USC coach Sarkisian itching to play QB in the Pac-12

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has had success playing and coaching the QB position, and he says there's no doubt he'd hang with the best of them if he was playing today.

Sarkisian on QB Kessler, UCLA rivalry

JUL 24, 2:31 pm
New USC head coach Steve Sarkisian says QB Cody Kessler's game reminds him of former Trojans star Mark Sanchez.

The competitive juices inside Steve Sarkisian -- the quarterback -- have not dissipated.

The current USC head coach is a long way from his days as a signal caller at El Camino College and Brigham Young University, where in two seasons with the Cougars he threw 53 touchdowns and 7,464 yards while earning WAC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 1996.

After having success both playing and coaching the position, it's safe to say Sarkisian knows what it takes to be a quarterback.

There will come a time during his inaugural season as USC's head coach when his team will go up against the likes of Stanford's Kevin Hogan, Oregon State's Sean Mannion and Arizona State's Taylor Kelly in three consecutive conference games.

That's before facing the likes of Washington State's Connor Halliday and UCLA's Brett Hundley later in November.

Depending on how things shake out, the Trojans may have to face some guy from Oregon named Marcus Mariota. But that's looking much, much further down the road.   

When it comes to quarterbacks, there is not a conference in America deeper at the position than the Pac-12 is in 2014.

10 of the 12 teams return starters at the position, with Arizona and Washington being the exceptions.

Sarkisian looks at all the talent at quarterback throughout the league and it's the QB in him who gets most excited.

"I'd love it (to be a quarterback in this conference today)," Sarkisian said. "I'd try to beat them all. I think I would, too."

Three of the aforementioned quarterbacks -- Hundley, Mannion, and Mariota -- “were semifinalists for the 2013 Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's top quarterback.

Heading into this season, the Pac-12 has eight players on the award's watch list. The Big 10, Big 12 and SEC are next with five quarterbacks each.

"I think that that's part of why you play in the Pac-12 conference," Sarkisian said of the talent at the position. "This isn't the first time our conference has had good quarterbacks. We've had them for decades and I don't think it's going to change. I think the quarterback play on the West Coast has always been superior whether it's in high school or college, and I really believe that's not going to change."

No matter how much Sarkisian would love to take snaps in such a competitive landscape, it's unlikely he'll be lining up under center for the Trojans this season. Good thing for him, he has a returning starter in Cody Kessler -- one of the guys on the O'Brien radar -- who guided the Trojans to 10 wins a season ago.