USC Football gathers unique perspectives on the coaching staff

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC Football is hoping to get the most out of unique perspectives on the coaching staff, with Tim Drevno, Keary Colbert and others responsible for unfamiliar positions.

There’s something unique about USC Football’s coaching staff for 2018, on the offensive side of the ball at least.

No, it’s not that Clay Helton has somehow managed to find a surprisingly homogeneous group of coaches, insofar as they all seem to have direct links to the Trojans. It’s how three of five offensive assistants are coaching positions they’ve never actually played.

That’s noteworthy because of a couple of new additions to the coaching staff, with former offensive lineman Tim Drevno returning to coach running backs and former wide receiver Keary Colbert promoted to coach tight ends.

More than a few eyebrows raised when it became clear Drevno would be coaching anything but the position that made him a household name. However, offensive coordinator Tee Martin doesn’t see that as a bad thing.

“To coach running backs from the viewpoint of the offensive line is really special,” Martin said. “I compare it to me being a former quarterback and coaching wide receivers. It’s really cool to have on our staff.”

If Martin is the example to compare Drevno’s position change to then it could work out well for the Trojans.

A national title-winning quarterback at Tennessee, Martin has thrived coaching receivers. He’s identified, recruited and developed some of the most productive and exciting pass catchers in USC history. And he’s done it on a consistent basis despite never playing wide receiver at a meaningful level.

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Nor is he the only Trojan coach who has proven capable of coaching a position they never played. Outside linebackers coach Johnny Nansen, a former linebacker, handled the running backs for two years when he first arrived at USC, getting the most out of Buck Allen and a first-year Ronald Jones II in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Drevno doesn’t have playing experience to lean back on, but he has coached running backs before. He argues that ability to coach in a general sense is more important than positional familiarity.

“A great coach is a great teacher, a great motivator,” Drevno said. “It’s about motivating and getting the guys to do things.”

Of course, there are contradictions to those ideas. USC’s passers rave about new quarterbacks coach Bryan Ellis because he is a former quarterback. He’s relatable in that sense.

“It’s great to have someone that’s played the position, especially in a similar offense,” redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Sears said. “They’ve made the mistakes you’re going to make. They can help you prevent making those mistakes and they know what’s going through your head.”

There are advantages to be had on both side of the equation. Ellis can bring hands on knowledge to the quarterbacks while Drevno, Martin and Colbert can try bring a different perspective to their position groups.

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If Drevno can get USC’s running backs to better understand the blocking ahead of them, so they can take advantage of it, that’s an asset.

If Colbert can raise the receiving ability of USC’s tight ends, few will complain.