USC’s OC Clay Helton, Steve Sarkisian get on same page

Clay Helton was USC's interim head coach before Steve Sarkisian was hired.

LOS ANGELES — Clay Helton knew he had to get to work.

And so, one at a time, he scribbled the language associated with each play on the board in his office.

USC, once again, was in transition. Steve Sarkisian had been hired as head coach. Following the Trojans Las Vegas Bowl win last December, in which Helton guided the team as interim head coach, Helton was retained by USC’s new head coach as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

With that came a new philosophy and new verbiage that Helton was going to have to absorb in order to teach to the Trojans players.

"If you look up on my board right now it’s got the new terminology based on what we did with the old terminology," Helton said in January.

It was a learning technique for Helton, but also a bit of foreshadowing.

Over the course of the learning process, there was a blend of the verbiage. Sarkisian’s offense and the offense used by USC last season shares some of the same concepts.

Some of the verbiage used by the Trojans remained the same in order for players to easier be able to retain the information and it was simplified.


"We’ve really cut the verbiage down," Sarkisian said. "There’s a lot less words but, I think it’s efficient."

The blend of the terminology along with shortening the verbiage has been helpful with the teaching and learning of the new offense.

"It helps a coach, it helps a player to be able to pick up," Helton said. "That’s the sign of a great head coach, a great offensive-minded coach like Coach Sark to be to able say ‘you know what? If the kids already know it as this we’ll leave it at that.’ "

Just past the midway point in spring practice the team is inching towards having a command of the system.

"I think the guys are starting to understand it," Sarkisian said. "We’re almost getting it. I mean, we’re close. We’re really close to it really clicking for the guys."

As it turns out, Helton’s foreshadowing has paid dividends. As a result, the board in his office is a little cleaner.

"They’re erased now," said Helton of the notes that once filled the board in his office. "They’re on paper now."