The other Helton: Making it all come together

Tyson Helton says the way for this USC offense to go is to be creative and cutting edge and get there first -- with everybody on the same page.

Tyson Helton has had lots of those moments growing up in college football when you can say, this was a big influence on who he is today.

He's Clay Helton's little brother, the one with hair and a flat stomach, Clay -- feigning jealousy or maybe not -- likes to say. And the quick talker. He's also Kim Helton's son. And like Clay, a guy who has worked his way to USC.

When the talk turns to which coaches influenced him, the 38-year-old who looks younger than that, can go back to when he was five and hanging around his dad's office at the University of Miami when Kim Helton was Howard Schnellenberger's offensive coordinator and smelling the aroma of Schnellenberger's famous pipe. And hearing that booming voice.

And then, 18 years later after quarterbacking at Houston for his dad, then the head coach, Tyson was looking for a grad assistant's spot and Schnellenberger was back in South Florida starting up the Florida Atlantic program. And Tyson went in to talk to him about it.

And from behind his desk, Schnellenberger, after fiddling with his pipe for a full minute of silence, comes over and sits in the chair right beside him and asks: "Tyson, what have you been doing with yourself the last 18 years?"

Well, that's our question too. "Tyson, what have you been doing and who have been the big influences in your coaching career? And how does that play out here at USC?"

Not a simple answer to account for his last 16 years as a college coach. Of course, there's his dad -- a great O-line coach," he says in his easy, open way.

And for the year he was at Cincinnati, he had Tommy Tuberville up from Auburn. "Coach Tubbs was great . . . don't sweat things too much," he says he learned how to be laid-back and not let things get to you.

But for style and who he is offensively, USC's quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator says it's been a four-way ride. He started out in Hawai'i where "June Jones' run-and-shoot with four wides in the passing game was the way to do things."

Then he headed back to Memphis with his brother under Tommy West "and we ran out of the spread with a pretty good running back by the name of DeAngelo Williams . . . so we ran the ball," Tyson says. "That is still the best way to win football games -- if you have the people to do it. You run the ball if they can't stop you."

UAB was next and they didn't have the people. "We didn't have great players so you learn to be creative," Tyson says. And with Joe Webb, now a Carolina Panthers backup who became one of the most productive quarterbacks in NCAA history and the first ever to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in back-to-back seasons, he learned how to create with a true dual-threat quarterback.

"Some of what we did was we tried to make things look like they were an option but we'd call the pitch," Tyson says. "We just wanted you to think it was an option."

But it was his last two seasons at Western Kentucky he feels like he came into his own. That's because new head coach Jeff Brohm, out of a Louisville family of QB gurus, and he were coming in at the same time with the same mindset.

"All my past experiences and all Jeff's past experiences just came together," he says of the pairing of these two offensive coordinators and QB coaches.

"Jeff is so creative, so cutting edge and in the forefront of offensive football, which is where you have to be to stay ahead of things now. This game is about who gets there first."

Finishing at No. 25 in the nation, the 12-2 Hilltoppers mostly did, averaging 44.3 points a game coming off a season a year ago when they were the first NCAA team with a 4,500-yard passer and a 1,500-yard rusher. You get the picture.

So how does this all play out for USC in 2016? Where will the Trojans offense go? What will it look like?

That's what Coach Tee (Martin) and I have been meeting about," Tyson says of the Friday morning meeting that ran through lunch. "We're taking what's good about both offenses [USC's and WKU's] and looking at what we can do a good job at."

"What flows when we do it. What are we really good at . . . We're going to have athletes. But we have to find out how good our quarterbacks are."

And find out what they do well. "I've had an athletic quarterback in Joe Webb," he says. So you go with that.

As to what to call it, Tyson says: "We are a multiple personnel, multiple formation offense . . . the way defenses are now, you have to do that. You don't want defenses to sit back and know you're a two-back offense or just run the spread."

Can you run the read option without a true running threat at quarterback? "Sure you can . . . some," he says. And you can execute a quick read option by pulling the ball out and hitting a quick slant, for example. With the quick pass the option.

"The No. 1 thing you have to understand how do you attack the defense" and how do you adjust. "So many teams are opening with three down linemen and then jumping into a four-down look."

But if there's one thing that Tyson says he wants to bring in with him, it's the way the coaches worked together at Western where the head coach and the assistants were on the same page -- every play, every practice, every game.

Coming here with Western Kentucky O-line coach Neil Callaway, who coached for Kim Helton and recruited Clay Helton to Auburn, and working now with Tee Martin who succeeds Clay as play-caller with the return to USC of running backs coach Tommie Robinson and tight ends coach John Baxter, Tyson thinks this staff has that all-together mindset going for it.

It's worked already in the two months they've been here. As a former recruiting coordinator, Tyson said he couldn't be more pleased how the team recruiting approach, with dual prospect responsibilities, paid off this past class.

"You know coaches are going to come and go so the way we did it with more than one recruiter for a prospect really worked in the end," he says. "And now that we have a full staff that will be together a full year, we should really be able to get out to kids here in the state."

Tyson's recruiting responsibilities going forward are national quarterbacks, the Bay Area and Northern California and Florida, where he's developed a number of ties.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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