USC Football Notebook: Sarkisian And Kiffin Set To Cross Paths
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian and USC head honcho Lane Kiffin will meet again, as the Huskies host the Trojans one week after falling to the mighty Oregon Ducks, 52-21. The Huskies come in to the game with a spotless 3-0 home record with their most notable win coming against the Stanford Cardinal. Thursday's practice was the Trojans' final of the week before it leaves for Seattle on Friday. The team used wet ball drills to prepare for a possible rainy affair. A number of other issues were discussed after practice:
Running Back Depth Expands
Among Lane Kiffin's ongoing challenges since taking over as USC's head coach has been to develop quality depth at each position, a task that's been made even tougher by scholarship reductions.
Five games into the season, that quandry may have been solved in the backfield thanks to the re-emergence of D.J. Morgan. The redshirt sophomore came off the bench to deliver some key yards against Utah, and Kiffin says Morgan is now a factor in the running back rotation along with Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal.
"You never know how the game's going to go but we have great confidence that he's fully back and knows everything and can do all our stuff," Kiffin said. "If need be, he can be an every-down back."
That strength in numbers also applies to the fullback position, where true freshman Jaleel Pinner has been handed an increased role in recent weeks to compliment starter Soma Vainuku.
"Yeah, we're trying to get [Pinner] more snaps in there and take some off of Soma," Kiffin admitted. "Both are freshmen [and it's] a very promising position to have two freshmen who are playing a bunch of snaps for you."
Sark and Kiff Meet Again
Sarkisian is a man Kiffin knows well. They coached together at USC for years and even shared offensive coordinator duties at times. The two remain close friends to this day. Kiffin lauded his former colleague’s ability to manage quarterbacks on game day. “(He) really wouldn’t get rattled when things started going bad,” said Kiffin. “He’d always have great reminders for the guy before the play, and that’s why his quarterbacks have played so well over the years.”
Sarkisian has gradually transitioned to more of a spread-style offense, which Kiffin attributes to changes in the team’s personnel. Discussing Sark’s shift in strategy, Kiffin said, “That’s what good coaches do. They evolve to their personnel.”
Kiffin referred to the Huskies’ quarterback, Keith Price, as “elite” despite his less-than-stellar numbers so far. The Trojan head coach noted that Price’s offense has been beset with injuries including those to his tailbacks, receiver and members of the offensive line. “He’s the same quarterback that lit up the bowl game and set all the school records in completion percentage (and) touchdowns,” said Kiffin.
The Other Corner
Nickell Robey's strong coverage has forced opponents to throw away from him all season, but there’s been a great deal of discussion about the other starting cornerback position. Torin Harris is expected to start, and the staff desperately hopes that Harris will show improvement. Josh Shaw should also see some time at corner. Wide receiver Marqise Lee has been petitioning coaches to give him a chance at the position, but for now, he's expected to strictly play receiver.
Rest Does the Body Good
Kiffin said the team's legs looked fresh after enjoying two extra days of rest following last Thursday’s victory over the Utes. “It feels like we’ve had a full bye,” he added.