at running back of Lynch and Forsett, each bringing complementary styles -- Lynch the bully running between the tackles and Forsett the speedy change up. While their numbers weren't overwhelming, the former California teammates combined for a season-best 111 yards rushing last week. Seattle also ran 31 times, another season-best.

Seattle tried the two-back setup for the first four weeks, but it failed to have the impact that Lynch's arrival brought. Lynch had just 44 yards, but his running allowed Forsett to be a true change up as opposed to trying to carry the load as a featured back.

"The way they used the two-back system you can say it's definitely similar, but we're definitely different backs than what they had over there (at USC)," Forsett said. "As far as similarities, (we're) getting the ball in the running backs' hands out of the backfield, we're lined up wide and it's definitely a great opportunity for the backs."

On the outside is 6-foot-5 receiver Mike Williams, who once held the exact same role in the Trojans offense. After being quiet for the first few weeks, Williams broke out with a career-best 10 catches for 123 yards against Chicago.

And quarterback Matt Hasselbeck proved again to be the distributor, throwing for 242 yards and a touchdown and avoiding a turnover bug that has haunted him dating back to last season.

"We need the attack running game, we need the flash and we need big receivers and we need a variety of guys and the more of that the better," Carroll said. "It really took shape a long time ago and we're in exactly the same formula as we tailor to the strengths of our personnel now to make it fit."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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