USC Coach Steve Sarkisian will call plays, but not by himself

USC Coach Steve Sarkisian will call plays, but not by himself
USC Coach Steve Sarkisian plans to sign at least five offensive line recruits in February. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

New USC Coach Steve Sarkisian will call plays for the Trojans, open competition at all positions — including quarterback — and has made the recruitment of offensive linemen a priority.

Those were some of the issues Sarkisian addressed Thursday during an online question-and-answer session with fans.


Sarkisian confirmed that receivers coach Tee Martin would remain on the staff. Washington assistants Johnny Nansen and Keith Heyward are expected to join the USC staff. Nansen coaches running backs and special teams for the Huskies but has also coached the defensive line and been recruiting coordinator. Heyward coached defensive backs.

Sarkisian said he has always used a collaborative system for calling plays.

"I'm so accustomed to doing it — I've been doing it for years," he said, adding, "I've never called plays by myself. I've always had a staff that communicated very well."

The Trojans will run their present system under offensive coordinator Clay Helton during bowl preparations.

On defense, USC will switch to a 4-3/3-4 hybrid under Sarkisian. This season, the Trojans went with five linemen and two linebackers under coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

USC signed fewer than 15 players in last year's recruiting class, so Sarkisian is focused on filling four available midyear roster spots, which must be used or they will be lost. The Trojans can sign 15 players in February and Sarkisian said at least five would be offensive linemen.

— Gary Klein

Pinkel staying

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel put to rest any speculation about his future Thursday, saying that he plans on staying with the No. 5 Tigers.

Pinkel, who had been rumored to be a candidate for Washington's coaching vacancy after Sarkisian left for USC, said on ESPN Radio that he won't be returning to his coaching roots.

"I coached there [Washington] for 12 years, and Don James is my mentor," said Pinkel, who was an assistant with the Huskies from 1979 to 1990. "I'll be quite frank: I'm staying at the University of Missouri. I, with the administration's help, will continue to build a national program in a quest for a national championship.

Missouri faces Auburn in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday in Atlanta.

Players in trouble

Two North Carolina State football players face misdemeanor drug charges after police visited their apartment during a sexual battery investigation.

N.C. State University police Maj. David Kelly said running back Shadrach Thornton and safety J.J. Jones were cited Wednesday with misdemeanor simple possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. In a probable-cause affidavit for a search warrant, authorities say they were following up on the sexual battery case and named Thornton as the suspect, although no charges have been filed in the battery case.

At Louisiana State, school spokesman Michael Bonnette says freshman football player Jeryl Brazil, who's had several run-ins with the law since September, has been dismissed from the team by Coach Les Miles.

Bonnette's statement regarding Brazil on Thursday comes as Baton Rouge police say the 19-year-old former player is wanted on felony charges in connection with a burglary near campus. Brazil is accused of entering an unlocked apartment where two people were asleep and stealing $47.

Another NCAA suit

Two former Missouri football players are suing the NCAA in federal court over the lingering effects of head injuries they say they suffered decades ago, joining a cascade of recent lawsuits against college sports' governing body related to traumatic brain injuries.

Tony VanZant and Sharron Washington filed the suit Tuesday in Missouri's eastern federal district. Both played for Missouri from 1987 to 1991.

Duke's Cutcliffe honored

Duke's David Cutcliffe has been selected coach of the year by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Cutcliffe has led the 20th-ranked Blue Devils (10-2) to a school record for victories and their first appearance in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. Duke plays No. 1 Florida State in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday night.

New name

The University of California has agreed to a nearly $18-million deal with Internet video game maker Kabam for the naming rights to the field at Memorial Stadium. The 15-year deal will make its home field known as "Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium."