USC Now mailbag: Sarkisian, Orgeron and roster depth

USC Now mailbag: Sarkisian, Orgeron and roster depth
USC Coach Steve Sarkisian watches from the sideline during the closing moments of the Trojans' 49-14 win over Notre Dame on Nov. 29. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The mailbag was thin but thoughtful and per the usual, the Ed Orgeron mailbag ban has been put off another week.

Questions or comments about USC? Email me at or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will respond to select messages in a future mailbag.


Comment: I am quite disgusted with Sark. There are few, if any, truly successful college football coaches who can both play call and be a head coach at a major football university. His game management has been terrible and his play calling has been mediocre. I was for Sark being hired, but he has got to learn that his multi-tasking efforts are not working.

It is amazing to see how successful Kiffin is now that he can focus on just one thing. Sark would do well to learn this valuable lesson.

Sark should hire Orgeron. Orgeron is a great assistant coach and an amazing recruiter. If Sark can't handle Orgeron's popularity and intensity, then he has no business being a head coach at a football powerhouse university.

The decline in SC's defense is blatant. Why not hire Pendergast back? His ability and resume are first rate.

Let us all remember one thing, and that is that Sark's job is to do what is best for USC -- not to do what is best for his friends or what is best for his ego. If Sark wants to be a legend, like McKay or Carroll, he will have to change his ways.

-- Robert S.

Reply: This was a loaded email, Robert. Lucky for you, I have nothing but time.

I'll start at the end: I've read a lot of emails this season, Robert – but I think your last paragraph hit the nail on the head.

Now, back to the beginning.

Steve Sarkisian called the plays for five seasons at Washington. He inherited an 0-12 team and improved it to 8-4 his final season (9-4, if including the bowl game that he did not coach).

Calling the plays seemed to work for him … then.

But, I agree with you. He should give up play-calling at USC after this season.

Sarkisian has a staff of talented assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who called USC's most dynamic game last season in its victory at the Las Vegas Bowl.

And it is not as though Sarkisian would still have no say if he turned over play-calling. He's the head coach – he can have the final call on everything – but there is no need for him to micromanage and overlook other parts of the team (defense, anyone?).


Robert, I banned any future talk about Ed Orgeron in last week's mailbag – but here we go again.

Sarkisian should not hire Orgeron. Orgeron was given a chance to come back and he declined. A year later, the program has to keep moving forward.

I doubt it's Orgeron's intensity that Sarkisian would be worried about. But popularity? You're correct there.

Orgeron was a fan and player favorite. So consider this scenario: USC is losing an early-season game at the Coliseum and fans chant "Coach O! Coach O!" Before you know it, the program is in disarray again.

Sarkisian should have retained defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. That was a blunder on his part. USC's defense underperformed this season, but not to a degree that calls for defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to be fired.

Wilcox deserves more than a season to install his system and recruit players who work in it.

Comment: Taking the reports about Coach O at face value: A year ago, Sark tries to convince O to join his staff; Haden offers to make him the highest paid assistant in the country. O says no. A short year or so later, Bill Plaschke visits O and O says he needed the time off to clear his mind, USC is the best place in the world to coach and he is open to coming back.

Now you say Sark doesn't want O back, basically, because he would be a competitor. So what have you heard or know that the rest of us aren't privy to? If he comes back, O should work with Wilcox on defensive game plans, coach the D-Line and recruit - the things he does best and the things that would help the team the most. Maybe he doesn't see that as his role - is that it?

-- Ron Serandos

Reply: Common sense, Ron. It's common sense.

I am not a body language specialist, but even I can tell Sarkisian is tired of the Orgeron situation. It is not happening.

Who are you firing to give Ed Orgeron his job back? By your suggestion, I'm guessing defensive line coach Chris Wilson is fired and recruiting coordinator Peter Sirmon is demoted?

And why suddenly do fans think Orgeron is a defensive coordinator?

Orgeron was offered a nice payday and a position on Sarkisian's staff. He turned it down and USC moved on.

Comment: I get so tired of hearing that the lack of players does not lead to losses. That fatigue did not cause Nelson to step out of bounds, or Pullard to forget to jump for that pass. With 85 players those games do not come down to the last play…. If less players makes NO difference, all schools would save money and do it. It's downright stupid to think it doesn't. That's why the NCAA did it. The logic that it has not hurt USC is downright absurd.

--Christopher Rivera, Corvallis, Ore.

When this article was published, midway through the season, USC played an average of about 43 recruited scholarship players per game. USC had used an average 51 players per game, three fewer than its opponent.

In USC's final season before sanctions, former coach Pete Carroll played an average of about 49 recruited scholarship players.

The discrepancy in players used is not so significant that the talent on this season's roster could not make up the difference.

It came down to coaching and execution more than fatigue.

And remember, five USC players – the same number as conference champion Oregon -- were voted first-team All-Pac-12 Conference by conference coaches.

USC had more than enough talent to finish better than 8-4.