USC Trojans Football: The Blueprint for a Perfect Offseason
As new head coach Steve Sarkisian heads into the offseason leading to his inaugural Trojan campaign, he will be pondering many aspects that he hopes will manifest a successful year in 2014.
And as he surveys the college football landscape that surrounds him, Coach Sark will attempt to craft a battle plan that helps him achieve the lofty goals he set out for when he accepted the job to lead the men of Troy after this recently completed season.
In doing so, Sark will assemble a blueprint to satisfy an administration and a fanbase that is hungry for success.
This slideshow will look at some of those things that Sark will have to consider as he prepares for the 2014 season.
With the knowledge that success next year will be built on a foundation of offseason moves made now, here are some of the things that Sark will be working on as he prepares for the upcoming college football season.
Sarkisian Will Hope the Fanbase Will Stop Blaming Him for Not Being Ed Orgeron
When Steve Sarkisian was announced as the new head coach of the Trojans, many who follow USC were disappointed that interim head coach Ed Orgeron was not offered the permanent job to lead the men of Troy.
And that disappointment was understandable: Orgeron did an outstanding job under difficult circumstances, and along the way, the gruff Cajun endeared himself to the USC community at large who saw him as the consummate Trojan.
However, that is not the way athletic director Pat Haden saw it. With an eye cast to the future, Haden tabbed Sarkisian as the guy he saw as the best to lead USC for the long term.
Since then, Sarkisian has had to listen to the criticism of a reluctant fanbase who is still suffering from separation anxiety from Orgeron.
For USC to succeed, Sarkisian will need the support of those who follow the men of Troy, and in order to do that, certain fans will have to stop blaming Sark for not being Coach O.
It's time to let Sark be Sark.
In the Offseason, Sark Will Have to Identify Walk-on Players to Bolster Roster
One of the undeniable detriments facing Sarkisian in 2014 is a depleted roster, thanks to the NCAA-mandated sanctions that are set to expire after the 2014 season.
Of course, USC has been dealing with this unfortunate fact for the last two years. There is little doubt that the sanctions have accomplished the NCAA's goal, which was to cripple the program as a form of revenge for USC having the temerity to challenge college football's governing body.
To combat the sanctions, USC has had to rely on walk-on players to fill roster spots, and to the prior regime's credit, they have done a great job in accomplishing that mission.
No less than eight players saw significant playing time for USC in 2013, and some of those, such as offensive lineman Nathan Guertler and cornerback Ryan Dillard, played important roles.
Others, such as wide receivers Cody Skene, Robby Kolanz, Aaron Minor and Christian Tober, tight end Christian Guzman and running back James Toland IV all contributed mightily to the Trojans in a variety of ways.
These were not the only players who contributed despite not possessing a scholarship, and they should all be celebrated for helping USC through a tough time.
Part of what would be a perfect offseason blueprint for Sark would be to find even more of these types of committed Trojans to help out in 2014.
Lord knows he will need them.
Part of the Blueprint Will Include a Team-Wide Commitment to Conditioning
Because USC will have far fewer scholarship players than its opponents, it is crucial that the Trojans maintain the health of those players they do have. In order to do this, they will have to be in top condition during the upcoming season.
While injuries are inherent to the game, USC can help itself by being in the best shape health-wise as possible. The entire team must be committed to an offseason regiment that gets them prepared for the rigors of college football.
To help the players achieve this goal, Sarkisian has brought his strength and conditioning coach, Ivan Lewis, down from Washington to help whip the players into shape.
Lewis is highly regarded and knows what it takes to get players into prime health and ready for a long football season.
Now Sark needs his players to devote themselves to that same mission.
Sark Will Need His Players to Buy into His Blueprint Vision
Steve Sarkisian will bring sweeping changes to his new program, and part of his perfect offseason will be having his players buy into those changes.
Sark will institute a new hurry-up offense, and veterans such as quarterback Cody Kessler—if he is indeed the starting quarterback—and other offensive players will have to subscribe to that philosophy.
Meanwhile, the defense will also see its share of changes as new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox installs his version of a 3-4 defense.
Those are only a few of what will be a new-look USC program and Sark will need a devoted buy-in from all of his players as they prepare for the 2014 season.
Sark Needs to Celebrate a Great Recruiting Class for 2014
Sark can pat himself on the back for already being well on his way to signing a great recruiting class in 2014. He needs to put a bow tie on this year's class by getting signatures from cornerback Adoree Jackson, safety/receiver John "JuJu" Smith and offensive lineman Damien Mama.
If he can sign those premier prep recruits and get signatures on letters of intent from those who have already given their verbal pledges to the Trojans, Sark will have gone a long way toward building a great offseason blueprint.
Establishing Cohesion in His New Staff Will Be a Component of Sark's Blueprint
In his short time as the leader of the Trojan program, Steve Sarkisian has assembled a world-class staff to assist him in guiding the Cardinal and Gold.
Sark's staff includes six former Washington assistants that he is very familiar with, but in addition to those, there are four other unit coaches who will be new to the way Sarkisian runs things.
Holdovers from Lane Kiffin's staff include offensive coordinator Clay Helton and receivers coach Tee Martin. They are joined by offensive line coach Tim Drevno (San Francisco 49'ers) and defensive line coach Bo Davis (Texas Longhorns).
Sark will have to meld this group into a cohesive staff that all pulls in the same direction to achieve the ultimate goal of making the Trojans the best they can possibly be.
If that is accomplished, USC has the opportunity to be very special in 2014.
Expect Sarkisian, who is a hard worker anyway, to be pulling double-duty as he prepares for his first season as the Trojans head man.
Leaving no stone unturned, Sark will do whatever it takes to bring USC back to relevance when people talk of the very best in college football.
To accomplish this, Sark will look to a long-term plan that dots every "i" and crosses each and every "t" to get the program to that objective.
As a former aerospace engineer, I can tell you that the quality of any project is predicated on the plan that builds it.
And the same thing goes for a successful college football program.
Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan
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