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USC quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton is learning a lot this spring

Tyson Helton is grooming a pair of quarterbacks, either of which he thinks can win games for USC.

USC quarterback coach Tyson Helton is overseeing a quarterback competition led by Max Browne and Sam Darnold. We talked with Helton after practice about numerous topics.

Q: How is redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold grasping the playbook?

Tyson Helton: “I think he’s getting close. I think he needs more reps. When he’s in there, he performs, and he performs well. He finds guys, even when he’s not quite sure, he [still] finds them, so we’ve just got to get it to a point where he’s mastering his craft and he knows exactly where he’s going at all times. But what I do like about him is even when even when he’s not quite sure, he has big vision and can see the field, and he finds people and completes the ball.”

Q: How has Max Browne’s progression been the last few weeks?

TH: “I think he’s done a great job. He’s in control, he has a great presence about him, extremely smart, he’s taking care of the ball, he’s making plays, he’s kind of that mature guy that you’re looking for to lead the group, and he’s doing a lot of good things too, making good plays. It’s kind of neat to see, you’ve got two guys. You’ve got the younger guy, that you know ‘I just throw to the open guy and I get touchdowns,’ and the older guy that knows why he’s doing what he’s doing, so it’s good to see those guys. They push each other and it makes us better as a team.”

Q: Does Darnold have a real chance of starting vs. Alabama

“I would say don’t put anything past anybody, that the best player plays so if you’ve got a quarterback who can make plays, then you’ve got to play him. But, redshirt freshman, true freshman, it doesn’t matter what year he is, you play.”

Q: How would you label this offensive style?

TH: “We’re built on a pro-style system. We’re a no-huddle format, if you want to call it a hybrid. A lot of people want to talk about having a spread-system, but it’s really built off a pro-style system, it’s no-huddle format with tempo mixed in. Football today has evolved to where you’ve got to do a little bit of everything just to break tendencies and find the weaknesses in the defense. We start from a pro mindset and then we flex out from there.”

Q: Are you on the same page as Browne?

TH: “We’re very close. We’re speaking the same language. It’s great to have a guy in a room that you can have a conversation with [who] you’re actually talking back and forth with and asking about his opinion and how he feels about things. You can’t do that with a lot of quarterbacks because they don’t know, they don’t know why their doing it, but Max knows why he’s doing it, so you can have that conversation, get his opinion, see what he’s like, and see what he likes. Even when he does something you don’t agree with you can ask why he did that and he can communicate to you why he did that. We’re really close to getting right on the same page.”

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Q: Can you judge a QB on 15 practices?

TH: “Yeah for us it is enough. They’re going to carry it through the summer, in the summer training, and in the two-a-days, and all those things. I got the easy job, I don’t pick the quarterback, I just coach them. That’s the head ball coach’s decision, that’s what he gets paid for. The good the bad and the ugly, we’re all a part of it.”

Q: Do you discuss the depth order for the quarterback spot?

TH: “We do we talk about it. We don’t ever say, ‘Hey we think this is the guy,’ we really don’t know. We’re really happy to have two quarterbacks that we know can win football games. Not a lot of football teams have the ability to do that. Either one of those guys, Max or Sam, can win football games, and they can do it in their own way. So right now those conversations are just on how we make those guys better. And then if you talk about if Sam is playing, what are you going to call here, or if Max is playing, what are you going to call here. You start to have those conversations so when the time comes you’re ready to make the call.”

Q: Will the offense change depending on which quarterback wins the job?

TH: “It wouldn’t change drastically, but you would lean on the strengths of each guy. Sam is an athletic guy he can move around, we can do some things with him, but at the end of the day we’re going to be about ninety percent of what we are anyways with either one of those guys.”

Q: How do you balance the offense and spread the ball around?

“We have what’s called a ‘must list,’ and [we’ve] got all these great players so you’ve got to realize each player has his different talents, and we have to find out how we’re going to get that guy the ball in this situation. So we say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to make sure we call this play for this guy,’ and [we] we just try to spread the ball. We have an unselfish team, so if one game a guy doesn’t pat as many touches, he knows his time is coming, maybe it might be the next game. That’s what I like about this team, they’re talented on the offense and skill positions, but they’re not greedy about it. They know the ball can be spread around.”

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