Ever since Ed Orgeron angrily stormed out of Troy after being passed over for the head-coaching job, there's been a large void to fill at USC. Spirits are relatively high around the Trojans, as a Las Vegas Bowl win and success on the recruiting trail are starting off a much more favorable offseason compared to 2012.
New head coach Steve Sarkisian has been hard at work assembling a new staff around him, but fittingly enough, the one role he hasn't yet filled is that of the defensive line coach.
It's been over a month, and the position remains hauntingly vacant.
And it hasn't just been vacant; no really viable candidates have been tossed around to take the job, which is troubling, as the defense line was so pivotal to USC's success in 2013.
At first, it looked as if fabled recruiter and Washington defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi would be following Sark to Southern California. In late December, however, USC and Washington began investigating Lupoi for NCAA violations. Lupoi was accused of paying for online classes and private tutoring for a recruit.
That brought the Lupoi train to a screeching halt and has left the Trojans without options. It has also caused some heat to come down on athletic director Pat Haden because of USC's existing sanctions.
Sarkisian told the media that he would contact Orgeron about coming back to USC, but whether it's because of pride or other opportunities, the fan-favorite coach has yet to return to Troy.
According to LA Daily News' Scott Wolf, that best-case scenario for Trojan fans absolutely isn't happening.
Steve Sarkisian said Ed Orgeron will not be coming back to #USC as defensive line coach— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) December 31, 2013
So if Orgeron isn't coming back, who is Sarkisian going to hire?
That is the million-dollar question at USC right now.
Sarkisian has assembled a top-notch staff, though it is arguable that popular coaches like Tommie Robinson and Clancy Pendergast proved enough in 2013 and should have been able to keep their jobs. Nevertheless, the position that has been the hardest to fill has been that of the D-line coach.
It's important that Sarkisian finds a top-notch replacement soon; games are won in the trenches, and we saw in 2013 that the Trojans had one of the best fronts in the Pac-12. While much of that can be attributed to the players' talents, we know that the Orgeron effect was a major part of it.
Sarkisian should be looking for a coach who is not only a good teacher, but also a great motivator. In short, he's looking for someone Orgeron-esque, and that's what makes this particular vacancy that much more arduous to fill.
USC resumes classes on Jan. 13, and offseason workouts will begin shortly thereafter. There's no doubt the position will be filled well in advance of spring ball, but the sooner the new D-line coach can get in, make his mark and start getting to know the players, the better Sarkisian's chance of succeeding next fall.