Call it "Transition Tuesday" this opening game week practice for the Trojans who host Arkansas State Saturday (8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) at the Coliseum.Transition time for Steve Sarkisian as he passes the playcalling mantle to Offensive Coordinator Clay Helton who transitions back down to the sidelines with Tee Martin moving to the role of spotter in the sky.
But it's not all on offense where folks are moving on up. Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith became the first member of his class to be allowed to address the media Tuesday seven months after his early arrival for the spring semester.
That the 6-foot-2, 245-pounder from Roseville might also be the starter at middle linebacker with senior Lamar Dawson just starting to work his way back from fractured ribs is a good reason why he was talking now and not waiting until Saturday.
They told him to "just be humble," Cameron said, "say the right things . . . stay poised." And do what they taught him, he said, of his decision to come in early. "I'm just trying to learn every day out here and be as prepared as possible . . . Michael Hutchings has been a great mentor for me.
But on a day reserved mostly for the offense, the passing of the playcalling torch earned the most attention. Cody Kessler liked the fact that with Helton on the field, the conversation now won't have to happen on the phone.
"I'll be able to talk to him," Kessler said. "It's not huge for me but it will be nice."
For Helton, too, it marks seven years with Cody -- "two recruiting him and five at USC," Clay says after making that fateful phone call to Bakersfield offering Cody just minutes before he was about to commit to Washington.
"Thank goodness Cody chose to come here," Clay says, much as Clay did after 57 days at Arkansas State five years ago before Lane Kiffin offered him the USC quarterbacks coach job.
The USC opportunity, Helton said, "was one of those things you don't pass up."
And in his new location now, if there's something Helton has to show Cody, a diagram on his board for example, he can do it first hand. For Helton, the big reason he could go down to the field was that his eye in the sky will be another quarterback, one of four on this USC staff, Tee Martin, who becomes the press box spotter.
What Tee sees, Clay will be able to see with the same eyes of these two holdover coaches from the Kiffin/Orgeron era. Without that, or without input from former quarterbacks Sark and Marques Tuiasosopo, "I'd be up," Helton says.
"I'm looking forward to it," Helton said, talking of how it's "been a year in development" to get to this point. "It's been a natural occurence." For both coaches, a getting-to-know-one-another's way of doing things. "Every playcaller is a little different."
But getting down on the field matters to him, Helton said, recalling the play two years ago that beat Stanford the last time he was calling plays and remembering how he could look Marqise Lee in the eye, tell him how they were going to play him and what he'd have to do to make what proved to be the game-winning fourth-down catch.
What also matters, Helton said, is the fact that Sark gave up playcalling. "You know Coach, he loves playcalling . . . but he wants to win a championship."
This will help, he knows. Sark will still have input, encouraging him to pound Tre Madden one time, or to go for it deep the next. That kind of encouragement is invaluable for the playcaller, Helton says.
TUESDAY QUICK HITS:
Four players who Sark described as "very limited" Tuesday were Lamar Dawson, Justin Davis, Claude Pelon and Jordan Simmons . . . Aussie Rugby style punter Chris Tilbey was at practice and working out before being announced as a blueshirt scholarship player afterwards . . . he's 6-5 and 220 pounds . . . not a big boomer of a punter but a directional guy with the ball coming off all sorts of ways . . . the former San Francisco CC player from Melbourne will have four years to play three so he would "technically," Sark said, be eligible this season . . . regular punter Kris Albarado will be wearing No. 17 now to avoid having two No. 35's (with linebacker Cam Smith) on the field at the same time . . . WR transfer Jackson Boyer, from North Carolina, will go from No. 17 to No. 84 . . . Antwaun Woods practicing with a big brace on his right elbow . . . Ykili Ross out there and active in team but in a noncontact yellow jersey.CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Tuesday's workout, check out TUESDAY ARKANSAS STATE WEEK GHOST NOTES.
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