USC Football: How Will Offense Change Under Sark?

Rick McMahan@@RickMcMahanSenior Writer IDecember 5, 2013

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It's a new day at USC and that goes for more than just a new face leading the Trojan program.

With Steve Sarkisian now guiding the men of Troy, these Trojans won't be the same guys you would recognize only a season ago.

That is because along with the arrival of "Sark," comes a new change in philosophy and that is especially true of the offense which will see a makeover for 2014 and beyond.

Gone are the days of huddles and having the quarterback taking snaps under center.

Instead, when the Cardinal and Gold have the ball they will be in "frantic" mode and you better not blink because you will certainly miss something.

Sarkisian has already promised that USC's offense will be played with urgency but what exactly does that mean?

The new coach didn't mince words about that subject according to Los Angeles Times reporter, Gary Klein, "The pace will be one that's borderline frantic."

But exactly what does that mean?

Well, if Washington's 2013 season is any indication, it means the Trojans have now entered the frenetic world of the "Hurry-up, No-huddle" offense.

It also means that USC will be running more offensive plays. Many more.

This year, only 11 teams ran more plays that Sarkisian's Huskies. That translates to an average of 82 per contest.

By contrast, USC ran just under 68 offensive plays a game and finished 101st in the nation in that department.

When it was all said and done, Sark and his Huskies finished eighth in the nation in total offense while USC wound up 79th in offensive prowess.

So when you peer out to the field in 2014, you will see a very different Trojan offense and one that is likely to be a whole lot more productive next season.

However, it doesn't mean you will see one of those completely pass-happy offenses that only run to throw opponents off balance as a change of pace.

Instead, USC will still run and they will do that a lot.

In Washington this year, Bishop Sankey—the Huskies fabulous running back—ran 306 times for 1775 yards which was almost as many times as quarterback Keith Price threw the ball.

All told, the Huskies ran the ball almost 60% of the time, a stat that should bring a smile to Buck Allen and his Trojan running back cohorts.

However, this is not to say the running backs will get all of the carries.

While not exactly a "read option" offense, Washington quarterback Keith Price did run the ball 75 times in 2013 although this also included busted plays and sacks.

Nonetheless, Sark's offense will be run heavy and it will feature a lot of zone blocking which plays well to mobile offensive line players such as USC's Max Tuerk and Chad Wheeler, both of whom can get to designated areas within the blocking scheme.

As for the passing game, look for USC to spread out the receivers and sometimes go to a four wideout set while keeping a focus on the tight end especially in quick strike sets.

Speaking of the tight ends—largely missing from the Trojans offense recently—that won't be the case in 2014 if Sark's use of his tight end, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, is any indication.

Though missing for a variety of reasons in 2013, Sefarian-Jenkins still put up nice numbers this year with 33 receptions and seven touchdowns.

Of course, it takes the right kind of quarterback to make this hurry up offense work and this is where it may get kind of tricky.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03:  Steve Sarkisian speaks at a press conference introducing him as the new USC  head football coach at the John McKay Center at the University of Southern California on December 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by S
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Max Browne—USC's 5-star redshirt freshman expected to get a long look next year—is not particularly mobile but did run completely out of the shotgun all through high school.

Meanwhile, Cody Kessler also is familiar with the spread as this was the offense he ran while quarterbacking Centennial High School in Bakersfield, CA.

If Max Wittek sticks around, he does possess the mobility (to some extent) to succeed in this type of offense but he does not have a lot of exposure to it.

Still, the hurry up is not a traditional read-option so mobility is nice but not crucial to making this offense work.

So what does this all mean for USC in 2014?

Well, it means that decades of traditional pro set offenses with the quarterback getting cozy with the centers butt are now a thing of the past.

For those trapped in the past, it will require some getting used to and there is bound to be some push back from those who resist change.

But ultimately if USC's offense experiences the type of Renaissance Washington's offense found under Sark in 2013, even the most resistant will eventually come around.

It's funny how success trumps tradition eh?

Still, John McKay must be spinning in his grave.

I won't even go into the histrionics that Howard Jones would be going through.


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