"Faith, family and football," has been Clay Helton's mantra for USC football since taking over as head coach after five games this past season.
And his first two outside coaching hires named Monday -- Tyson Helton and Neil Callaway -- follow that formula.
Tyson is absolutely family as Clay's younger brother. Callaway might as well be. He coached with Clay's dad, Kim, at Houston where he tutored quarterback Tyson there.
And now the pair, reunited the last two seasons at Western Kentucky where they produced record-breaking offenses with Tyson as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Callaway as the offensive line coach, will join the Trojan family in what was the worst-kept staffing secret ever.
“We are very excited to welcome Tyson and Neil to the Trojan Family,” Clay said in a statement released by USC. “Their experience and knowledge will be a huge benefit to our players as well as our football program. Both have been highly successful coordinators and we look forward to the fresh energy and ideas they will bring. I have watched them produce a pair of Top 10 offenses that averaged more than 44 points a game each of the past two years. We look forward to them helping bring the same explosiveness to our offense at USC.”
As to the family part, when the USC coaching staff has a family picnic, better be careful when you call out the name "Clay." Both new USC assistants have sons named Clay.
And both Callaway and Tyson Helton come with resumes that should make USC fans feel comfortable about how they'll fit in here.
Callaway, at the age of 60 and a 37-year coaching veteran, was a part of 10 SEC championship teams as a Bear Bryant player then offensive line coach at Auburn and offensive coordinator and O-line coach at Alabama and Georgia as well as Houston, before moving on for five years as the head coach at UAB.
Tyson Helton, at the age of 38, has pretty much done it all on the offensive side of the ball in his 16 years of college coaching from three years as special teams coach at Hawai'i, then adding tight ends to special teams at Memphis, picking up quarterback coaching duties at UAB for five years, then tight ends and special teams at Cincinnati and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks at Western Kentucky.
Tyson's versatility allows Clay, despite the announcement of him as running backs coach, to move in other directions as needed as the rest of the coaching staff shakes out in the coming days. Previous running backs and current special teams coach for USC, Johnny Nansen, if he were to stay, could move over to defense where he's coached both linebackers and the D-line although we'll see how that plays out.
As for Marques Tuiasosopo, USC's QB and tight ends coach this past season, were he to move on, Tyson could pick up those duties and USC could add another running backs coach.
Callaway's duties, despite his own coordinator credentials, are more straightforward. He'll take over a USC offensive line that will be welcoming its fifth -- or sixth if you count interim Mike Goff for the Holiday Bowl prep -- in Zach Banner's five years here.
But a case can be made that if Callaway can bring the kind of seriousness of purpose and attention to detail he has at his previous stops, along with the maturity a relatively young and inexperienced USC staff could benefit from, he's the perfect hire for what may well be the single-most important staffing need.
A first-time head coach like Clay needs someone who can tell him no. Or at least suggest as much.
Someone who could have said that maybe a seven-session bowl prep that took two weeks off and never donned full pads may not have been the way to go. A young USC team that still hadn't figured things out after a season filled with tumult and two flat performances in the final two regular-season games might have needed more than that matched up against a well-coached and physically tough Wisconsin team.
Tyson brings the trust factor and the ability to adjust wherever USC -- and Clay -- might need him as the rest of the coaching staff is fleshed out.
Just some numbers from what Helton and Callaway accomplished at a 12-2 WKU program that finished the year ranked No 25 in the AP Poll after a Miami Beach Bowl win. The Hilltoppers' offense was in the national Top 10 this year in passing efficiency (first at 177.4), scoring (third at 44.3), passing (fourth at 372.2), first downs (eighth at 349) and total yards (ninth at 526.4). A year ago, WKU was the first NCAA program with a 4,500-yard passer and 1,500-yard rusher. Helton coached quarterback Brandon Doughty to a nation-leading 71.9 percent completion percentage, 48 passing TDs, 5,055 passing yards and 304 points responsible for while ranking second in passing efficiency (176.5).
What they've done at Western in the last couple of years together is really impressive. Bowling Green, Ky., in a small state without enough football players to support an SEC program -- Kentucky -- much less an ACC program -- Louisville -- is not exactly the place you'd choose to start a new FBS program and make it immediately competitive. The coaches at WKU did.
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