When we last saw Pete Carroll and Steve Sarkisian on the sidelines, the Trojans were putting on the finishing touches to one fantastic powerhouse run, stomping Penn State, 38-24, in the 2009 Rose Bowl. Fast forward five years and coach Sarkisian has taken the program in stride, his way or the highway.
"Go be you," Carroll told Sarkisian, just before Sark left for the University of Washington job. "Because when adversity strikes, the real you is going to come out anyway."
From the moment coach Sarkisian returned home, the 40-year-olds brought an instant breath of fresh air. After acquiring young, vibrant assistants to further supplant his ultra-competitive message across the program, the gyrations have already rippled loud and clear for the USC players, fans and boosters anxiously watching his every move.
First things first, say good goodbye to the traditional drop back passer and that once vaunted 4-3 defensive scheme that dominated the early 2000s and say hello to the up-and-coming breed of college football highlighted with no-huddle, spread offense and the flexible 3-4 defense that can track athletes down sideline-to-sideline.
Coach Sarkisian has been both swift and confidently boisterous implementing his system in a slightly in your face, but very complimentary yet also down-to-earth manner. With all eyes and ears focused in during Wednesday's Pac-12 Media Day circus, coach Steve Sarkisian took the stand with a confident plan of action.
"Patience, patience, patience," Sarkisian said. "Having patience with players, having patience with recruits, having patience with our coaches of really taking time and not having knee-jerk reactions to things but really being patient with everybody involved in the program has been something that's shifted in me."
Breaking it down for the Trojans reputation both here and in the future, Sarkisian's sticking to his guns for two important and (in a sense) revolutionary reasons.
For starters, the coach firmly believes that the current psyche and culture that these athletes immerse themselves in is now better suited than ever to hone that quick attention span and freakish athleticism in the no-huddle, spread attack.
Sarkisian also spoke adamantly about the idea that when a program like USC has some of the best athletes in the nation, it surely behooves your chances to reward those players with the most opportunities possible to make awesome plays.
The Trojans journey back to the top will be both challenging and enduring, but ironically enough, that tenuous process fuels the teams rigorous preparation both on and off the practice field. Sarkisian strongly believes that with added years of experience under his belt, the Trojans can build a better brand of student, athlete and community member.
Returning to a place with such heralded tradition, whether it be from the players-friendly John McKay Center, the newly renovated Heritage Hall, the line of USC All-Americans and Hall-of-Famers on speed dial or even the Coliseum game day experience, coach Sarkisian is extremely confident he can recruit at the highest level.
While his fifth stint at USC comes with both mounting expectations and growing optimism following the departure of much-disputed coach Lane Kiffin, the Trojan Family seems unified behind the collective cause that's remained intact.
"I don't feel pressure at all. I love my job," Sarkisian said about taking over at USC. "I focus on the task at hand. I focus on today. The moment you start worrying about the what-ifs, you're going to miss what's right in front of you. I'm focusing on you guys today and our two guys back there. I hope they do a great job. I can't wait."
On a squad that returns 65 healthy scholarship players, Sarkisian recognizes the ammunition for all-out practices and fully-loaded depth charts is still years off. That being said, the coaching staff will finally apply pedal to the metal on August 4th when the squad locks away those relaxing vacation moments and totally gear up for Fall Camp.
"We need to have great competitive practices, but we have to allow the recovery in place so we're a healthy football team from the start of the season and we're a healthy football team come late November," Sarkisian duly cautions. "If we can do that, I think we have a chance to do something pretty special."
Sarkisian has been honest about the fact USC will be slightly undermanned this season, but firmly believes that the early trials may in fact make the end goal of winning the Pac-12 Championship, and eventually the College Football Playoff, an ever rewarding result for everyone involved. Sark's fired up, and his program will TurnUpSC soon enough.