You Want Him, U-Dub? We’ll Help Sark Pack

sarkisian(Partial headline credit to ParagonSC of Conquest Chronicles.)

Rece Davis just dropped a bomb on ESPN during the halftime of Louisville-Rutgers (in which the Scarlet Knights are up 49-0; Mike Teel has thrown 7 TD passes and pushed Steve Kragthorpe into the river with cement shoes), and announced that USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be the head coach at Washington next season, after both Pat Hill and Mike Leach supposedly interviewed to replace Ty Willingham. This came from Joe Schad, who now has it up on the Four-Letter’s dot-com apparatus.

Really, U-Dub?

Most Trojan fans will be more than happy to wish Sark well and send him on his way. Sarkisian is a better choice to revive a moribound program than an intense guy like Hill (who reportedly took his name out because U-Dub wanted to wait to name a coach and he wanted to know before his bowl game) and an offensive mind like Leach, who probably used the interview partially to drive up his hand in Lubbock (and also to drive interest in Auburn)?

Really, U-Dub?

I was actually waiting to write a post telling U-Dub to do anything it has to in order to get ahold of Leach and bring him to the Pac-10, because what this conference needs is an outsize character to recruit and compete with Pete Carroll on and off the field. (Rick Neuheisel isn’t there until he at least makes the annual UCLA-USC game competitive.) Not only that, but Leach would have given something for the Seattle sports fan to feel good about in a year where Land Thieves invaded and stole the Sonics, the Mariners hit rock bottom in baseball, and the Seahawks look like the J.V. squad of the NFL after years of dominating their lame division.

Additionally, rescuing the last couple years of Jake Locker’s collegiate career are a priority.  Sark is a good QBs coach and okay calling the plays, but trying to bring back a program to respectability and salvage the talent of a star QB, so far wasted by Willingham, is not for an offensive coordinator considered nowhere near his mentor Norm Chow.

Any coordinator not named Chow is not a giant loss to USC, because the emphasis on the styles of play both offensively and defensiely comes from Carroll — the assistants are there to execute it, but the fount of what the team wants to do comes from the Humanitarian.

Sark certainly has the ability to become a good head coach, and training under Chow and Carroll isn’t a bad place to get your bearings. But it’ll take a lot more to convince me that U-Dub will be anything in the next couple years with him. At least with Lane Kiffin, you know the guy was nuts about recruiting. I’ve never heard such a thing abotu Sarkisian. The brass in Seattle needed a slam dunk; instead, starved sports fans in Seattle will be hearing the sounds of their neighbors from Bellingham, Death Cab for Cutie, when Sarkisian is introduced:

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Willingham Gets The Zook Treatment

The ax was going to come sooner or later for Ty Willingham this season, and now that the University of Washington has given the condemned man the Ron Zook option, allowing him to finish this 0-7 season he has on his hands so far (and likely 0-8 after USC this weekend), it’s a good question to ask what happened to this coach after leaving Stanford for the job at Notre Dame.

It might be worth noting that his lone Pac-10 championship came at Stanford in 2000, as UCLA was declining after a run under Bob Toledo, and Pete Carroll hadn’t yet made his way to USC.  Willingham’s weakness seems to be the political aspects of being a college coach: not exactly media-freindly and, based on tales from the Notre Dame days, not as eager to pal around with boosters.

You’re more likely to get away with that at Stanford than you are at Notre Dame or Washington.  Not that Stanford doesn’t want to win Pac-10 titles, but it’s not quite the same goal and the point is to achieve while keeping high academic merit. (One coudl argue this about ND, but Stanford’s a different beast.)  Willingham’s recruiting classes got better, but the only stud player he brought in was Jake Locker.  If that is the only player you have that other teams would kill for, you have a recruiting issue, and it will turn into wins and losses on the field.

Now, Lane Kiffin has already thrown his hat in for interest, and I’m sure AD Scott Woodward has his own ideas and a list on hand, but it’s going to take a lot to get the state of Washington back to something resembling footblal competency.

Rushing The Field: That Was Supposed To Be Competitive, Right?

Honest question: is 35-3 a bad enough beating for Ohio State that we can no longer consider them candidates for the BCS championship game? After watching USC’s offensive pick apart the secondary and the Trojans’ front seven on defense get after Todd Boeckman early and often, it seems that Jim Tressel’s ethic and mentality in Columbus may need just as much of a change as Lloyd Carr’s did in Michigan. That wound up with Carr leaving and Rich Rodriguez replacing him, but I am not suggesting such a drastic step.  What it may require is Tressel stretching out his recruiting area — because he can get every athlete in the Midwest and many in the Atlantic part of Big 10 territory that he likes, but he isn’t attracting players that can be difference makers in out-of-conference games.  I don’t think Beanie Wells would have made a lick of difference, either, and you know what? I don’t like the Buckeyes much when they have to play Penn State are their spread offense later this year, either.

They may not be able to get by Wisconsin, who grind out wins. For every play that Fresno State made against the Badgers in the San Joaquin Valley, the Badgers had answers and their defense was able to keep Tom Brandstater in check.

The dirty little secret about USC? They have the easiest path to the MNC game because the Pac-10, usually good for 2nd in conference strength behind the SEC these days, is in a down cycle. USC was one of only two Pac-10 teams that won an out-of-conference game convincingly, and I would rather not count Oregon State-Hawai’i as any sort of meaningful OOC game. Oregon lost another QB and snuck by Purdue in OT, to be fair.

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Above The Rim: Pierce Goes Off.

Celtics 98, Spurs 90 – No KG still and no Kendrick Perkins in the middle left Leon Powe and Glen Davis guarding Tim Duncan. Duncan got his 22, but Paul Pierce had 35 and some crucial bench points and defense on Manu Ginobili kept the Spurs from getting closer than 3 points late.

Suns 108, Wizards 107 – Amazingly competitive game, it speaks well for Washington that they’re getting so much out of that team without both Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. Still not enough tonight — despite Antawn Jamison’s 27 and Brendan Haywood’s season high 21 points, they lost late due to clutch free throws from Amare Stoudemire, points 30 and 31 for the big man.

Lakers 104, Heat 94 – Plenty of great stuff from Shawn Marion playing free down in Miami, but it’s not nearly enough for the Heat to get a win against the Lakers — particularly when Kobe is shooting 10-for-15 and getting 33 points off that.   But at least now the Heat have some semblance of a future, and something to try and keep Dwyane Wade around.

Nuggets 113, Cavs 83 – Melo still owns LeBron, even though the Cavs are heavily depleted (four players out, two of them starters.) James scored 30 through three quarters in the loss, while Melo put up 27 and AI 25 in the Denver rout.

UNC 103, Clemson 93 (2OT) – Clemson had this one for most of the game, outshooting from the 3 point line and making the Tar Heels look bad — but a late comeback sealed overtime, and then UNC just controlled the game. Tyler Hansbrough wound up with 39 and Wayne Ellington added 28 for the Heels. Clemson’s lost 52 in a row at Chapel Hill now.

Washington 71, UCLA 61 – The Huskies put on over on the Bruins, big time — keeping Darren Collison from making a big impact on the scoreboard will do it. A late interesting play, with a Husky player inbounding it off a Bruin’s face to keep the ball and avoid a five-second inbound violation.

Photo: AP/Michael Dwyer