O/NSO - Coaching Carousel edition

Responding to a routine off-season coaching angioplasty that evolved into a full blown quintuple by-pass following symptoms of promotion, attrition, and just plain "circumstances," the defending national champion USC Trojans have begun a recovery period prescribed by Dr. Pete Carroll by rescheduling the opening of spring practice to March 22.

The Obvious – Responding to a routine off-season coaching angioplasty that evolved into a full blown quintuple by-pass following symptoms of promotion, attrition, and just plain "circumstances," the defending national champion USC Trojans have begun a recovery period prescribed by Dr. Pete Carroll by rescheduling the opening of spring practice to March 22.

The Not So Obvious – When all of last week's gridiron transplanting and grafting was completed, Dr. Carroll had increased his "NFL" coaching roster to five by adding former Oakland Raider and Trojan quarterback coach Steve Sarkisian as assistant head coach of offense and quarterbacks coach and former New York Giants assistant offensive line coach Pat Ruel as offensive line coach. "Sark" and "Golden" now join a staff of respected former NFL coaches which also includes running back coach Todd McNair, newly named linebacker coach Ken Norton Jr. and, of course, Carroll.

The Obvious – The Trojans can now send these five "NFL" recruiters into any home in America and promise a blue chipper and his parents they will not only get a get fine education but also an NFL undergraduate degree.

The Not So Obvious – If you have followed Trojan recruiting, many of the prospects like linebacker signee Brian Cushing of New Jersey have been attracted to the "NFL" style program being run by Carroll. Present an "NFL" football growth plan to a potential future Trojan and this becomes quite a powerful recruiting tool and a difficult one for the competition to match.

The Obvious –Dr. Carroll has created a "new" offensive set of arteries that allows new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin "first call" in the press box, new assistant head coach of offense Steve Sarkisian overseeing Kiffin's "first call," and Pete Carroll, football's newest gridiron etymologist, understandably getting the "final call."

The Not So Obvious – Carroll has indicated he understands this "new-old" system will need to be rehearsed and that is part of the plan for the late arriving spring practice schedule. For Trojans fans that can't wait to watch Dr. Frankencarroll put this concept into practice, the O/NSO advises you take out your latest college football video game featuring the 2004 national champion Trojans and play three players against one. The three "homeboys" that take the Trojans must divide themselves into Carroll, Sarkisian, and Kiffin in that order. As in the real fall, the designated Kiffin gets the "first play call" followed by the announced the chain of command. We advise that your lone opponent must operate the 2004 Notre Dame club and be Charlie Weiss, the new Irish mentor. Remember, the game must be at South Bend and the Weiss impersonator must announce that he has never lost to Pete "&%$@#&" Carroll. Game on, baby!!!

The Obvious – Despite the unusual unrest of coaching turnover, the most important coach returning to the Trojans program is USC head coach Pete Carroll.

The Not So Obvious – Carroll, who strongly says there will be no drop-off in coaching or level of play, has loved challenges since the very beginning of his tenure, a tenure that originally included large scale doubt by Trojan fans that he was the right choice for the job. Now with back-to-back national championships, who's to argue with the process and results? However, losing blue chip coaches will be more than just a challenge for Coach Charisma. He too will now be put under the microscope after the quality of changes in his coaching staff, especially on the offensive side.

The Obvious – Coach Pete Carroll was thrust last week into the middle of a coaching maelstrom after having brilliantly guided the Trojans to back-to-back national championships and an almost impeccable public relations image.

The Not So Obvious – The past Trojan week has been the most heated display of cardinal and gold emotions since the hiring of one Pete Carroll. You talk about your Trojan divide and conquer perception being displayed across the country; it was almost surreal the cracks in the Trojans armor being created by the Norm Chow controversy and the departure that accompanied it. The local press has given Carroll a "pass" on this one based on back-to-back titles, but there was plenty of Chow appreciation and "doubt" about the process. Some national media is even predicting a Trojans return from "dynasty" deification, a change that is sure to motivate Carroll and his team as they enter spring and fall practice.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll's track record would indicate he has quickly hired top-notch people to replace the dearly departed.

