1. Give your initial thoughts on the Steve Sarkisian hire.
Garry Paskwietz: First and foremost, I think Sark is a good fit at USC. Even when he was an assistant, especially in his final two years with the Trojans (2007-08), you got the sense he was a guy who was going to be a real good head coach. He has a respected football mind, has always had an easy, natural rapport with players, and the fact he attended the school as a freshman baseball player told me he understood the draw of USC for a student-athlete. I completely understand the reservations of some USC fans, particularly with his basically .500 record at Washington and the emotional circumstances surrounding Ed Orgeron, but I think Sark will move past those thoughts relatively quickly as he starts to ingratiate himself into the program.
Johnny Curren: While the hire did catch me by surprise, the more I think about it, the more I like it. First and foremost is Sarkisian’s prowess as a recruiter. A Southern California native who has already built up strong relationships with local coaches, there’s reason to believe he can bring in the players USC needs to win. On the field, he made a big impression as an assistant with the Trojans, particularly as a tutor for quarterbacks such as Matt Leinart, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez. I’m also encouraged by the no-huddle offensive scheme he plans to install at USC. Not only will it potentially make the Trojans more dangerous, but it also could result in a defense that, in practicing against Sarkisian’s up-tempo scheme on a daily basis, will be more prepared to defend against similar offenses featured throughout the Pac-12. Above all else, I’m encouraged by the fact he’s a proven leader with a real sense of what USC is all about, and I believe the players will respond to that.
Greg Katz: The initial thoughts here are tempered enthusiasm. If Sarkisian were a flavor at an ice cream shop, he’d be French vanilla. That’s not to say he isn’t a good hire, but he certainly isn’t the zesty hire many Trojans were anticipating. In fairness and based on how the “home run” candidates played out (Gruden, Petersen, Sumlin, etc.), Sarkisian was probably the best option given the situation.
2. Name one recruit you think the hire could impact the most.
GP: I’ll go with cornerback Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), and I think it would be a terrific pickup if the Trojans can get him to flip. Corner is a priority in this class, and Lockett was a guy on the bubble who just wasn’t able to get an offer from Lane Kiffin or Ed Orgeron. Sarkisian thought enough of him at Washington to offer and get a verbal so it’s natural to think Sark could reach out now with an SC offer, with indications Lockett would accept. Lockett has been the top player on a Monarchs defense that will lead the team against top-ranked Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco on Saturday night for the CIF-SS Pac-5 title.
JC: Lockett, who committed to Sarkisian and the Huskies in June, is the most obvious candidate to flip to the Trojans if an offer comes his way. He expressed interest in the Trojans early, but in somewhat of a head-scratcher -- particularly with USC’s lack of depth at cornerback -- an offer was never extended. Lockett has seen his stock rise as of late, and he’s coming off a strong outing against Long Beach (Calif.) Poly. Throw in the fact Sarkisian was obviously impressed enough with him to offer him early in the process, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lockett donning cardinal and gold next season.
GK: Based on where he wants to play, the feeling here is that Adoree' Jackson would fit the wide receiver bill since he knows Sark likes to throw the ball. Jackson has made it quite clear he wants to catch passes as opposed to being a lockdown corner. Sarkisian, a former quarterback and standout recruiter, has the credentials to be quite appealing recruiting option for Jackson.
3. Which draft eligible juniors do you think are most likely to enter the NFL draft?
GP: I’m going to assume Marqise Lee is leaving; that was his plan coming into the season and, even though he had a subpar season by his standards, I still think he has put enough on tape to show the NFL what he is all about. The two injuries he had this year will likely weigh on his mind with the decision as well, which would point in the direction of declaring for the draft. If he does leave, he would have plenty of time to get healthy for the combine and would likely test well. I think he is the only natural choice to leave. Others such as George Uko, Dion Bailey or Josh Shaw could all make an argument to leave, but the more likely scenario is to stay.
JC: The only player I’m convinced will likely leave is Lee. There has been rampant speculation that this will be his last season in a Trojans uniform since the conclusion of the 2012 campaign, and for good reason. After all, he accomplished just about everything a receiver could during his sophomore year, at least individually. And while he had an up-and-down junior campaign, he’s still projected by most to be one of the top two or three wideouts taken, and the injuries he suffered this season might cause him to think twice about staying and risking a more serious setback without ever getting NFL money. Safety Bailey would be one more to watch. Another player who might have had a bit of an epiphany after missing last spring following shoulder surgery, he has had three consecutive productive seasons, and he openly discussed the possibility of the Trojans’ clash with UCLA being his last in the Coliseum.
GK: Obviously Lee. I would think that Uko would be a name to watch along with Bailey.