USC exits football coaching carousel

first_imgDuring college football’s offseason, nearly every school participates in the “coaching carousel” to reshuffle their respective staffs.Some teams only make a few adjustments. Others undergo widespread changes, which often occur after the arrival of a new head honcho on campus.USC certainly falls under the latter category. Even by the most dramatic of standards, the Trojans have endured quite the whirlwind of departures and arrivals since former head coach Lane Kiffin was fired in September at Los Angeles International Airport. If there is indeed a “coaching carousel,” USC has a FastPass, and keeps coming back for another dizzying cycle.But like a sugar-fueled child at the end of a trip to Disneyland, USC seems to have finally run out of energy for such rides.With the hiring of Georgia’s Chris Wilson as defensive line coach on Wednesday, it appears Sarkisian has filled out his staff for the 2014 season. But it’s taken quite a journey to get to this point.Consider that in the last four months, USC has not only had four head coaches (Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, Clay Helton, Steve Sarkisian), but four defensive line coaches — and entertained employing a fifth in Tosh Lupoi before it was revealed he might have violated NCAA rules at Washington under Sarkisian.After Orgeron left the post to take over interim head-coaching duties, Pete Jenkins took over for the remainder of the season. When it became obvious to Sarkisian that he couldn’t feasibly bring Lupoi with him to USC without welcoming the dangerous gaze of the NCAA, he offered the job to Wilson, but was turned down. Sarkisian successfully convinced Bo Davis to leave Texas to join his staff — for six days, before Davis relocated to Alabama, citing “family reasons.” With his options quickly dissipating — it’s apparent  that Orgeron really didn’t want to return to the Trojan Family he supposedly adored unconditionally — Sarkisian set his sights back on Wilson. The former Georgia defensive line coach accepted, perhaps contingent upon a sizable salary increase, the second time around.And that’s the transaction summary concerning just one coaching position.Former special teams coach John Baxter and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast received rave reviews throughout their tenures at USC, but they’ve been replaced by Johnny Nansen and Justin Wilcox, respectively — both holdovers from Sarkisian’s staff at Washington.Such widespread turnover has some USC fans concerned that it might be difficult for the Trojans to pick up on new schemes quickly enough to succeed in their first season under Sarkisian. But there are also plenty of reasons to believe that USC could compete for the Pac-12 title immediately.Firstly, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Clay Helton and receivers coach Tee Martin were retained by Sarkisian. Though the offense won’t be running quite the same pro-style offense they have in the past, Helton showed in the Las Vegas Bowl — and, really, throughout the entire second half of the season — that he knows how to get the best out of redshirt junior quarterback Cody Kessler, junior tailback Javorius Allen and junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Even if Kessler is replaced by redshirt freshman Max Browne and Allen ends up splitting his carries with the deep stable of USC running backs, Helton has proved himself a superb game-planner. His presence on the staff bodes well for the Trojans, as does Martin’s ability to recruit.Secondly, it’s not as if the outsiders Sarkisian has hired are unproven scrubs.In 2012, Wilcox’s first year at Washington, the Huskies ranked 31st in the nation in total defense after placing 106th in 2011. This past season, the Huskies finished second in the Pac-12 in sacks (41) and fourth in scoring defense (22.8 points allowed per game) with significantly less talent than the teams ranked above them (Stanford, Oregon, USC).Wilson has shown he has what it takes to fill Orgeron’s large shoes. Like his predecessor, Wilson possesses Southern roots — he served as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator from 2010-2012 — and recruited several touted prospects to Georgia in his short time there. He inherited a Bulldogs defensive line that lost five players to the 2013 NFL Draft -— and would have several more succumb to injuries throughout the 2013 season — yet still managed to help guide the defense to record 33 sacks, good for 29th in the nation.He’ll be walking into a much better situation at USC. The Trojans have arguably the best defensive line prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft in junior defensive end Leonard Williams, who could be a standout defensive end or a defensive tackle with a knack for pass rushing in Wilcox’s 4-3 defense. USC will also boast breakout defensive end senior J.R. Tavai (8 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks in eight starts) and a pair of behemoth defensive tackles in redshirt junior Antwaun Woods and former five-star recruit Kenny Bigelow, who redshirted as a freshman this past season.Still, USC’s success in 2014 is far from guaranteed. The Trojans will still be hamstrung by their last season under NCAA scholarship restrictions, which sting even more with the losses of Uko, Marqise Lee, Dion Bailey, Xavier Grimble and Marcus Martin to the NFL Draft — roster spots that cannot be filled by other players according to USC’s probation terms.It does seem assured, however, that USC won’t have to endure another roller-coaster season in 2014. They probably won’t experience an extensive ride on the coaching carousel next offseason, either.But that won’t stop the Trojan faithful from speculating as soon as the Sarkisian regime suffers their first big loss. Because if USC fans learned anything in 2013, it’s to expect the unexpected. Will Laws is a senior majoring in print and digital journlism. His column “Laying Down the Laws” runs every other Friday. To comment on this story, visit or email him at [email protected]last_img read more