The Not So Obvious –However, as Carroll surely knows, there are many variables to coaching, not the least which is the chemistry between players, coaches, and a new offensive coordinator hierarchy. With the most talented team in the country returning, who would have thought coaching would be the spotlight in March and will probably continue right through January 2006?

The Obvious – Legendary offensive coordinator Norm Chow leaves the Trojans for his NFL opportunity with the Tennessee Titans.

The Not So Obvious – If it ain't broken, why fix it? Pete Carroll's ego? Norm Chow's stubbornness? Philosophical differences? It means little at this point and there is nothing "on the record" from these two brilliant coaches as expected. Want to blame assistant Lane Kiffin? Does the assistant coach tell the head coach what to do? Of course not. Does Carroll have a right to run his program the way he thinks best? Of course and why shouldn't he? The man has brought USC back to the top of college football with back-to-back championships. The Trojans' future, however, will be judged by its past and that has been yet to be determined. Is Chow's departure a bummer? Absolutely. Was it necessary? Only Pete Carroll and Norm Chow have that answer, and we'll not be hearing anything about it from them anytime soon.

The Obvious – With the coaching transition on offense, no longer will the media and Trojan followers refer to the USC offense as Norm Chow's offense, a misnomer according to both Chow and Pete Carroll.

The Not So Obvious – The truth be told is that it really wasn't just Norm Chow's offense, especially after Chow's first year with the Trojans. He and Pete Carroll refined the BYU offense during the first off-season with added emphasis on the run. So when did USC's offense actually hit its stride? The day that tailback Justin Fargas vindicated the offensive morphing and brought a power running attack that not only allowed Carson Palmer more time to look down the field, but created a nastier attitude among the Trojans offensive line. Just ask the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The Obvious – There will always be the feeling by some Trojan followers that Pete Carroll did not stroke Chow enough.

The Not So Obvious – Through the media, Carroll almost always praised Chow. The feeling here is that Carroll gave Chow enough input to balance the offense and Chow might not have always taken the hint. A number of times after a game Carroll would say, "We need to run the ball more." Hint, hint. Carroll had to be at the point of frustration during the season to air it out in the press, almost assuredly annoying Chow. While the high-octane offense scored at will, the feeling here was that Carroll had to make an uncomfortable effort with Chow to attain a more balanced offense during the season.

The Obvious – It figures the 2005 Trojan offense will feature even more emphasis on the run, which will grant an even more physical, attacking attitude along the talented Trojan offensive line.

The Not So Obvious – There really is one major issue with Chow's leaving and that is the brilliance of his play-calling. No matter how effective the "new" system, there are only a handful of true geniuses in any profession and Chow is certainly one of those. The happiest group of coaches on the West Coast is the defensive coordinators in the Pac-10, some whom have said off-the-record that while they respected the Trojans' defense and coaching, they could never find an answer in stopping Chow's game planning and play-calling knack. We'll see in the fall if their giddiness is justified.

The Obvious – So when was the last time you saw the Trojan family so divided and emotional over the fate of assistant coaches?

The Not So Obvious – In an ironic twist, the public controversy was magnified by Trojan fans appreciation of Chow and the other coaching departures. Still, credit Carroll for bringing on board these gifted assistant coaches that became household names in Tinseltown with their outstanding contributions.

The Obvious - In truth, Carroll's core 2004 staff may have been the strongest Trojan staff since John McKay's core group.

The Not So Obvious - Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron might as well have been Marv Goux, and offensive coordinator Norm Chow was Dave Levy with a different offensive system. Departing offensive line coach Tim Davis could have even have been John Robinson's Hudson Houck, the legendary former USC line coach who will ironically work the Miami Dolphin offensive line with Davis.

The Obvious Coach Steve Sarkisian returns as quarterback coach along with his new title of assistant head coach in charge of offense.

The Not So Obvious – Sarkisian, a former Trojan, will eventually loom as a large force in recruiting, especially being publicized as Norm Chow's well-documented protégé. The fact that Kiffin is accountable to Sarkisian also initially should bring harmony. On a daily practice and personal level, Sarkisian certainly takes much of the sting out of the loss of Chow for quarterback Matt Leinart and probably John David Booty. Based on Carroll's pecking order of calling plays, the relationship between Carroll and Sarkisian will be an important one.

