USC has decided to go with a familiar face in its search for a new head football coach—one that could fill an important niche in Los Angeles.
No, the Trojans didn't tab their charismatic interim boss, Ed Orgeron, as the new head man. Instead, they are going forward with former assistant coach Steve Sarkisian.
ESPN's Joe Schad broke the news Monday afternoon that the current Washington coach and QB specialist will be heading back south to Los Angeles:
While many were pulling for Orgeron to be brought back full time (who is now reportedly leaving the program), USC made a smart move to bring in a quarterback-minded coach to lead a team that struggled through quarterback issues for much of 2013.
"Sark" spent two stints and a total of seven seasons from 2001-2008 at Southern Cal. He was an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach in his early years with the program, where he worked with Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.
He left USC in 2004 to join the Oakland Raiders' offensive staff only to return the following year.
In 2007, Sarkisian became the associate head coach and offensive coordinator for the Trojans, where he coached NFL draft picks Mark Sanchez and John David Booty under center.
USC went 75-14 overall while he was on staff, including 49-10 in conference play.
With the new hire, USC will be looking to make it back to where the program was while Sarkisian was on staff—a program that consistently posted double-digit-win seasons, dominated the West Coast and was firmly in the national title race.
A staple for the Trojans in that time was definitive leadership and prolific play at the quarterback position, something they lacked this season.
After an early QB competition/controversy between sophomores Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, Kessler emerged as a solid option under center. But he was never able to churn out the production of his predecessors. Kessler didn't have a single game with more than 300 passing yards this season.
Kessler also had two of the most talented receivers in college football in Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor at his disposal. Though Lee was in and out of the lineup with injuries, he and Agholor are skilled enough to share receptions and still each break 1,000 yards.
However, neither even broke 900.
As a result, USC finished the regular season 10th in the Pac-12 in passing yards and 11th with just 16 passing touchdowns.
This might be understandable if the Trojans had a powerful rushing attack, but they didn't. USC finished 11th in the league in total offense, not even averaging 400 yards per contest.
Meanwhile, Sark's Washington team finished all the way up at No. 2 behind Oregon, tallying more than 500 yards per game on average.
Given the job he did in turning around Washington, he should have little problem fixing a Trojan team that might still finish this season with 10 wins. UW was 0-12 when Sarkisian came to Seattle in 2009 and he has since brought it to an 8-4 record.
His first job in Troy will be turning Kessler, or another USC signal-caller, into a Sarkisian-caliber quarterback. From Palmer and Leinart at USC to Jake Locker and Keith Price at Washington, Sark has always had talent at the position.
Locker left UW in 2011 and was a top-10 NFL draft pick. Price is just shy of 9,000 career passing yards with 73 total touchdowns.
Even if Kessler doesn't pan out immediately, Sarkisian could turn to Max Browne, who joined the Trojans as a 247Sports composite 5-star in the 2013 class and could be their quarterback of the future.
With a strong resume and longstanding connection to USC, Steve Sarkisian might just be the man to bring back the days of 3,000-yard passers, Pac-12 championships and BCS bowls to Troy.