A.P. Steadham

Alabama Defensive Line and Calvin Ridley Have USC Coach Sleepless in Los Angeles

Preparing to play the defending national champion would cause any coach to have sleepless nights. Plus a quarterback starter has yet to emerge from the spring competition. Clay Helton has an entire off-season to ponder the terrifying dream since USC opens the schedule against Alabama in Arlington, Texas on September 3rd. BamaMag.com spoke today with the Trojans head coach as part of the Pac-12 football media teleconference.

Two specific antagonists surfaced in the night time drama.  The prolific production and threat of wide receiver Calvin Ridley as part of the Lane Kiffin led star-concentrated offense is a major concern.  Additionally, the dominating Alabama defensive line weighs heavily on the mind of Clay Helton.

Calvin Ridley finished the 2015 campaign with a freshman school record of 89 receptions, seven for touchdowns and 1045 receiving yards.  Alabama recorded a Nick Saban era best 53 sacks (-337) in 2015.  Players registering 41.5 of those tackles return in 2016.  USC allowed 38 sacks (-256) in 2015.  New Trojan offensive line coach and former Alabama player, Neil Callaway, will look to tighten up the protection.     

APS – What is your plan to announce the starting quarterback?

Clay Helton - “My plan to announce the starting quarterback is to obviously we’ve carried it over to training camp.  I’m not going to put like a designated number of practices before making the decision.  I’m hoping there is a total feel.  I will make a decision prior to when we get into our game planning week.  I’m not going all up until game time and make a decision.  It will be prior to us going into that game week and hopefully earlier.  I’m not going to say its six practices or ten practices or anything like that.  When I feel that there’s been a distance made and the competitions being won, then I will announce it.  I’m hoping that is at least a week prior to that opening game if not more.”

APS – What keeps you up at night after watching Alabama on film?

Clay Helton – “They (Alabama) have talent all over the field.  It starts on the defensive front.  They have done a tremendous job recruiting.  The defensive front people, they are able to rush four and get to the quarterback.  Year-in-and-year-out they have been able to reload at that position.  I know they’ve lost some guys but they have talent behind it.  Offensively, I think (Calvin) Ridley is one of the more special players in college football.  Having known Coach Kif (Lane Kiffin) the way I do, he does a tremendous job of finding ways to get his best player the ball.  He is brilliant at it – being able to find matchups and putting a quality athlete like that in position to make plays.  It will be our challenge to really try to control that situation but I would probably say their defensive line and Ridley on offense are the two things that keep you up at night.”

The USC head coach continued in the conversation about competing against Alabama, “As a coach I tried to focus on us just getting better and we made it all about ball and worried about technique, fundamentals, physicality, toughness – those qualities we feel are going to win a championship but I’m not naïve.  I know this game is special to our players.  You can even hear them mention, hey that is not good enough or a drill may not be good enough and they are getting on each other – that is not going to beat Alabama.  They know how special a game this is, the tradition behind it, the two quality universities that are competing against each other.  I don’t sell it as a coach but these kids are smart enough to know that it’s a big game, that’s it’s the opening game.  It’s a game for them to be able to prove where they’re at and they are taking it to heart.  I’m worried about trying to improve them as players and trying to improve our team.”


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