USC football: Steve Sarkisian will call plays for Trojans

USC football: Steve Sarkisian will call plays for Trojans
Steve Sarkisian leaves the stage after his introduction as USC's new football coach while university President C.L. Max Nikias flashes the victory sign. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

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 a Spreecast online question-and-answer session with fans.


Sarkisian confirmed that receivers coach Tee Martin would remain on the staff and said other staff members would be announced when contracts are finalized. Washington assistants Johnny Nansen and Keith Heyward are expected to join the staff and Sarkisian is pursuing other assistants.

Former coach Lane Kiffin was widely criticized for not giving up play-calling duties and for being preoccupied with his large play-call sheet.

Sarkisian said he has always used a collaborative system.

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

The bubble screen will not be a designed play as it was under Kiffin, but it will be an option for quarterbacks, Sarkisian said.

Quarterbacks Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and Max Browne will be evaluated during bowl practices and during the spring to see how they best fit in the up-tempo, no-huddle offense. The Trojans will run their present system under offensive coordinator Clay Helton during bowl preparations.

"They're already asking for playbooks," Sarkisian said of the quarterbacks.

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.

Sarkisian said the Trojans would sign a minimum of five offensive linemen. He also is concerned about receiver depth.

As USC goes into its final season with NCAA sanctions, he said more freshmen are apt to redshirt to help them gain experience in practice.

USC ran a "52" defense this season under coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Sarkisian was not asked about Pendergast's status, but said the Trojans defense "will be somewhat of a hybrid."

"We won't be a 5-2 and we won't be a 4-3," he said. "It will appear as a 3-4 defense a lot of the times … but it will also have the flexibility to shift itself into a 4-3 front."

Offensive lineman Nico Falah submitted a question asking if cookies would remain available at the table, as they were under Ed Orgeron.

"The cookies will stay," Sarkisian said, adding, "You want your players to enjoy their experience."

But Sarkisian hinted at moderation.

"These guys are like Ferraris," he said. "I can't just keep putting leaded fuel into a Ferrari."