Catching up with Steve Sarkisian

Clay DeLeon of SCPlayBook caught up with USC Trojan Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian this week to get his thoughts on the running backs and offensive performance.

Assessing the Running Game and Balancing the Offense

Running Backs' Performances

"I thought our guys ran hard. Starting with C.J. Gable before he was injured, I thought he played fantastic, Stafon ran well. Chauncey (Washington) was injured, since he's been back, he's ran well. The limited action we've seen Joe (McKnight), he's ran well. Even Hershel, in the limited reps he's gotten, he's ran well. As much as we can get these guys their carries and get them used to playing football and carrying the ball, I think it's going to be beneficial for all of us in the long run. Allen (Bradford) got his carries too. Stanley (Havili) too."

The Need for a Go-to Tailback

"I think it's starting to clear itself up a little bit. We're still giving guys opportunity to compete. But you saw Chauncey Washington get 21 carries at Washington. And you saw Stafon (Johnson) get 13 or 14 or whatever that was. But you gotta be ready - Stafon's out. We can't give it to Washington 42 times this week."

"So you gotta have guys ready and hopefully, the way we do it and the style in which we do it, we can give guys two or three carries or four carries in a ball game will hopefully get them ready for Saturdays like this. If Stafon can't go, that another guy can come in and this isn't the first time he's ever carried the football. He's used to carrying the ball multiple times in the ballgame. "

How the Running Backs Compete

"They're competing to be the first guy. They compete every day. You watch Hershel run today or Joe (McKnight), Allen (Bradford), they want to run the ball. They're going to run the ball hard when they get their chances. Desmond (Reed), they're playing."

"I think they all understand, somebody's going to get those carries - there's 14 carries or 15 or how many other Stafon might have or would have gotten. There's that many carries out there to be had, each and every one of them wants every carry and whether one guy gets them all or if it gets spread amongst three or four guys remains to be seen. They understand there's a piece of the pie out there and they're trying to go get it."

Rotation Preferences

"I love all of our guys. They all do certain things really, really well. We're trying to find a 'hot hand.' We're trying to find a guy that's really feeling it when the game's going. And you saw that against Nebraska. The plan wasn't to give Stafon that many carries, but he got going and he was running, and whether or not we were blocking great for him or not isn't the point. He was hot, and there's no point in fixing something that's not broke let's keep giving him the ball."

"So that's what we're trying to figure out, and assess as the game's going on. I don't know that Joe McKnight's not going to get 15 carries this game. I don't know. He may break his first run for 50 (yards) and what are you going to do? Not give it to him again? So that's wrong on our part. We have to assess the flow of the game and who's hot get those guys - the guy that is hot, the carries."

Running Back Rotation and Joe McKnight

"(Joe McKnight's) been doing a lot. He's pass protecting really well and since he's gotten really healthy, and got to practice every day, full speed, get a lot of reps, days like this week when Stafon's not there, getting more reps, he's getting used to playing and sweating and hitting. And not getting two carries and standing back and only doing his little specialty plays. Okay, run in and do those two plays and step back out, he just gets to go in about every third play and he's playing. I think he's a lot more relaxed now. He's becoming a more physical player because of it too. He knows it's a 'pounding,' I'm kind of anxious to watch him play."

"I can't tell you, 'here it is,' Chauncey's going to get twelve and Joe's going to get eight and Hershel's going to get seven and Desmond's going to get six, I can't tell you that. The game's going to go the way the game's going to go. It's our job to assess how the game's going and to get specific guys carries in the situation that they're called for."

Rebounding from Washington

"I think it's a confidence game for everybody. I think going into that game, I thought we felt good after the Washington State game heading into the Washington game. For whatever reason, whether it was weather or injuries or once the penalties started happening, I think a lot of our guys didn't play the way they are capable of playing."

"I think for our entire offense it's important to go out there and play well. They don't have to play great, they don't have to do anything extra special. We just need to go out there and do things right, by doing things right (they) will play well."

Running the Ball Down the Field

"Ultimately, we want to be as balanced as we can be. I think you can go into every game and just say we're going to run the ball no matter what and in the middle of the second quarter, if that's not working, then you'll say we'll throw it every down."

"(It's) not real conducive to the rhythm of an offense the way you want the game to go. At least not in our belief. Our belief is if we can run and pass equally well and do the things we're doing now, the defense doesn't really know what's happening."

"If in every game and say we're just going to run it. It may work one week, it may work two weeks, but sooner or later, that isn't going to work. There's good defenses and there's good coaches in this conference and they're going to stop you. I think if you look at the good offenses throughout time, they've been very balanced, whether it's the NFL or college. That's just what we have to be."

"We've already proven that we can run the ball (Nebraska game), we're going to do what we think we need to do to win the game."


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