USC Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from Pac-12 Media Days
The annual zoo known as Pac-12 media days began on July 23, when a variety of conference coaches took their place in front of a hungry band of reporters determined to pick their minds in preparation for the 2014 college football season.
Among those program leaders was Trojan head coach Steve Sarkisian, and he offered some illumination on what he sees lying ahead for the men of Troy this year.
Remarkably candid, coach "Sark" offered up some interesting tidbits as USC prepares to embark on the final practice sessions in the fall as the August start of the football season looms directly ahead.
This slideshow will look at some of those pearls of Sarkisian wisdom and attempt to decipher what they mean for USC in 2014.
Did the USC head man tip his hand during media days?
Read on to find out.
Note: All quotes obtained from transcripts provided by ASAP Sports Transcripts.
Sark Gives Credit to Kiffin and Coach Orgeron
When Sarkisian delivered his opening remarks about USC, he made sure to give credit to those who went before him:
"It's a credit to the previous staff and the job they did in recruiting really fine young men that have been closer together to me than probably any team I've been around."
While it is no surprise that Sark would tip his hat to the prior regimes, it was interesting that he would note the tight bond of these players who went through so much in 2013.
The closeness of these players should serve USC well in 2014.
Sark Will Balance a Competitive Fall Camp with Remaining Healthy
Given USC's lack of depth in terms of scholarship players this year, it should come as no surprise that a major challenge will come from attempting to promote competition in the fall camp while keeping a mindful eye on the health of the players he has available.
Said Sarkisian: "We need to have great competitive practices, but we have to allow the recovery in place so we're a healthy football team from the start of the season and we're a healthy football team come late November. If we can do that, I think we have a chance to do something pretty special this year."
This juggling of competition and prudence in conducting these practices will be a main challenge in fall camp.
The Head Man Likes His Blend of Veterans and Youth
In what will be a recurring theme for 2014, USC will need all hands on deck this year as they try to overcome a roster woefully thin in terms of depth.
To that end, the Trojans will need everyone to contribute meaningful minutes, and that includes the youngsters that are vying for playing time.
Fortunately for Sark, he is impressed with the blend of veterans and youth he will have available this year.
When addressing this subject, he was very clear:
As we got going into spring ball and watched the development of some of the players that red‑shirted, and I'm thinking about like Chris Hawkins, I'm thinking about an Antwaun Woods who played 20 snaps a game a year ago, I'm thinking about Toa Lobendahn, some of the new faces. Then I thought okay, couple that with Josh Shaw, couple that with Kevon Seymour, we have a chance.
Now Sark and his staff will have to provide the guidance to make that chance a good one.
Come Hell or High Water, Cody Kessler Will Start at Quarterback
Though he didn't exactly say it at the event, Sark appears absolutely set with Cody Kessler as his starting quarterback.
On that subject, among other things, he said, "Yeah, Cody Kessler is our starting quarterback. Cody’s a great player. You look at the second half of last season, and I thought he played extremely well." Sark went on, "He's ultra-competitive. He has great leadership. He's got extremely quick hands, which in our offense is critical for the quarterback's success."
The takeaway for backup quarterback Max Browne? Hang in there, your time will come.
Just not in 2014.
Look for Adoree' Jackson to Play a Lot in 2014
Regardless of roster needs, one freshman guaranteed to see a lot of playing time in 2014 is Adoree' Jackson, but exactly where he will play is still to be determined.
When addressing that specific topic, Sark said how Jackson will be used will reveal itself in the fall practice session:
Well, Adoree' [Jackson]’s a very talented young man. He's an explosive athlete, A world-class long jumper. He can run. He can do a lot of things. He can probably play DB, wide receiver. He can probably return kicks. Our challenge is to put him in the best position to be successful for him, one, and for two, what is going to give USC the most immediate success?
And it appears that Sark will make his determination on where Jackson will play early in those practice sessions:
"Where can he impact us the most? That is what we have to figure out the first five or so days as we move forward. If he's playing on both sides of the ball, if it's only on one side, which side is it? If he's returning kicks, it remains to be seen."
Where Jackson plays is one of the more intriguing storylines of the fall.
Sark Evades Question About Kiffin
Give Steve Sarkisian points for evasively sidestepping a question regarding his predecessor, Lane Kiffin, and any questions Sark may have asked the former Trojan head coach.
When asked if he asked Kiffin about the job, Sark said the following:
Sure. You try to get some guidance on things, but ultimately I wanted to forge my own opinions. I really tried to come in and give everybody in the organization a clean slate and give them a chance to show what they were about and what their strengths were and ultimately show their weaknesses. But you try to gather as much information as you can and then formulate your own opinions and keep moving forward. I think we've done a good job of that.
Does that mean Kiffin wasn't forthcoming with advice, or that Sark chose not to place emphasis on it?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Sark Is Recruiting for Need and Not Chasing Stars
Given the needs of a depleted roster, Sarkisian has been forced to change his recruiting strategy to some extent.
Because of this, he has modified his plan when it comes to signing future Trojans, saying, "We're just trying to recruit the people that fit us the best. We're not chasing stars. We're chasing the best people, the best players to come to USC that are going to help our program continue to grow, get better, and compete for championships year‑in and year out. "
Of course, that means USC will still get more than its fair share of those 5-star recruits.
Sark Listens to His Players
There is a new phrase associated with USC, and it goes something like this: "Turned up SC."
Catchy phrase, but where did it come from?
According to Sark, it came from his players. "That was brought to me by our players that that's what I should be saying."
When asked what it meant, the USC head man said, "I don't know. Next thing I know there is a Billboard with my face on it saying turned up SC too. So it's just something fun. You try to stay connected to the kids as best you can. And if that little saying gets us stats, then that's great."
Somehow, that is a quote that I just couldn't see coming out of Kiffin's mouth.
USC Will Have a Great Defense, According to Sark
As USC's defense goes, so too go the Trojans, and this fact is not lost on Sark:
"I like our defense a lot. I think we're very good. We have a really good scheme. Like I said, I love us up front on defense, and Justin's expertise at the secondary. So I think we have a chance to be a very good defensive football team. "
As long as they stay healthy.
It is readily apparent that Steve Sarkisian is very comfortable in front of a microphone, and he hit it out of the ballpark in his turn in front of the media.
As has been the case since he arrived as USC's head coach, Sark said all of the right things and made a very persuasive case for Trojan fans to be be excited about the 2014 college football season.
This slideshow only looked at some of the things uttered by Sarkisian. For a full transcript, click here.
When taken in its entirety, Sark's words portend a very successful year, and now there is only one thing left for Trojan fans to wish for...
Get the darn season started already!
Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan
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