Washington coach Steve Sarkisian says game against USC, and former mentor Pete Carroll, will "just be football"
Coaches have nothing but kind words as they look ahead to meeting Saturday at Husky Stadium
Seattle Times staff reporter
USC @ Washington, 12:30 p.m., Ch. 4
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Pete Carroll began his teleconference with Seattle media Monday congratulating Steve Sarkisian for getting the Washington program "turned so quickly."
Sarkisian ended his by stating that he thinks the job Carroll has done at USC "is one of the best, if not the best, runs in college football history."
And so began old home week for the Washington Huskies as they prepare to face USC, the program they are now emulating after hiring away Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Nick Holt and three other staffers.
How similar are the programs now?
Consider the experience of UW tight end Kavario Middleton, who went home Saturday night after Washington's win over Idaho to watch the USC-Ohio State game on television.
"I was watching USC's offense and I was calling out the plays they were running because we are running the exact same stuff," Middleton said. "If I can call out the plays they are doing, it's pretty noticeable."
So there won't be any secrets this week, and no venom, either, if the admiration-fest between Carroll and Sarkisian during their news conferences is any indication.
Carroll recalled hiring Sarkisian as a graduate assistant in 2001 largely on a recommendation from offensive coordinator Norm Chow, joking that he had never heard of Sarkisian as a player.
"I know. He didn't draft me. I was disappointed," Sarkisian said of Carroll, who was coach of the New England Patriots in 1997, the year after Sarkisian played his final season at BYU.
Sarkisian played three years as a quarterback in the CFL and had decided to give coaching a shot. He was QBs coach at El Camino College in 2000 before his year as a graduate assistant for the Trojans. When a full-time job came open at USC before the 2002 season — after Sarkisian had accepted a job at San Diego State — Carroll brought him on for good.
Carroll recalled how Sarkisian helped him redesign the USC offense after their first year together in 2001, a 6-6 season. The following season, the Trojans went 10-2 and Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy and the current USC dynasty was on.
"We never had issues about anything," Carroll said. "We were really, really connected on all that stuff. It was a very, very good relationship."
Carroll said he thought all along that Sarkisian would make a good head coach and had no qualms about him taking the Washington job.
"Whoever thought that [there might be hard feelings] doesn't understand," Carroll said. "When our guys come through this program, they know I'll do everything in my power to help them get the job of their dreams. I'll compete like crazy, try and support them and help them prepare and all of that, battle for them when the time comes, and that is exactly what this is an illustration of. In essence, I couldn't be more happy for these guys. It's the opposite of what somebody might think."
And Sarkisian said he was pulling for his former team to pull out Saturday's game at Ohio State, an eventual 18-15 win for the Trojans.
"To say I wasn't feeling emotion in that game would be wrong," he said.
But Saturday, he insisted, will be just another game.
"I don't think it's going to be strange," he said. "I looked across the line of scrimmage for seven years at those guys on defense, in practice. And practice there is as difficult, or more difficult, than games. I think once the kickoff goes, it's going to just be football."
And while Sarkisian might be trying to approach this like just any other game, he did something Monday he hasn't done either of the first two weeks. After he concluded his meeting with the media, he grabbed the players who were in attendance — possibly as a result of a couple pointed comments about USC after Saturday's win — and herded them downstairs for a little "media training" before they came back and met with reporters.
"He just said be humble, be respectful, that sort of thing," Middleton said.
Just another game indeed.
Sarkisian said JC transfer defensive back David Batts has been dismissed for a violation of team rules. He wouldn't elaborate.
Batts was a transfer from El Camino College and had been predicted by some to start immediately at safety. Instead, he struggled to make the transition and last week was moved to cornerback. He didn't play in either of UW's first two games, and wasn't in pads for the Idaho game, standing on the sideline in his jersey. Sarkisian said after Saturday's game that was because Batts didn't feel well.
Batts' departure means that only two of the six junior-college players UW signed last February are still with the team — tight end Dorson Boyce and punter Will Mahan.
• Some 7,500 unobstructed-view tickets remain for the USC game.
• The Huskies' game at Stanford on Sept. 26 will be played at 6 p.m., and will not be televised.
UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies