Steve Sarkisian - Page 2

Coaching Carousel: The 5 Biggest Coaching Changes Around the Pac-12

The off season always brings about a deluge of coaching changes around the college football world.  Some coaches get fired during the season, such as Lane Kiffin at USC, but aren’t replaced until the dust has settled on the final games of the year, while others, like our very own Nick Allioti, retire gracefully after long, successful careers.

No matter the situation, or how carefully it is handled, it always leaves the program in state of flux. Hiring the next coach, whether the main man himself, a coordinator or a position coach, can mean taking the next step toward dominating in the conference or starting the downward spiral that can take years to pull out of.  The Pac-12 this off season has sprung about a coaching carousel with surprise hires, leaving many heads spinning.

5. Lane Kiffin to Steve Sarkisian

After just a few games, it was not a matter of 'if', but 'when' for Kiffin.

After just a few games, it was not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’ for Kiffin.

The Pac-12′s first vacancy of the year opened up all the way back in September when USC fired head coach Lane Kiffin after a 3-2 start to the season.  The position wasn’t filled permanently until the beginning of December, when the Trojans hired then-Washington head coach, Steve Sarkisian, who is commonly known around the Pac-12 as “Seven-win Steve,” due to not winning more than seven games in a season until getting to eight this past regular season.

Sarkisian’s qualifications for the job include:

"Seven-win Steve..."  It has a nice ring to it.

“Seven-win Steve . . .” It has a nice ring to it.

  • Losing at least four conference games every season since becoming head coach.
  • Being the coach for half of Oregon’s current (ten year!) win streak against  Washington.
  • Owning a career winning percentage lower than Lane Kiffin (Sarkisian .539, Kiffin .586).

USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron resigned the day after Sarkisian was hired, which was met with some discord from players.  Trojan’s freshmen star Su’a Cravens tweeted out “Coach O can never be replaced!”  The LA Times meanwhile pointed out that noted USC fan and official nutball Scott Wolf had a minor meltdown at the hiring, tweeting “‘Winning’ is obviously not a qualification for hiring the next #USC coach for Pat Haden.”

4. Sarkasian to Chris Petersen

Sarkisian’s move to the Trojan opened up the position of Head Puppy at the University of Washington.  Surprisingly, UW managed to go out and do what USC didn’t, and pull Chris Petersen away from Boise.  Now it’s anyone’s guess how Petersen will fare moving from a weak Mountain West Conference, where he’d built Boise State into a powerhouse, to the Pac-12 North, which arguably could be the toughest division in the Nation this coming season — facing both Oregon & Stanford, two guaranteed top 10 teams.

3. Tosh Lupoi leaves Washington

Number one?  Very premature, but a definite improvement.

Number one? Very premature, but a definite improvement.

Tosh Lupoi, universally considered one of the best recruiters in the PAC 12, parted ways with the University of Washington. For those who don’t subscribe to the rumor mill, it’s been rumored that Steve Sarkisian wanted to take Lupoi to USC with him to coach the defensive line, but Lupoi had a steep buyout of $400,000 that dissuaded USC from hiring him.

Soon after, it was revealed the Lupoi was under investigation by the NCAA.  Lynnwood High School coach Mike Davis said that Lupoi paid $4,500 for tutoring classes for UW recruit Andrew Basham.  Under this cloud, Lupoi and the University reached a “mutual separation agreement” which paid Lupoi $300,000 to leave the University.

2. Bo Davis leaving the herd already?

The Coaching Carousel spins nowhere faster than in the Land of Troy.

The Coaching Carousel spins nowhere faster than in the Land of Troy.

In one of the stranger and funnier college football hiring situation, former Texas defensive line coach Bo Davis was hired at USC for the same position.  A week later, however, he jumped ship and took the same position at Alabama.  Davis was widely seen as Sarkisian’s backup plan after Orgeron resigned and he was unable to bring Lupoi in.

In reaction to Davis’s leaving, Sarkisian told the LA Times, “Obviously, we had a little bit of a hiccup.”

