When Steve Sarkisian was named as the head coach of the USC Trojans it was a nod to the Pete Carroll era that was arguably the most dominant program during his tenure and when Sarkisian was on his offensive staff before leaving to take the job with the Washington Huskies.
His second go-around with USC has raised expectations for the program that they will soon be back atop the Pac-12 standings and competing for national championships and Sarkisian is not backing away from the lofty expectations.
“All of these guys come here to be the best, and that reminded me why I came back here. I want to be the best,” Sarkisian tells ESPN.com’s Kevin Gemmell. “This place breeds that environment, that culture. That jumps out at you the moment you are on campus.
With the NCAA sanctions a thing of the past and Lane Kiffin just a bad memory in the minds of Trojans fans, it is a perfect time for Sarkisian to hit the ground running and live up to his and his program’s expectations.
Sarkisian named Cody Kessler as the team’s starting quarterback earlier this week over highly-touted redshirt freshman Max Browne and has one of the top defensive players in the nation in Leonard Williams returning to anchor the defense.
The pieces are coming together to another decade-long run seen time and time again at USC. The way they closed on the recruiting trail with commitments from five-star recruits Adoree Jackson, Damien Mama and John “Juju” Smith is what has many believing athletic director Pat Haden made the right move in not hiring interim coach Ed Orgeron last winter.
Highly-ranked recruiting classes are great, but what really matters is the product on the field and after a 10-win season and bowl win has USC with momentum heading into 2014, work still needs to be done, including beating rivals UCLA and Notre Dame.
“Ultimately, it’s going on the field and performing and doing what we’re here to do and that’s win football games,” Sarkisian said. “Are we going to try to win them all? There’s no doubt we are. Are we going to win them all? I don’t know. I don’t know. The football is shaped a funny way for that very reason. It bounces in funny directions sometimes. But you have to put yourself in position to be successful, and I think we’re doing that.”