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Sarkisian goes to Washington; Morton in line for his position

December 07, 2008|Gary Klein | Klein is a Times staff writer.

USC lost its offensive coordinator to another Pacific 10 Conference school on Saturday, but the Trojans apparently won't have to look far to find his replacement.

After USC's 28-7 victory, Steve Sarkisian told reporters that he would become Washington's head coach, an announcement the school formalized Saturday night.

John Morton, the Trojans' receivers coach and passing game coordinator, is the front-runner to replace Sarkisian, Coach Pete Carroll said.

"That's the way I'm leaning right now," Carroll said. "We have to put it all together and sit down and talk about it."

Sarkisian also served as quarterbacks coach, so Carroll said he would look at options to add a replacement to the staff.

Carl Smith, who coached quarterbacks for the Trojans during their 2004 national championship season and most recently worked as offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars, would be the front-runner for the job.

"He knows our system and won every game," Carroll said. "It would be a great way to go if we could."

Sarkisian, 34, said he accepted the job while speaking to Washington officials immediately after the Trojans' victory at the Rose Bowl. He interviewed for the job over Thanksgiving.

Sarkisian replaces Tyrone Willingham, who was fired on Oct. 27 effective at the end of the season.

The Huskies finished 0-12 after losing to California on Saturday and have lost 14 in a row dating to 2007.

"It's one of the jobs that you look at and you think to yourself, 'They're a better football program than what they're putting out there right now,' " Sarkisian said. "And so the only way to go is up and let's see how far we can go."

Willingham told reporters without a hint of sarcasm, "We hope he is the greatest coach in America, and he comes in and has a whole lot of success. I become a normal citizen today."

Sarkisian said he would remain with the Trojans through their preparations for the Rose Bowl against Penn State on Jan. 1. But he also will begin recruiting and handle other responsibilities for Washington.

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez said he had not yet thought about whether Sarkisian's departure would influence a possible decision to leave for the NFL.

"He's been a great coordinator, an awesome quarterbacks coach, Xs and O's he's one of the best," Sanchez said. "I'll be rooting for him until we've got to play them."

USC plays Washington in its third game next season, on Sept. 19 at Seattle.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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latimes.com/sports

Head Husky

Steve Sarkisian talks about taking the Washington job and becoming a head coach.

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