1. Nick Allioti to Don Pellum

Coach Aliotti -- It's been a heck of a ride.

Coach Aliotti — It’s been a heck of a ride.

Finally we reach the coaching transition most important to Oregon, the resignation of Nick Aliotti.  Days before the Ducks took on Texas at the Alamo Bowl, Coach Aliotti announced his decision to retire after spending 24 years as a Duck.  The Ducks helped Coach Aliotti bow out in typical Duck fashion, and the search for a new Defensive Coordinator began in earnest.

Immediately a few names began to pop up.  Oregon defensive back’s coach John Neal was considered a top candidate, alongside Utah State DC Todd Orlando and former USC/Cal DC Clancy Pendergast.  It wasn’t until multiple media outlets reported Don Pellum was expected to be hired as the next Duck Defensive Coordinator, that people took a closer look at the man who has coached duck defenders for 21 years.  As it was revealed, Pellum has great recruiting connections to Southern California and has done great things with formerly unknown recruits.  His coaching was key to developing Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger into NFL players.

The new DC, Coach Pellum

The new DC, Coach Pellum.

To fill the gap in the outside linebackers position, the Ducks hired former Oregon Graduate Assistant and current Philadelphia Eagles assistant defensive line coach, Erik Chinander.

Michael Fletcher, a safety for the Ducks from 1996-1999 told OregonLive about Pellum’s hiring: “If you’re sitting in a meeting with coach Pellum, you realize how cerebral he was and how much of the game he knows.  It’s incredible.  He can have you picture things that you’ve never seen before on the field and it makes sense.  He makes players buy into what he’s selling.”

With eight months to go before the start of the 2014-2015 season, let’s see how many more stops the Coaching Carousel will make.

Top Photo Courtesy the Valero Alamo Bowl

Sports Desk: Should Fans Worry About Sarkisian’s Marcus Mariota NFL Draft Comment?


Oregon Ducks fans have known for a year-and-a-half just how talented Marcus Mariota is at playing the quarterback position. Through six games the Flyin’ Hawaiian has eyes turning and hardware talks blooming around the country.

Following a seven-touchdown performance last week, which earned him Pac-12 Player of the Week honors, Mariota might have topped it going 24-of-31 for 366 yards and three touchdowns through the air, along with 86 yards and an additional score on the ground.

Marcus Mariota NFL Draft
Marcus Mariota | (Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

One of those in awe of Mariota’s play was Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian who praised the Duck signal-caller in his post-game press conference.

[gn_quote style=”1″]”I don’t have a Heisman vote, but I’d be hard pressed to say we’ll see a better quarterback this year. That guy is special. I don’t know when he is planning on going to the NFL, but when he does, I think he’ll be a top five draft pick. He’s a hell of a player. To contain him we had a couple of different plans depending on what their plan was and how we could play them. The general plan was to try to keep him in the pocket and then when he ran the ball to make sure we always had somebody with their eyes on him. He’s just a difficult match-up. And when we really tried to bring more people to keep him there and get more one-on-one match ups down the field, they’re spread in the slot against our safeties I thought was a real factor in the game and he just threw accurate ball after accurate ball.”[/gn_quote]

Uh oh… The last thing Oregon fans want to think about is players leaving early. There’s already Colt Lyerla who left for God knows what reason. People have their suspensions about De’Anthony Thomas, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell amongst other draft eligible Ducks. But it seemed like a safe bet that at least Mariota would return for one more season. But that may not be the case.

In response to his dominant performance against the Huskies, Mariota remained as humble as ever, spreading praise and taking the team’s win as a sign of the team’s overall dominance.

[gn_quote style=”1″]”It’s a team sport, really. To be out there with the guys. They did a great job and I’m proud of them.”[/gn_quote]

Another person who has good things to say about Mariota is ESPN college football expert Kirk Herbstreit who took to Twitter following the Oregon blowout.

[tweet_embed id=389165824516186112]

I agree with coach Sark that Mariota will eventually be a top-5 pick, I just don’t know if it will happen after this season. But if it were I have my suspicions of where Mariota could go. Perhaps the Philadelphia Eagles?

It makes complete sense that Chip Kelly would want to re-unite with his prodigy. And with an aging, injury-prone Michael Vick at quarterback it’s time to look towards the future. Yes, the Eagles have Nick Foles at back-up, but Foles is hardly the athletic specimen of Mariota.

The most difficult part of this scenario is whether or not the Eagles finish as one of the five worst teams in the league. At 2-3 and in the NFC East, arguably the worst division in the NFL, it isn’t likely that the Eagles lose more than 10 games. They’ll be good enough to not be one of the five worst teams.

So how bad does Chip want Marcus as his quarterback?

Would he be willing to trade up to get him? Possibly. Maybe the Eagles trade away Foles to a team near the top needing a quarterback. A team like the New York Giants who want a long-term solution to the position as well. Yes I’m calling you out, Eli Manning. Or maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers who sit in the same boat with an aging Ben Roethlisberger.

Point is, Marcus’ days as Oregon’s quarterback are numbered. I’m not saying he leaves after this season, but with a Heisman trophy and BCS national title there won’t be much left for him to accomplish at the collegiate level. Except of getting a degree… but who needs those things?

[yop_poll id=”43″]

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Dominant Passing Game Leads Oregon to 10th Straight Over Arch Rivals


Oregon was tested for the first time on Saturday, and they passed with flying colors.

Marcus Mariota
Marcus Mariota | (Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

Playing in the fourth quarter for just the fifth time as a starter, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had perhaps his most complete game of his Oregon career, completing 24-of-31 passes for three touchdowns and–most importantly–no interceptions.

“You can’t say enough about how he played,” Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said. “But at the same time it’s an 11-man offense.”

Mariota’s performance was enough to earn high praise from even the opposing coach.

“I don’t have a Heisman vote but if I’d be hard pressed to say we’ll see a better quarterback this year,” Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “That dude is special.”

It was an afternoon when the Ducks needed production from a lot of different guys with Colt Lyerla‘s recent decision to leave the program and De’Anthony Thomas due to injury–despite the fact that Thomas was dressed for the game.

“A bunch of guys made a bunch of plays,” Helfrich said. “Bralon (Addison) was huge, Josh Huff made a ton of plays. Both tight ends contributed. I thought Thomas Tyner grew up today by making a couple of plays that were veteran.”

Addison’s performance–which came on his birthday–was especially key for the Ducks as Huff went down with an injury early in the first. In his absence Addison would make four catches in the first half for 95 of his 157 yards on the night.

Bralon Addison
Bralon Addison | (Gary Breedlove/Eugene Daily News)

The Ducks hit the locker room at halftime not knowing Huff’s fate for the second half–but nobody was surprised when the wideout was ready for the second half.

“That guy’s a fighter,” Addison said. “he came to the sideline in pain, we were all praying for him. Coach Helfrich came by, everybody said, ‘we’re playing this game for Josh.’ When we went in at halftime, he was walking around in the locker room, jogging around.”

Huff said he didn’t have to do much begging for the training staff to clear him to return.

“They told me to make some cuts, and I made some cuts and it felt good,” Huff said.

When Huff did return to the game in the second half, he made an immediate impact, pulling in a 65 yard touchdown reception after Washington marched down the field and scored to open the half and cut the lead to 21-14.

The Ducks had an incredibly balanced game on the ground as well, with Mariota keeping the ball 13 times, Tyner running it 12 times and Byron Marshall continuing to grow into his role as a featured back, earning 106 yards on 19 carries.

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Beavers end home season against Huskies


Don Smalley, EDN

Oregon State will look to salvage whatever is left of its disastrous season when it hosts Washington for a 12:30 kickoff (ROOT Sports, Comcast 34) at Reser Stadium.

At one time, this game might have looked like an uphill climb for the Beavers (2-8). The Huskies had won six of their first eight games. But after losses to Oregon and USC, Washington (6-4) has come back down to Earth.

