6 Issues We Would Love for USC's Steve Sarkisian to Address at Pac-12 Media Days
The Steve Sarkisian era officially begins on August 30 when the Trojans host Fresno State at the venerable, old Coliseum.
However, Trojan fans will get a glimpse into their new head coach's mindset when Pac-12 media days begin on July 23 in Hollywood, California.
Sarkisian will be joined by quarterback Cody Kessler and defensive lineman Leonard Williams to answer the queries of reporters who cover the sport for a variety of media outlets.
While the musings of Kessler and Williams will certainly be of interest, it is the mind of Sark that should be of most concern to those who follow the men of Troy.
So while fans hope that the reporters ask pertinent questions, this slideshow will offer some that may evade those at the event.
Although these may not be the most pressing of interests to the masses, here are six issues we would like Sark to address.
Will There Be a Uniform Change, Coach?
Recently, Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News reported that USC may be considering a new look that features a shiny helmet.
In the past, proposed changes to the traditional Trojan uniform have been discussed and rejected with old-school arguments suggesting that deviating from the past would border on heresy.
On the surface, a shiny helmet seems rather harmless in terms of compromising that tradition, but wholesale changes often begin with a rather innocuous modification. Will USC try to begin that process with a glitzy new lid?
What say you, coach?
What Is the Redshirt Plan?
There are two things we know for sure when it comes to the 2014 edition of the USC Trojans.
The first is that due to three years of scholarship reductions, the Trojans will be operating with a very thin roster. The other is that USC has a very talented group of incoming freshmen this year.
Because of this, Steve Sarkisian and his staff will have to scrutinize these talented youngsters to see what—if any—contributions they can make to the Trojans this year.
Will Sark simply wait to see how the team comes out of fall practice in order to determine those contributions, or does he have a set plan in place when it comes to redshirting players who may need a year of seasoning before they see the field of play?
It's an issue that needs addressing and one I would like to hear Sark answer.
Coach, Do You Really Need Five Scholarship Quarterbacks in 2015?
It wasn't so long ago that the Trojans had two verbal commitments from quarterbacks—Ricky Town and David Sills—in the 2015 recruiting class and many people wondered why USC would need five scholarships devoted to that position next year.
Then Sills decommitted from the Trojans (story from Reign of Troy's Alicia de Artola), and the concern that too many "schollies" were being given for quarterbacks seemed to be abated.
Then again, maybe not.
Recently, the Trojans offered Scout.com 3-star prospect Sam Darnold, and according to Scout's Gerard Martinez, Darnold is giving the Trojans a very long look, saying about USC, "They’re really awesome, and hopefully, I can move forward and I can move forward with them. USC is my hometown team, and I have grown up a USC fan so it is something I have dreamed of."
Darnold is an intriguing prospect and rising fast on many recruiting boards, but once again, can USC afford to carry five scholarship quarterbacks when they are trying to rebuild a roster that has suffered from three years of scholarship reductions?
Of course, there is an outside chance that redshirt junior Cody Kessler could leave for the NFL if he has a successful 2014 season, but it seems unlikely that a 6'1" quarterback will go high in the draft, and Kessler is smart enough to understand that his prospects in the pros as a low-round draft choice is not nearly as appealing as sticking around for his senior year at USC.
So once again, do you really need five scholarship quarterbacks in 2015, coach?
Why Are You Stockpiling so Many Cornerbacks?
Quarterback is not the only position USC seems pretty set at. A gander at the roster also reveals that the Trojans have the potential to have a bevy of cornerbacks on the 2015 roster as well.
According to USC's official website, the Trojans list eight scholarship cornerbacks (Rahshead Johnson and Adoree' Jackson are also listed as receivers) and a ninth (Ryan Dillard) got a lot of playing time in 2013.
And that's not all: the Trojans also have five scholarship offers out to other uncommitted cornerbacks too.
Now, I understand that Sark is offering prospects that are versatile enough to play other positions. In fact, that was the subject of a recent article of mine, but the fact is that the 2015 roster could feature at least 11 players who are listed primarily as cornerbacks.
Is that too many?
Exactly How Do You Plan to Use Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner, Coach?
If you scan USC's 2014 roster, you will see that the Trojans are in possession of two fullbacks—Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner—and both of them are very good at what they do.
So why is this a problem?
Because in Steve Sarkisian's offense, fullback—in terms of the traditional definition of the position—isn't really featured as part of the offense.
That means Sark will have to get creative in order to get these two very talented players on the field in 2014.
Both players have been taking some reps at running back, and with their size (especially in the case of the 255-pound Vainuku), short-yardage situational packages could easily be inserted.
Also, given the Trojans' lack of tight ends, one or both could be utilized at that position—especially in two-tight end sets—or perhaps as an H-back in certain formations.
Anyway, those are my thoughts, coach; what are yours?
How Are You Going to Use JuJu Smith?
As one continues to scan USC's 2014 roster, there are other areas that will require attention by the coaching staff, and one of those is the safety position.
Currently, there are only three scholarship players listed for two positions, and while Su'a Cravens, Leon McQuay and Gerald Bowman are outstanding players, this unit is woefully thin and cannot absorb any issues that may compromise the availability of those players just mentioned.
However, there is one option available, albeit one that will require using a true freshman that in a perfect world would be playing on the other side of the ball.
John "JuJu" Smith is a Scout.com 5-star safety whose prowess at the position in high school earned all those stars but who is a player that would likely prefer to play wide receiver in college.
The question is, can the team afford to fulfill Smith's wishes when the roster begs for him to play a position that he is obviously capable of excelling at and is a team need?
Although the roster lists him as both a safety and wide receiver, what will his focus be in fall camp and, more importantly, when the season starts?
Of course, more intelligent scribes would pose far more pertinent questions to the Trojans' new head man than those offered in this slideshow.
Other queries might probe Sark's mind for his response to how important he believes it is to break the UCLA and Notre Dame losing streaks, how does the dearth of running backs in the 2015 class affect his recruiting strategy at the position and why wasn't receiver Junior Pomee given an opportunity to return to USC after his legal issues were resolved.
And there are many other questions that will illicit answers that likely will illuminate the mind of Sark more than the questions posed in this piece.
All of which should have fans of the program arriving at the same conclusion and a question of their own:
Aren't you glad I won't be asking questions at Pac-12 media days?
Follow me on Twitter: @Rick McMahan
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