While the Trojans play-calling duties rest in the hands of Lane Kiffin, his right-hand man Clay Helton certainly places a mentor’s hand in the pot of USC quarterbacks. Working on a daily basis on fundamentals, mechanics and decision making, Helton understands what it takes for each quarterback on the roster to take their talents to the next level this fall.
“When we come in to the meeting room each day, we try to get better that day by trying to focus on the installation for that day,” proclaimed coach Helton after practice on Day 12.
Mar 5, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) throws a pass as quarterbacks coach Clay Helton applies pressure at spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Currently in his fourth year as the quarterbacks coach–and adding the role of passing game coordinator role last season–Helton originally joined the staff back in February of 2010.
He spent 10 seasons as an assistant at Memphis before joining the ranks of Troy, and he now enjoys the opportunity to work with such a highly talented crop of players at USC.
“All three quarterbacks have the intangibles that we are looking for,” Helton said, adding that the each also have great leadership skills, qualities that play into Kiffin’s decision of who will start.
“We focus on becoming better quarterbacks and hopefully that results in making each person in that room better prepared for Hawaii,” Helton says, just two full weeks from the opener.
As the Trojans embark on the grind before game week, each of the young QB leaders continue to make positive strides with the offense.
“The quarterbacks have looked really good, managed the huddle well and we are really excited about the competition,” said Coach Kiffin.
While Kiffin will ultimately make the decision as to who starts week one and beyond, his right-hand man is not afraid to shake some feathers by putting things into the proper perspective. “Game one or game eight, everyone in that offensive meeting is preparing for each and every game,” according to Helton. “Every player is driving to compete and get better.”
Helton continues to groom a young crop of quarterbacks, who have a combined two full games of playing experience under their belt. That being said, the coach feels his players have truly benefited from their predecessor’s tutelage, combined with a wealth of repetitions this calendar year.
“They were very fortunate to learn under Matt Barkley on how to lead a team and demand perfection of yourself,” said the man who coached Barkley for three seasons. “Now they are getting extra reps and you see the benefit, especially with their timing.”
In any professional sport, building solid relationships defines the chemistry of a unit, something the USC quarterbacks know that they have on and off the field. “You could talk to him about anything, you got troubles going on and you just want to sit down and talk to him, you always can,” Wittek mentioned of being under Helton’s wing.
Whether working with the big two left in the competition, or the walk-ons, Helton prepares his players to succeed in more than just football.
“No question,” emphatically responds Helton.”If they want to come in and sit down to talk, we are always there for them. Just like any of the position coaches here on this team.”
The Trojans take to the battle field with one mission in mind: win football games. Regardless of who ends up starting this season, the man behind the position will always have his players trust. “Honestly, I couldn’t ask for much more. He is always there for us,” said Max Browne.
In the coming weeks, his input will likely help determine who the new face of the USC offense is, and with it, the final piece of the puzzle can be laid out for the Trojans’ 2013 campaign.