Joe Halahuni makes his final appearance in Reser Stadium on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Oregon State University.

Adding to their problems, it was announced that Husky quarterback Keith Price is going to have to sit this one out due to a couple of balking knees. Stepping up in his place will be redshirt freshman Nick Montana. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian announced that the son of Hall of Famer Joe Montana, via Twitter, would be his starting signal caller.  Welcome to 2011.

Courtesy of @CoachSark, “Nick Montana will make his first career start this Saturday. So proud. He has earned this opportunity. Need to get Keith Price fully healthy, he has had a great season.”

Montana has appeared in just four games this season in very limited time. He has one touchdown pass.

Since the Huskies are going with an inexperienced quarterback, the Beavers will most likely be given a heavy dose of tailback Chris Polk, one of the top running backs in the Pac-12 and the nation.

“Defensively, what we have to really strive for is a more disciplined, detailed run defense. That’s going to be a major factor,” said Beaver head coach Mike Riley. “Football can be very simple if you can do a good job on first down and second down, and if you can get in the best third down situation, you’ve got a better chance of getting them off the field. That’s what we haven’t done for a good portion of the year, and particularly the last few weeks.”

Polk is third in the conference in rushing by averaging 113 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. He’s also known as one of the top receivers coming out of the backfield, something NFL scouts drool over when they watch the 5-11, 222-pounder from Redlands, Calif.

When the Huskies decide they want to throw the ball, Montana will have a couple of very good options downfield in two seniors, Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar. Kearse nearly beat the Beavers by himself last season in Seattle by catching nine balls for 146 yards and four touchdowns in the 35-34 double overtime win. In that game, Riley decided to go for two in the second extra period to win the game. The decision turned out to be the incorrect one as tight end Joe Halahuni, who is usually as sure-handed as it gets, dropped the pass, leading to a mad celebration at Husky Stadium.

Reser Stadium will be the stage for the Beaver/Husky football game Saturday. Photo courtesy of OSU.

“In order to have a good season, you have to win the close games and that’s what the Huskies have done,” said Riley. “They’ve lost to teams that are highly ranked like Stanford and Oregon and USC, but they’ve won their other games and there have been some close ones. That has mirrored a lot of the season we have had.”

If Washington’s offense is a strength, its defense is something less than desired. The Huskies are 10th in the conference in scoring defense (34.1) and 10th in total defense (425 yards per game). Despite those numbers, Sarkisian says the defense is getting better.

“Regardless of who we’re playing this week, our defense is improved,” he said. “Obviously we have a major challenge with (the Beavers) ability to throw the football. But the key for us is to stop the run initially, and then hope we can apply some pressure to the quarterback.”

Since the second half of the first game of the season, OSU has gone with redshirt freshman Sean Mannion as their quarterback, and he has experienced some growing pains in 2011. The Beavers are near the bottom in most of the offensive categories in the conference.

James Rodgers will attempt to end his storied career as the all-time receptions leader at OSU. Photo courtesy of OSU.

The game will mark the last home game for 17 seniors including James Rodgers and Halahuni. Rodgers, who currently has 218 catches in his career, needs just three receptions to become the all-time leading receiver at the school. He was granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA to play this season after blowing out his knee last season at Arizona. Although Rodgers hasn’t had the same speed he once possessed, he still has the ability to get open.

“I think the all-time competitor in James Rodgers is a great story because he wasn’t the same receiver (Mike Hass and Joe Newton) were when they were young,” Riley said. “He worked his way to a record. And quite frankly, it snuck up on me. I hadn’t realized he was as far along in this deal.”

Rodgers and the rest of the senior class has seen a lot more winning than they have in 2011. Oregon State has defeated Washington State and Arizona, and that’s it. The win against the Wildcats cost then-head coach Mike Stoops his job the next day, and Washington State might very well be looking to replace Paul Wulff. If the Beavers should pull out the upset, don’t look for the Huskies to be firing Sarkisian any time soon. But a loss in Corvallis won’t set well in Seattle for a program that looks to be on the rise.