USC’s Steve Sarkisian, Cody Kessler Among Top Coach-QB Duos


Steve Sarkisian and Cody Kessler were ranked the sixth best head coach-quarterback duo in the nation by Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall.

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Sarkisian and Kessler trail Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Cardale Jones, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Dak Prescott, Michigan States’s Mark Dantonio and Connor Cook, TCU’s Garry Patterson and Trevone Boykin, and Penn State’s James Franklin and Christian Hackenberg.

Here is what Gall had to say about the Trojans’ ranking:

"6. USC: Steve Sarkisian-Cody Kessler Coach Sark is ranked as just the ninth-best coach in the Pac-12, but that is mostly due to the tremendous depth of talent this league has on its sidelines. Kessler is the most underrated player in the nation and the best signal-caller in a league stacked with great QBs. Should this duo win the Pac-12 or land in the playoff, Sarkisian will move up the Pac-12 rankings."

As Gall explained, Sarkisian was recently named the ninth-best coach in the Pac-12, but his quarterback, the top returning player at his position, elevates him significantly when it comes to duos in college football.

That Kessler fits the mold of Sarkisian’s “point-guard quarterback” style helped the two mesh so well in 2014 and there’s no reason the partnership cannot take off even more in 2015.

The Pac-12’s top coach Todd Graham checked in at No. 8 with his quarterback Mike Bercovici, who showed plenty of potential in place of Taylor Kelly because of injury.

Not to take anything away from Sarkisian or Kessler, who just completed one of the best seasons a USC quarterback has ever had in terms of statistics, but the high ranking is a bit of a no-brainer, especially in the Pac-12 this year.

Outside of Graham and Bercovici, Rich Rodriquez and Anu Solomon are the only duo in the conference with much of a claim to challenging the Trojan pairing. The Wildcat coach-QB placed No. 10 in Athlon’s rankings.

The trouble for Arizona and Arizona State, is the short span of the relationship. Both duos could go on to do great things, but neither quarterbacks’ bright prospects outweigh the production already on the board for Kessler. While both coaches ranked ahead of Sarkisian in coaching rankings, neither has accomplished so much more than Sarkisian to tip the scales.

Cal’s Sonny Dykes and Jared Goff also make an appearance on the list, but both sides of that equation earn their No. 11 ranking on potential.

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One semi-surprising omission is Stanford’s David Shaw and redshirt senior quarterback Kevin Hogan. After a bright start, Hogan’s college career has largely fizzled out, but there is still enough talent there to warrant consideration. Ultimately the duo probably missed out due to lack of flash.

On the horizon in the Pac-12, Oregon’s Mark Helfrich and UCLA’s Jim Mora lost top quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley to the NFL draft this year. Their replacements could easily vault these head coaches back onto this list. Jeff Lockie or Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams might emerge at Oregon, while Josh Rosen looks primed to begin a new era for the Bruins.

To put it simply, there is plenty of competition for Sarkisian and Kessler as the Pac-12’s top coach-quarterback duo this season. As Gall put it, however, a conference title would easily seal their place in the hierarchy.