Steve Sarkisian Talks Scholarships, Uptempo, Lane Kiffin and Pete Carroll With Colin Cowherd


Dec 3, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Steve Sarkisian at press conference to announce his hiring as Southern California Trojans football coach at John McKay Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Sarkisian took time this morning to chat with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd about changing dynamics in college football, the switch to the uptempo offense, his relationships with Lane Kiffin and Pete Carroll, and USC”s scholarship situation

When it comes to the changes that will come on offense as he installs the new uptempo-system, Sarkisian points to the speed of decision-making and avoiding one of Lane Kiffin’s cardinal sins — getting lost in the play sheet.

“[The uptempo offense] minimized the paralysis by analysis on game day of staring at that big call sheet and just making good quick decisions,” Sarkisian said about the transformation he saw at Washington.

“There’s a rule that says you have to snap it within 40 seconds or you get a delay of game penalty. There’s no rule that says you have to wait 20 seconds before you can snap it,” Sarkisian said. “So you might as well go as fast as you can go.”

Going fast is a recurring theme for the new Trojan head coach. He emphasized the advantage of simplifying the offense in favor of speed at both the tactical and physical level.

“We tried to simplify things. We tried to put an emphasis on our skill players, maybe de-emphasize some of the play upfront,” said Sarkisian, who buys into the idea that speed is the newest form of deception in college football as it prevents defenses from adjusting and substituting.

Oct. 20, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Arizona defeated Washington 52-17. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sarkisian went on to talk about the importance of recruiting quarterbacks who were in the mold of the point guard in terms of distributing the ball to playmakers.

Many Trojan fans had plenty of complaints about the way Lane Kiffin did or didn’t use his playmakers, but Sarkisian addressed the concerns that he and Kiffin come from the same mold.

“Lane and I are different,” Sarkisian said. “I left five years ago from USC. I’ve changed philosophically on offense, defense and special teams. I still inherited some of the traits from Pete…but at the end of the day, we’re different people. We’re different philosophically and we’ve got a different approach to our teams and how we do things.”

Sarkisian then revealed the biggest piece of advice he received from Pete Carroll as he left the Trojans to take the Washington job: “‘Be You’ because when adversity strikes, the real you is going to come out anyway. So make sure those kids and the people working with you know who you are from day one.”

Cowherd and Sarkisian also talked about the closing gap between the SEC and everyone else in the country.

“Universities are investing in college football. The TV money, the coaches salaries, the facilities, the investment in recruiting. In the end teams are getting better, conferences are getting better.” Sarkisian said. “This is the best our conference has been since I’ve been part of it.”

Of course, USC has unique problems when compared to the rest of the Pac-12 and the nation. Sarkisian revealed that he expects to start next season with between 65-75 scholarship players healthy and available, compared to the 80-85 most other teams will have. Those numbers will require management in practice as much as they will in games, according to Sarkisian.

“They’re going to look great on day one, day two, day three, day four. I’m worried about what are they going to look like in mid-October,” Sarkisian said. “We have to make sure that we’re healthy and fresh and they’re feeling good about themselves in mid-October and into November when we’re on a championship run.”

If nothing else, Sarkisian has never shied away from expectations.

You can listen to the entire interview here.