Pete Carroll forced to focus on 2010

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Hopefully we won’t get washed out by a raging sea of Mountain Dew, but we’re off to venture into the frenetic head of Pete Carroll.

Could it be that the confident coach who endlessly preaches his “Win Forever” philosophy is really focused on winning next year? Is he actually capable of rational thought and making concessions of any sort? Could this be why Carroll has anointed true freshman Matt Barkley to be his starting quarterback this season?

Yup.

USC’s schedule is brutal, especially on the road. In Week 2 the Trojans play at Ohio State. Oh sure, they’ll walk into the Horseshoe with their usual sweatsuit swagger, but their demeanor upon leaving could be the polar opposite.

Five weeks later, USC visits South Bend to face Notre Dame . . . and if you believe some of the older folks amongst us, the Irish are back.

Even the Pac-10 portion of the schedule is rough. USC’s chief challengers, California and Oregon, have the luxury of home-field advantage over the Trojans this year.

Could it be that Carroll knows the hurdles might be set too high in 2009? Is that why he campaigned so darn hard to keep Mark Sanchez in school for a fifth year?

Without an experienced signalcaller, did he feel that an early season visit to Columbus would mark the end to his team’s annual national title aspirations? If so, that explains his selfish behavior at the press conference Sanchez called to announce that he was going pro.

So, now if things don’t go well — which at USC means you go 10-2 or 9-3 and claim just a share of your eighth consecutive Pac-10 title — Carroll has the ready-made excuse of having had a raw rookie at quarterback.

Much has been made of Barkley being named the starter over Aaron Corp, who is entering his third year at USC, and rightfully so. The timing of the announcement, a couple days before a mock game, was odd. Carroll’s statement: “He’s the starting quarterback at USC — it’s not a one-game deal,” was odder.

However, the fact of the matter is that the uber-talented Barkley was going to overtake Corp at some point this season. That was a given, especially since the schedule is as unforgiving as the people who surround the Trojan program. So, Carroll was probably thinking, “Why not now? … Corp can be the next Matt Cassel.”

That way the freshman won’t be a freshman for long, gaining valuable experience with each and every interception.

Then, this time next year — when the national landscape won’t be inhabited by any Tebows, Bradfords or McCoys — USC, with seasoned Barkley at the controls, will be ready to do something really special (something it hasn’t done since 2004). The Trojans’ 2010 schedule certainly is aligned with the stars.

USC opens the campaign with a Thursday night game at Hawai’i (the Trojans have already made plans to celebrate their blowout victory by continuing their stay on Oahu for a full day before flying out on Saturday). The 2010 non-conference schedule also includes hosting Virginia and a visit to Minnesota. And, of course, the Trojans take their turn, welcoming Notre Dame, Cal and Oregon to the fortress that is the Coliseum.

It’s a far cry from what USC is faced with this year . . . and Pete Carroll knows it.

Vandy assistant Osia Lewis battling liver cancer

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Derek Mason of the Vanderbilt Commodores speaks to an official regarding a play that was called a non-fumble on the opening kickoff against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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A serious medical event has caused a shakeup on Derek Mason‘s Vanderbilt coaching staff.

The football program revealed in an article posted to its official website Tuesday night that outside linebackers coach Osia Lewis is battling cholangiocarcinoma, a form of liver cancer.  The 54-year-old coach was diagnosed in mid-January after undergoing a battery of tests the last couple of months.

Lewis, who is married with two children, has already started chemotherapy, although the school writes that, “[f]or now, the tumor is inoperable due to its location, but doctors are hopeful treatment will make an impact.”

As Lewis continues to battle, he will move from his on-field role to what the program describes as the chief consultant to the head coach and senior defensive assistant. “But as soon as I’m ready to go, I’ll be back,” the coach said.

“Osia is family,” Mason said. “Some people run from these things, but we’ve chosen to run to it. I believe Osia and Darlene, with what they’ve poured into this program, their journey is a testament to what it means to be family. They’ve given everything they have to this program, moving from San Diego to Nashville because I asked them to. I truly believe it’s important for us to take the journey with them.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

WRs coach Zach Azzanni leaving Vols for job with Chicago Bears

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 15:  A general view of the play during the game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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An NFL team has once again cost a Power Five program an assistant coach.

Tennessee announced in a press release Wednesday that Zach Azzanni has stepped down from his job with the Volunteers in order to take the job as wide receivers coach with the Chicago Bears.  Azzanni had spent the past four seasons as UT’s receivers coach.

He also carried the title of passing-game coordinator the last two years.

“We are really excited for Zach and his family,” said head coach Butch Jones in a statement. “I have known Zach for a long time and this is a path he has wanted to pursue for some time. We can’t thank him enough for his loyalty, dedication and hard work over the past four years to our football program.

“We will begin the process of filling this position immediately. It’s a position we want to fill as quickly as we can, but we also want to go through the detailed process, which we will.”

This will mark Azzanni’s first job in the NFL as his previous 18 years in the profession have come at the collegiate level.

Clemson transfer Scott Pagano sets his five official visits

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 01: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass under pressure from Scott Pagano #56 of the Clemson Tigers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Not long after Scott Pagano decided to transfer from Clemson, three dozen or so teams expressed interest in the defensive tackle.  A short time later, that list had been whittled down to seven by the lineman.

Just a couple of days later, Pagano has a list of teams he will officially visit.  From Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.com:

Pagano… said he will officially visit Notre Dame March 24, Oklahoma March 31 and Arkansas April 7.

Pagano has completed his official visit plan by lining up a trip to Texas for April 14 and Oregon April 21.

The graduate transfer also listed Cal and Nebraska as two of his seven finalists.  He could still “unofficially” visit those programs, or any others for that matter, even as they are not part of his current official visits schedule.

Pagano is expected to make a final decision that would allow him to enroll in his new school in May.

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. Pagano started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Jim Harbaugh confirms TE Devin Asiasi will transfer from Michigan

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 29: Devin Asiasi #2 of the Michigan Wolverines tries to outrun the tackles of Riley Bullough #30 and Ed Davis #43 of the Michigan State Spartans during a first quarter run at Spartan Stadium on October 29, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The reports of a couple of weeks ago have indeed come to fruition.

Earlier this month, speculation had Devin Asiasi considering a transfer from Michigan back closer to his home on the West Coast. Tuesday night, the tight end’s head coach confirmed the transfer part of the equation.

“Yeah, he’s moving on, transferring,” Jim Harbaugh said according to mlive.com. “He leaves in great status. He was doing great in school, doing great in football, really popular and well-liked by his teammates.

“We wish him well.”

USC and UCLA are currently rumored to be among Asiasi’s potential landing spots. One of Asiasi’s former high school teammates, Boss Tagaloa, plays defensive tackle for the Bruins and the two players had talked of going to the same school when they were recruits. The Trojans were a finalist before Asiasi opted for the Wolverines as well.

As a 6-3, 287-pound true freshman last season, Asiasi played in all 13 games. He caught two passes for 18 yards and a touchdown.

A four-star recruit in last year’s class coming out of high school at Concord De La Salle High School, Asiasi was rated as the No. 3 tight end in the country and the No. 12 player at any position in the state of California. In addition to UM, USC and UCLA, Asiasi held offers from, among others, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington.