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USC Football

Fall Camp: Day 5 Notes & Observations W/Clay Helton

October 15, 2020

*cue the Folgers music*The best way to start your day is with a cup of coffee and Coach Clay [Helton].  

The day after the Trojans held their first day of full contact tackle football since...forever, Clay Helton, joined the media and offered his observations of what he sees...what he’s feeling...and what comes next.  

With the required players acclimation period over,  Clay felt the staff and players were prepared and feels like the team is in a good place going forward.  Some of the more positive notes which came from today’s ZOOM presser was when Coach Helton offered his initial thoughts on the day overall.  Clay Helton says he was pleased with yesterday's full pads practice. He says “it was much needed and was ‘clean’ in terms of ball security and other factors.”  

Clay continued,  “I was really pleased...We put a lot of investment into our tackling drills...into our fundamentals...but also ball security situations offensively ….it was a real clean scrimmage atmosphere without a lot of missed tackles, and NO balls on the ground.”  “You always get what you invest in, so it was ‘awesome’ to see it live, and then again on tape last night and this morning.”

** Today and tomorrow’s practice will be big days for the team, as Saturday they head over to the Coliseum for another scrimmage and will do the same for the next three Saturdays as the team prepares for ASU and their 9:00AM kick off.

**There’s still a lot more work to be done over the next three weeks, however, Helton, really wanted to let everyone know how much appreciates the effort from the team, and how proud was to see the fundamental drill work carry over to the live team situations.  

**Still plenty of to do with the mplementation of new systems on special teams, and defensively to get rid of  “that little bit of confusion” emphasized with Helton’s finger and thumb squeezed together emphasizing the “little bit” aspect of his comment.

**Yesterday you may recall from Coach Orlando’s comments, he talked about players “separating themselves”  Today, Clay, offered his observations on who may have separated them self from the others. “In the team periods, I was really impressed with the open field tackling by the secondary and linebacker units.”  “I was extremely pleased with the DB’s physicality and the ability to get the ball to the ground.”   “The linebackers' ability to separate from blocks and make open space tackles.”   “It was a good first day...we got more to do.”

** The emphasis of 3 weeks of OTA’s on teaching tackling fundamentals was discussed!  “Whether it’s ‘gator tackling’ or proper upper body tackling.  Getting our head out of place...having the body in the correct place...and it’s really paid off.” 

** Clay was asked about Drake London and if he’s noticed any ‘growth?’   “His confidence level.”  Clay would go on to talk about when the “light goes on” for a freshman and with, Drake, it was about halfway thru the season.   Other players Helton would reference for contextual purposes...”for Robert Woods it was game 1.  For Nelson Agholor it was the Oregon was game 5 or 6 and you can just see his eyes (get big)...and everything slow down and then he goes for 150 yards of catching balls.”    “You can always tell with a freshman...they either have the ‘deer in the headlights’ or everything kind of slows down and they look calm....”

** When Drake London arrived he had a basketball body.  Not anymore.  Make sure to watch the presser below for the full description of how Drake London has changed his body.

**On the injury front, there were no major injuries to be concerned with other than some bumps and bruises, however, nothing which would require guys missing a game.   As far as Bru McCoy, he’s further along and was able to participate in the scrimmage situations yesterday.  “McCoy has had two really good back to back days of practice.”   Drake Jackson’s hamstring is still not 100%, so they’re keeping him in bubble wrap until he’s ready and just being extra cautious.  I did not get the sense there was any concern publicly, and from I’ve heard privately, I have the same impression with regards to Jackson’s health status.

**The question on where Palaie Gaoteote stands after being in the program for 3-years was brought up...and Helton, offered a really nice candid answer.  "I have been so impressed with the relationship between him and Todd Orlando. Todd has been really, really hard on him, and in doing so, IE is becoming a better fundamental football player."  “This is probably as good of a thing that could have happened to IE and his career.”

**This note is important because IE’s skill set is off the charts and if Coach TO can finally get Gaoteote focused, the linebackers could be a huge force on the defense.  At around the 8:00 minute mark of the presser below, Clay, goes into depth on Coach Orlando and his coaching the linebackers, and IE in particular.

** On getting back Andrew Vorhees, “It was like getting a great Christmas present.”  “You forget how big a man...and how strong that man is...and how much knowledge the guy has.”  “He’s just one of those blue-collar guys that sets an example for the rest of the offensive line.”  

** Regarding the Oline...after the “ones” Helton was quick to point out, there’s a big drop off from experience to youth

**It was time to talk about the TE’s and their impact through the first 5 days of fall camp and Clay was more than excited to talk about the group.  “TE Jude Wolfe had an ‘explosive’ touchdown yesterday” and says “Graham Harrell has used the tight ends frequently in personnel groupings.”  “EK [Krommenhoek} has been a steady force for us for a while, but it was really neat to see Jude get involved and gain some confidence, and made 2 or 3 really nice plays in the scrimmage yesterday...and one for a big score.”

**Along the offensive line there are some great battles going on for the guard positions.  Liam Jimmons is really turning some heads.  Clay mentioned “Liam Jimmons is "starring" in his new role as an offensive lineman and has a chance to become a major contributor this season.” Coach also reflected back on Jimmons, and his journey earning a scholarship.  Please make sure you take the time to watch the video.  

**Helton also reminded the ZOOM room how nice it is to have an Oline group of juniors and seniors this season and the experience they bring with them and NONE of them are under 300LBS.

**There is a lot of excitement when discussing the offensive line group and it’s really evident when Clay talks about the group.

**The last question of the day came from me regarding the culture of the team and the influence his assistants[TO] are having on him and the team.  “I’ll tell ya what...TO brings an attitude.  Not only is he a great fundamental coach, but he brings an attitude with him!  And it’s an attitude of toughness.  “It’s what our mantra is this year...toughness...discipline...being united.”...”and that’s on and off the field.”  “What’s been nice since we walked into this camp is our No.1 priority has been for our players to get to know all of our coaches.   It has been a point of emphasis for the coaches to get connected with all of the players: "We've actually had offensive players do defensive tackle drills and our defensive players work with our offensive coaches on ball security and catching."   “TO has brought a really great energy...and a great attitude of toughness!”


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