Clay Helton challenged his coordinators, position coaches and players as USC football opened preparations for a pivotal matchup with Colorado.
Throughout the bye week, USC football head coach Clay Helton highlighted the opportunity to self-scout and improve. With preparations for Colorado now underway, he laid out the conclusions he drew from that evaluation and what he expects going forward after Tuesday’s full pads practice.
Defensively, the emphasis is on takeaways.
“If we truly want to separate from people we have to do what we did in the Arizona game, getting that turnover, it went from a one score game to a two score game,” Helton said. “That’s how you separate from people.”
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The Trojans definitely haven’t done that enough. Marvell Tell’s interception against the Wildcats was just the third turnover of the season generated by USC’s defense.
On the other side of the ball, Helton pointed to consistency. He was pleased with fast starts from the offense over the past few weeks, “but the consistency of the play needs to improve.”
Specifically, Helton noted the “killer instinct” he wants to see from the offense to put games away, just like they didn’t do against Arizona.
On special teams, the note was simple: Don’t make critical errors like the blocked kick returned for a touchdown against Texas.
“That cost us a game, instead of being a one score game, all of the sudden it turns into a three score game,” Helton said.
The team was presented with those overarching observations from the bye week. The next step is finding solutions.
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Helton has some, from the top down.
“I challenged our coordinators to make sure that we stay aggressive at all times,” he said. “Play with no fear, play to win and be aggressive in all moments.”
Position coaches were told to focus critically on fundamentals and technique, keying in on details like hand placement.
As for the players, their task is to “hold everybody accountable when it comes to decision-making.”
Helton’s hope is to be able to take the mistakes he highlighted at the start of the week and show players visible improvements on the practice tape.
Trojan fans are hoping the visible improvement extends to the Coliseum on Saturday.
Notes and tidbits
- Langley’s triple… Senior cornerback Isaiah Langley had an outstanding day of practice with three interceptions across two different periods. His first two came in the one-on-one period with receivers and defensive backs squaring off. The third and final pick came against Matt Fink during the 7-on-7 period.
- Scouting Laviska Shenault… The role of Colorado’s Laviska Shenault was played by Randal Grimes and Devon Williams during the 11-on-11 scouting period. Grimes and Williams took turns wearing a blue helmet covering designating them as a key player. Worryingly, Grimes caught two long touchdown passes in that role.
- No wasted possessions… Playing a clean game of football against Colorado is essential. It all comes down to ball control, according to Helton. Every penalty makes it easier for Colorado’s offense to stay on the field and harder for USC’s offense to keep the ball away from Steven Montez and company. “When you’re playing a team that’s 5-0 and you’re playing an offense that puts up 39 points, you cannot waste a possession,” he said. “You can’t have 18 of them, I know that. Or you’ll lose a game.”
- Film study date… Helton spent his bye week watching a lot of football, including scouting Colorado with his wife Angela. “Me and miss Angela called it a date,” he said. “She wanted a date, she got to watch a lot of Colorado film with me.”
- Sending off Bubba Bolden… Helton limited his comments on Bubba Bolden’s departure from USC, but took the chance to “wish him nothing but the best.” The head coach called him a “good player, good kid” and hoped for “a very bright future for him.”