USC Football: 4 Biggest Changes Steve Sarkisian Will Make Next Spring
As USC ushers in the Steve Sarkisian era, there is rampant speculation as to what exactly that means to a program as steeped in tradition as the Cardinal and Gold.
While the nature of Sarkisian's changes remain somewhat murky, there is no doubt that Sark will be instituting his program, and that means USC will be looking different by the time spring rolls around.
But what does all of that mean exactly?
Will there be wholesale changes to the offense? What about the defense? Will it look completely different when USC opens camp for the 2014 season?
This slideshow entertains the possibilities of those changes. While much of what will be revealed won't be apparent until sometime later, there are certain assumptions that can be made.
Will USC undergo a complete makeover under Sark? Here are a few things that Trojans fans can look for in looking ahead to next season.
The Hurry-Up Offense Will Signal a Bellwether Change for the Trojans
For decades, USC has run a conventional pro set offense that typically features the quarterback taking snaps directly under center while running a standard formation featuring two to three receivers and a running back, along with a tight end or a fullback.
Of course, Trojan fans will also instantly recognize the "I formation" as another pro set that USC has run for years.
Until now, that is.
Along with the arrival of Sark will come the hurry-up offense. That means USC quarterbacks taking snaps under center is now a thing of the past. Oh, and huddles? Forget about those, too.
Instead, Sarkisian will depend on a frenetic pace that takes advantage of college rules that disallow substitutions by the defense as he exploits those that can't respond quickly to the offense's variety of formations and receiver combinations.
Once it gets going, USC will offer an offense that will be hard to contain with the quality of skill players the Trojans will attract. This will please fans to no end.
Regardless of its success, this will still be a huge change for USC, make no mistake about that.
What Will the Defense Look Like?
So, what will the defense look like? Will it be the 3-4 or the 4-3? How about the 5-2? That looked pretty good in 2013. Maybe it will be some combination or none of the above.
To casual observers, it would appear that USC is completely up in the air when it comes to the base defense that it is going run.
You know what? They are right.
The Trojans will enter spring practice running some type of a defense, but exactly what that will be remains to be seen. That question won't even begin to be answered until Steve Sarkisian settles on a defensive coordinator, and when that will happen is anyone's guess.
What is known is that Justin Wilcox—the University of Washington's defensive coordinator under Sarkisian—is coveted by USC's new head coach, but circumstances may conspire to prevent Wilcox from bringing his defensive prowess to the southland.
If that is the case, then perhaps Sarkisian will retain Clancy Pendergast, USC's defensive coordinator of 2013 who did a good job this year.
Or maybe Sarkisian will go a completely different direction and surprise us all.
Like I said, it's anyone's guess.
Who Will Be the Quarterback?
Man, you would think that a first-year starting quarterback that led a team in turmoil to a 9-4 record while improving with almost every game would be a lock to start next year.
In USC's case, not so much.
Despite a very nice year in 2013 by Cody Kessler, the starting gig for the Trojans is decidedly up in the air for 2014.
How do we know this? Simple, because Sarkisian said so, according to Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.
And why would the new head coach make this statement? Meet Max Browne.
Browne is USC's 5-star redshirt freshman quarterback who will likely be given every opportunity to wrest the starting position from Kessler.
Make no mistake about it, Browne has NFL written all over him, with some, including former USC recruiting target Eldridge Massington, even comparing him to Peyton Manning among others, as reported by Brian McLaughlin of the Sporting News.
Then there is Max Wittek, a forgotten man in this unit, but a kid who has all of the tools and is just waiting to put them together.
So, will it be the incumbent and improving Kessler, the stud kid Browne or the underdog Wittek who will lead USC going forward in 2014?
Check back with me in September.
What Will the 2015 Recruiting Class Look Like?
Along with a new regime comes a new outlook on what is needed from USC's incoming recruits.
Although the vast majority of targeted recruits will stay the same—after all, quality players will still be coveted—there may be some departures in some units that deviate from what Trojans fans are used to.
For example, in a hurry-up offense that eschews huddles, mobile offensive linemen who can zone block may be more coveted than the plodding, big guys USC is often used to lining up.
Also, a quarterback who can recognize defenses and respond to them only works when the players that surround him are equally adept at negotiating their roles in an expedient manner.
Sark will be recruiting offensive players who can match physical talent with cerebral acumen at all positions.
On defense, whoever the Tojans' next defensive coordinator is will recruit the strengths of whatever defense he implements.
Will the focus be on stalwart interior linemen to facilitate a base 3-4 defense with mobile outside linebackers to seal the edges, or will it be a 4-3 that seeks to plug gaps and bring physical safeties in to create havoc wherever they can?
Your guess is as good as mine, but it is a question that will need to be answered as spring approaches and recruiting evaluations begin.
Make no mistake about it, changes are coming to the Cardinal and Gold.
Sarikisian will put his own stamp on the program, and the Trojans will take on a new look. For those who are USC purists, it may take some getting used to.
Certainly, the offense will change—a lot—and unless 2013 defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is retained on Sark's staff, there will be changes on that side of the ball as well.
Of course, following 7-7 and 9-4 seasons the last two years, some might argue that is a good thing.
Still, traditionalists may cringe when they see USC in 2014 and, scratching their heads, wonder what is next to change for the men of Troy.
But successful programs change with the times, and it may work out just fine that USC isn't mired in the past.
However, it does cause one to ponder about what changes are on the horizon for the men of Troy. Perhaps we will see names on the backs of jerseys or maybe even a new color scheme.
Okay, now that is going too far.