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USC Football: Grading Steve Sarkisian's First Month on the Job

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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Rick McMahanSenior Writer IJanuary 2, 2014

A month has passed since USC athletic director Pat Haden named former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian to the same position with the Trojans.

In that short time, Sarkisian has done what he can behind the scenes as he tiptoes around a disappointed fanbase that would have preferred that former interim head coach Ed Orgeron been tabbed as the guy to lead the men of Troy going forward.

Bruised feelings aside, coach "Sark" has made his presence felt, although he wisely kept his distance from the team as they prepared to meet Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl—a game the Trojans would win handily, 45-20.

Instead, Sarkisian addressed the two components of his new program that he knew he could affect without distracting the 2013 Trojans as they prepared for their bowl game.

First, Sark started crafting the football staff that he would lead going forward in 2014.

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

With uncertainty surrounding the personnel that would constitute his staff at USC, Sark immediately brought in Johnny Nansen to coach running backs and special teams, Keith Heyward (defensive backs) and Peter Sirmon (linebackers and recruiting coordinator).

All three of the aforementioned coaches plied their trade under Sark at Washington, and all are highly respected by their peers.

Shortly thereafter, Sark announced that Tee Martin—a holdover from the Kiffin staff—would stay on as the wide receivers coach, a move that was roundly applauded by those who follow the men of Troy.

After that flurry of moves, the formation of Sark's staff slowed, and with the exception of Clay Helton retaining his offensive coordinator position—the same duties he held this year for Kiffin—speculation ran rampant regarding the identity of the remaining staff.

However, there was a likelihood that the reason for Sark not naming any further staff was due to Washington's participation in their own bowl game, and as soon as that was over, things would shake loose.

That was borne out as Sarkisian immediately named Justin Wilcox as his defensive coordinator, Marques Tuiasosopo tight ends coach and Ivan Lewis as the strength and conditioning coach following the Huskies win over BYU.

That news was soon followed by the naming of Tim Drevno as the offensive line coach—another move that was widely applauded by those who follow the game.

So as of this writing, only defensive line coach remains as a vacant position.

But that is only one portion of the impact Sark has had on the program in his short stay with the Trojans.

Another area where Sarkisian has effected change for the Cardinal and Gold has been in the area of recruiting. He wasted little time exerting his influence in this all important aspect of his duties as head coach.

It was well known that Sark was a good recruiter, and that was borne out when almost immediately he convinced cornerback Jonathan Lockett to flip from Washington to USC and secured an early enrollment commitment from JUCO defensive lineman, Claudeson Pelon.

Sark was just getting started, and those two commitments were followed up by another early enrollee in defensive lineman Don Hill and a huge "get" when offensive tackle Chris Brown gave Sark his pledge a couple of weeks ago.

And that was followed up with a commitment by 3-star quarterback Jalen Greene.

For Sarkisian, it has been quite a whirlwind month, but he has plenty more to do before the February letter of intent signing day.

Still, that remains in the future and this article is dealing with the last (and first) month of the "Sarkisian era."

To that end, Sark gets a solid "B+" so far, and while some may say I am being too charitable, I think the new Trojan head man has done an admirable job under trying circumstances.

Once entrenched in his position, Sark will more firmly put his stamp on this program but considering his short time on the job, he has done very well in a short period of time.

Now fans of the program can only hope that carries through the entirety of 2014. 



Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan


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