The Obvious – Last week was one intense week for Trojan fans, especially the talk on national and local sports news and talk shows.

The Not So Obvious – So it came as welcome comic relief last Wednesday evening when MTV repeated a "Newlyweds" show that had an episode of star Nick Lachey sitting down to watch the Trojans play one of the Arizona schools. Lachey's TV wife commented what a "dork" he looked like sitting there alone dressed in his Trojan attire and wearing his No. 11 Trojan jersey. Lachey and Matt Leinart are buddies, and Matt probably could have used some laughs and emulation considering all that was going down last week.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll has chosen receivers coach Lane Kiffin, who will retain his Coliseum press box seating view, for the offensive coordinator's "first call" role.

The Not So Obvious – You can bet the Trojan team will be analyzing the Kiffin offensive " first call" with a keen eye. Many have brought up the age of both Kiffin and Sarkisian. Age is not the issue here but experience is. Naturally Kiffin is excited about the apparent designated play caller's duty and both he and Carroll feel he is ready after seating next to Chow in the press box and film room watching the master at work. Nobody argues the son of Monte Kiffin isn't bright and like Carroll's initial hire, he may prove the critics wrong sooner than later.

The Obvious – It's one thing to sit with Chow during the games and another to be in the hot seat directing a veteran team with a third consecutive national championship as its goal.

The No So Obvious – Kiffin's first order of business will be to get the offense's trust and approval. This may not as big a challenge as some may have thought thanks to Carroll's positioning of Sarkisian. The good news is there figures to be little change in terminology and no major reevaluation of talent. However, no matter how you slice it, following the legendary, there's that word again, play-calling of Chow is like trying to replace Mick Jagger as the lead singer for the Rolling Stones.

The Obvious –Heralded Trojan wide receiver recruit Patrick Turner from Tennessee told Tennessean.com that he knew days before the announcements of the impending offensive changes.

The Not So Obvious - Turner said, "I knew it was coming. It's not a big problem with me because they are going use the same system." Turner's father, Steve, made a concerted effort to get the "scoop" by phoning the USC coaching staff for answers to the coaching rumors. They were told that Kiffin would be the new offensive coordinator and it put the family at ease. Any bets that incoming quarterback Mark Sanchez from Mission Viejo, the near unanimous national prep player of the year, wasn't given an even earlier silent heads-up?

The Obvious – Pete Carroll has said on the record that he wants to become more involved in the offense.

The Not So Obvious – Just what that means only time will tell. One thing is for certain, Carroll will be guiding the play-calling with more input. It also figures the boys on the Trojan beat will be asking who called "the plays" in crucial situations through most of the season. If you are looking for change, it says here when the Trojans get inside the five, expect to see a heavy dose of LenDale White as opposed to the pass-first pattern. It also will be interesting to see if the Trojans continue to throw to their backs over the middle near the goal line as has been a past effective practice.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll has announced that long time coaching friend Golden Pat Ruel will replace the popular Tim Davis as offensive line coach.

The Not So Obvious – Wanted by Carroll before the original hiring of Tim Davis, perhaps as important a selection as Norm Chow's successor, Ruel is replacing a true Trojan favorite in the departing Davis. Once a coaching mate of Pete Carroll at Arkansas under Lou Holtz, Ruel should be able to get inside the psyche of his new linemen having a degree in psychology. Known as being fiery and intense like Tim Davis, Ruel also brings to the offensive coaching staff a deep offensive knowledge having been an offensive coordinator at Washington St., Kansas, and Texas A&M. The Trojans apparently out-recruited the Cleveland Browns for Ruel's services. Call it the No Fun League losing out to the New Fun League. Oh, and XTRA sports' Lee Hamilton calls Ruel "a real good guy."

The Obvious – In their own right, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and offensive line coach Tim Davis were the perfect defensive and offensive line coaches.

The Not So Obvious – Loud, intense, charismatic, and one-of-a-kind type individuals, here were two coaches that were almost the perfect foils in practice as they would not only wage "war" in practice sessions with their players, but at times even went at each other just by nature. On a personal note, athletic director Mike Garrett told 1540's Fred Roggin, " Of all the coaches leaving, I will miss Tim Davis the most on a daily basis. We would always say ‘Hi' across the hall."

