Heading into his first season as head coach of the USC Trojans, Steve Sarkisian has plenty of pressure on him to build on last year’s 10-win season.
Ed Orgeron proved the Trojans could field a competitive, winning team, despite depth concerns and limited scholarships and now Sarkisian, a career 34-29 coach in five seasons at Washington, is expected to do the same.
Sarkisian got off on a high note, signing a nationally ranked recruiting class that included several elite talents. While that may have eased the concerns of those uncertain of Sarkisian’s ability to lead the Trojans, it also inherently placed him under more pressure.
Steven Lassan of Athlon Sports ranked the coaches in Pac-12, listing Sarkisian at No. 8, discussing some of the expectations to win at a high level:
Taking over at USC is essentially a homecoming for Sarkisian. The California native was a successful quarterback at BYU and had a short stint in the CFL. Sarkisian’s first college coaching job was at El Camino in 2000, and he landed at USC in 2001-03 and again from 2005-08 under Pete Carroll. In 2009, Sarkisian was hired at Washington, where he inherited a team that finished 0-12 in the season prior to his arrival. Sarkisian brought immediate improvement to Seattle, guiding the Huskies to a 5-7 mark in 2009 and a 34-29 mark in his tenure. Washington played in four consecutive bowl games under Sarkisian, but never finished higher than third in the Pac-12 North. Elevating the Huskies back to Pac-12 respectability was a good sign. However, Sarkisian needs to win at a higher level at USC. With a solid coaching staff and the No. 11 signing class from 2014, it seems Sarkisian is on the right path. And it certainly won’t hurt Sarkisian’s prospects when the sanctions end and USC has a full allotment of scholarships.
Despite the fact that Sarkisian was instrumental in turning around the Washington program as Lassan notes, he still finds himself ranked well behind other coaches who have similarly yet to win big with their respective programs. Surprisingly, Lassan also ranks Jim Mora No. 7 despite the quick turnaround and trajectory UCLA appears to be on.
Sarkisian may be ranked No. 8 heading into the season, but a successful year with the Trojans would likely lead to a renewed perspective of the coach.
Athlon Sports’ full ranking of Pac-12 coaches:
1. David Shaw
2. Chris Petersen
3. Todd Graham
4. Mike Riley
5. Mike Leach
6. Rich Rodriguez
7. Jim Mora
8. Steve Sarkisian
9. Mike MacIntyre
10. Kyle Whittingham
11. Mark Helfrich
12. Sonny Dykes