It’s back to practice for USC, minus quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton, who is headed to Tennessee

Pac 12 Championship - Stanford v USC
USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr., center, is congratulated by Sam Darnold (14) and others after his touchdown reception against Stanford on Dec. 1.
(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

After winning the Pac-12 Conference championship and taking some time off, the USC football team is back at work preparing for a Cotton Bowl matchup against Ohio State.

Coach Clay Helton called it a “typical” week — tape review on Monday, contact drills on Tuesday — but there is one difference.

Helton’s younger brother, Tyson, has left his position as quarterbacks coach and pass game coordinator to become the offensive coordinator at Tennessee.

“We have great coaches and those things come up,” Clay Helton said. “I’m proud for him and thankful for him for the job he’s done.”


Quality control assistant Bryan Ellis, who had previously helped with quarterbacks, will fill in for now.

“He’s been doing a phenomenal job,” offensive coordinator Tee Martin said. “Really believe in him.”

Martin, who guided Tennessee to a national championship when he played quarterback in the late 1990s, was asked why he did not take over the quarterbacks.

“When I played quarterback, I didn’t want a lot of people in my head. I didn’t want a lot of voices,” Martin said. “So I give the quarterback coaches their space to be a consistent voice … but if there’s something that needs to be talked about, I’ll step in.”


Big test

A coaching change won’t be the only challenge for the offense — Ohio State will show up at the Cotton Bowl with the eighth-ranked defense in the nation.

Helton and Martin talked about a secondary that plays man coverage while putting up strong numbers in yards allowed and defensive pass efficiency. Up front, defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Sam Hubbard have disrupted plays in the backfield.

“You look at Bosa coming off the edge in passing situations and he’s a tackle-for-loss nightmare,” Helton said.

Road warriors

The new early signing period in college football has created headaches for coaches trying to get their teams ready for bowl games.

The USC staff missed out on recruiting at the end of November.

“We made a commitment to our football team to win the Pac-12 title,” Helton said. “So that first week when you’re allowed out, we committed to our players and our team.”


Playing catch-up since then, the Trojans coaches have scrambled around the country to meet with prospects. Running backs coach Deland McCullough was in Ohio last week. After Monday’s practice, Helton jumped on a plane.

“Did a home visit, flew back early morning and got here ready to go back to work again,” he said. “We’ll catch up on sleep next week.”

Quick hits

Concussion protocol kept offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees out of practice Tuesday. … Defensive back Jack Jones and tailback Ronald Jones II were pulled as a precautionary measure with ankle injuries. … Kick returner Velus Jones Jr. was limited by an ankle injury and receiver Tyler Vaughns has an AC joint injury.

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