The Obvious – The Trojans have filled the loss of defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, now the head Fred at Ole Miss, with former Green Bay Packer defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.

The Not So Obvious – From all accounts, Franklin is one fired up dude with a very good track record. As an earlier Carroll hire, Franklin gets a break as he has had time to bond with the returning defensive linemen before spring ball. Although this has been a short period of time, the social interaction of coach to player is as crucial as the technique taught. Replacing Coach "O" is a daunting task just based on charisma, and there's that "C" word again.

The Obvious – Jethro Franklin's alma mater, the Fresno State Bulldogs, who return 18 starters, finally get their wish to challenge their manhood against the Trojans next season on Nov. 19 in the Coliseum.

The Not So Obvious – Oh boy, here comes Fresno St. coach Pat Hill, Mr. Confident, and his supremely confident Bulldogs, coming of a 9-3 season with a final No. 22 ranking. More importantly for the bean counters in Heritage Hall, here comes the massive "Red Wave" of dinero through The Grapevine. Although the Bulldogs have been allotted just 5,000 tickets by the Trojans, a Coliseum sellout is a distinct possibility once the Red Wave gets their shot at single game tickets through the Trojans ticket department and various ticket agencies.

The Obvious – Former Trojan linebacker and NFL vet Sam Anno will replace Dennis Slutak, who took a short lived position with Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss.

The Not So Obvious – The enthusiastic and outgoing Anno is in line with Carroll's own high intensity personality. Hired as a grad assistant, Sam has been actively looking to enter the coaching profession and was seen at Trojan practices both in Los Angeles and during Orange Bowl preparation in Miami. The former Santa Monica High grad is a major plus since he is a former Trojan linebacker and knows' "the ropes" of being a Trojan.

The Obvious – Pete Carroll promotes linebacker coach Ken Norton to fulltime assistant.

The Not So Obvious – With the Trojan linebacking unit stocked full of young talent, this is one of Carroll's most enjoyable hires and should be quite a boon for the Trojans' heralded freshmen class that will arrive after June graduation. A well received grad assistant last year for the national champs, Norton brings the intensity and knowledge that will not only serve the current Trojans, but will be a very appealing feature during the courting of future Trojan linebackers from the prep ranks. The fact that Norton can now go out on the road will allow the son of a former heavyweight champion the opportunity to expand his personality talents.

The Obvious – Former special teams grad assistant Dennis Slutak returns from a brief tour of duty at Ole Miss replacing departing Mark Jackson, USC's director of football operations who is leaving to take an assistant athletic director's position at Syracuse under Daryl Gross, former SC senior associate athletic director and new "Cuse" AD.

The Not So Obvious – Take that Coach Orgeron! And you thought Slutak was a Rebel for life. As for Mark Jackson, he was appreciated on many levels as Carroll's chief of staff and WeAreSC appreciate all his help during the season. He enjoyed the Internet and will be missed. We wish the Westwood, Mass native the best in his return to the East. BTW, don't will too sorry for Coach Orgeron, he just learned his opener at Memphis has been moved back two days for a national Labor Day telecast on ESPN.

The Obvious –The Trojans are scheduled for a 2005 opener at Hawaii during Labor Day weekend on Sept. 3.v The Not So Obvious – Word out of Hawaii is that the game may be moved to Sept. 2 to accommodate a national ESPN telecast in prime time. Trojans fans, better check those Pleasant Hawaiian Holiday tour dates.

The Obvious – So, what should have been a long 2004 national championship celebration and a ho-hum spring practice has evolved into one very uncomfortable but riveting USC football "family" reorganization saga.

The Not So Obvious – It is almost a relief for the Trojan program and its legion of fans that spring ball, despite the reschedule, is looking over he horizon. The back-to-back national champs will soon be returning to Howard Jones Field to begin the foundation for an historical drive for a Three-Pete. With Pete Carroll's greatest challenge on all fronts still ahead, it's still a welcome change of topics. Bring it on!

USCFootball.com Top Stories