Here are some of Clay Helton’s thoughts with the media on Saturday morning.
* Saturday would be a full-pads, physical practice. (See Erik McKinney’s Saturday post-practice tidbits report: https://wearesc.com/forum/index.php?threads/saturday-practice-tidbits.79295/ )
*Clay Helton said that after watching the tape of the Spring Showcase, he thought a standout was offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees, who was given the opportunity to move from guard to left tackle. Another players that stood out was true freshman defensive tackle Jay Toia and how far he has come since the beginning of spring. Helton said it “it is literally like night and day.”
* Coach felt that this was a great week of work, and coming off the Spring Showcase was beneficial from making corrections to installing some new thoughts, new ideas, and new personnel groupings on both offense and defense, which you don’t usually get to make due to the previous scheduling of the Spring Showcase.
* The Trojans worked this week on some situational mastery in areas such as “two-minutes” or “four minutes, overtime situations.”
* The Trojans “moved some guys around and had a chance to do some dual training.”Emphasis was moving some players around on the offensive line and player changes in the secondary.
* Areas needed for improvement off the Spring Showcase film included working on various personnel groupings with focus on the run game. Helton was pleased with his offensive staff that instituted some “packages” that will carry over into the fall. Defensively, it’s about keeping the progression of the young players going, especially the 14 newcomers. A lot of them are in the backend of the secondary along with linebacker Julien Simon. It’s about getting them ready so they can contribute into the fall.
* Backup center Andrew Milek, who injured his knee at Wednesday’s practice, had a diagnosis of a knee sprain and will rehabilitation and not surgery.
* Despite the transfer loss of defensive lineman Caleb Tremblay this past week, Helton felt the defensive line depth was still in a good position in terms of current players on hand and those players that will come in the fall. Some of the players that Helton is looking forward to seeing in the future are Alabama transfer Ishmael Sopsher, who is rehabbing from leg surgery, and heralded incoming freshman Kory Foreman. Helton likes the development of young D-linemen like Jay Toia, Jamar Sekona, and Kobe Pepe. The coach also mentioned Nick Figueroa as another defensive lineman he’s looking forward to coming back from rehab. Helton said the defensive line looks a little “sparse” right now, but in fall training camp the depth will be fine.
* Regarding players that have been moved to other spots and have impressed Helton include offensive lineman Jonah Monheim, who the coach says has been impressive. Others mentioned were OT Courtland Ford and the progression that young lineman is making. Justin Dedich drew praise for being able to not only play center but move over to guard. Liam Jimmons has stepped up his game. The coach also mentioned offensive guard Andrew Vorhees getting reps at left tackle was a good thing, and Vorhees “handled it extremely well and showed his versatility and athleticism.”
* Helton has been “pleasantly pleased” with the way new offensive line coach Clay McGuire has brought along his offensive line, especially the young players. The biggest plus with McGuire, according to Helton, is that he brings a knowledge of the Air Raid blocking system to his players. He knows the system and has helped “simplified” the system for his unit mentally, especially the younger players.
* The goal for the final week of spring practice is to continue to work on situational mastery such as time and ball placement and to continue to teach off of film.
* The Trojans worked on the new rules that will be in effect next season, specifically the new overtime rules.
* On the arrival and effect of Texas running back Keaontay Ingram on the other running backs, Helton said that both Ingram and true freshman Brandon Campbell have “both raised the bar.” The kids have bonded and have supported each other as a unit and really increased “the competitive level.” No group on the team is playing any better than the running back group. Helton said a team can never have enough good backs.
* On his team getting the COVID vaccine, Helton said they have addressed the team and while it is encouraged to get vaccinated, it is not mandated. Some of the players have been vaccinated and the fulltime staff have all been vaccinated. Helton mentioned that some restrictions have eased (quarantining from returning from out-of-state) for players that have been vaccinated. Trojans are COVID testing every day and twice on practice days.
* This spring practice has been especially critical due to the fact that there was no spring ball last season. That is why the Trojans went through eight weeks of conditioning before starting the current spring practice session. It’s been a 13-week cycle.
* Regarding true freshmen quarterbacks Jaxson Dart and Miller Moss to this point, Helton commented that the Trojans have 40 practices until they play a game and have to make a decision on the backup quarterback position. The freshmen have done a good job of learning and going through growing pains. Dart and Moss “have shown flashes of brilliance, both of them” and they’re getting better each practice and are very coachable. Spring is about getting better from “moment to moment” rather than “where do I sit” on the depth chart. Helton admitted that both young quarterbacks are just one snap away from being thrust into a game with Mo Hassan gone (ACL).
* Helton said that he’ll release a final depth chart the Friday before the first game.
* Asked about the progress of quarterback Kedon Slovis and his relationship with his receivers, Helton said that Slovis has been exceptional in situational areas such as the two-minute offense. The coach went on to say that practicing against a Todd Orlando defense is a great learning experience for any quarterback with all the disguised coverages, Slovis included. Slovis has handled these situations “to perfection.” His experience and decision-making “is really shining through and has been his biggest area of growth.”
* Helton praised young receivers Gary Bryant Jr., Bru McCoy, Michael Jackson lll, and transfer KD Nixon.
* Asked about true freshman linebacker Julien Simon, Helton said that Simon is still learning the speed of the game and how fast to make a decision. What is great for him is that Todd Orlando (linebacker coach and defensive coordinator) is mentoring him. Simon has improved from the beginning of spring ball and understands the defense. The Washington native is very physical, and he can hurt you.