Steve Sarkisian took time out of his busy national signing day schedule to chat with fans on Spreecast, talking everything from depth to recruiting and the Trojan family.
“If there was ever a year we could have struggled in this transition year recruiting-wise, this could have been it,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian pointed to needs on the offensive line, at tight end and in skill positions, all of which USC filled this year with players like Damien Mama, Bryce Dixon, Adoree’ Jackson and John “Juju” Smith. He noted that all five offensive linemen the Trojans landed hail from Southern California.
In fact, Sarkisian took it a step forward, “I’d be surprised if there’s a better offensive line group in any class in the country.”
Looking forward to next year, Sarkisian said that USC intentionally declined to take a running back, but that the position will be a focal point next year.
That’s a process that the Trojans have already started and Sarkisian expressed excitement over being able to take a full class of 25.
“The recruiting process never ends,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian emphasized the continuing saga of these players and their development going forward.
“Recruiting is just one piece of the puzzle,” Sarkisian said. “The development is another important aspect.”
Sarkisian took pride in the success he had at Washington developing less heralded players and said that the same level of development would be expected of the four and five-star players that they were able to recruit at USC.
He also talked about the momentum of the recruiting period, going back to the Las Vegas Bowl victory and continuing through January.
“We have an unbelievable product to sell in USC,” Sarkisian said of the recruiting process. However, he said that personal connections are just as important, as is the ability to develop personal and trusting relationships with the recruits and their families.
The Super Bowl turned out to be another great boon to USC recruiting as Sarkisian pointed out, “It was awesome for USC to think that there were 11 players or coaches associated with USC involved in the game.”
“Other teams talk about their ‘nation,’ but at USC it’s always about the Trojan family,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian also touched on the importance of recruiting players away from the NFL and back to USC. In particular, he talked about Hayes Pullard and Josh Shaw, senior leaders on and off the field.
“We’re poised for a great run on defense spearheaded by Hayes and Josh,” Sarkisian said.
Keeping those players goes a long way towards one of Sarkisian’s other challenges for the season: dealing with depth.
“The big key for us is developing the necessary depth on roster at key positions so that if when we’re faced with injury we have the right people who can step in and do the job,” Sarkisian said.
The competition in the spring will be directly affected by that depth concerns, even though Sarkisian said that they will avoid too much tackling in practice, choosing instead to focus on learning the new schemes.
Finally, Sarkisian answered the most important question of the day: What does he think of the Sark-nado nickname?
“It’s kinda catchy. As long as people are using it in a positive vein I like anything.”