Pac-12 coaches teleconference: USC's Clay Helton ready to scratch play-calling itch
USC head coach Clay Helton
USC let go of its offensive line coach Neil Callaway and stripped offensive coordinator Tee Martin of play-calling duties following the Trojans’ 38-35 loss to Arizona State on Saturday. As a result, Clay Helton has taken over play-calling duties. The head coach said the decision was not made out of pressure, rather out of readiness:
“I just thought it was the appropriate time,” Helton said. “I’ve had the itch to get back, more integrated with the offense. Being in year three of being the head coach and feeling more comfortable with the role and the duties that come with it, I know the lay of the land now.”
Helton has already made plenty of play calls during his tenure as head coach, saying “maybe three or four times per game” he’ll jump into that seat.
Also of note: Quarterback J.T. Daniels has been cleared to play ahead of USC’s Saturday meeting with Oregon State. The freshman is practicing this week without contact, but Helton said things are progressing well and that he anticipates Daniels will take the field against the Beavs.
Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin
The Wildcats pulled off an emotional win last Saturday in Tucson, taking down then-No. 19 Oregon on homecoming weekend. But, with a ticked-off Colorado team coming to town on Friday, Kevin Sumlin says the team is refocusing for the short week.
“I think the big thing with a young team is keeping focus one week at a time. I know it’s coaching cliché but, particularly with the young guys … you have to understand that the focus last week was a one-game focus, not a season focus. They have to remember what the preparation was like last week and what the intensity level was going into the game.”
Sumlin went on to say that his focus is not on effort, but execution.
“We’ve played games where we’ve played a half or three quarters and hadn’t really played a full four-quarter game. That’s really the focus. The effort has not been a problem, the execution has. Execute in four quarters and get back to that regardless of our opponent.”
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre
Colorado is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Oregon State in which the Beavs came back from 28 points down, eventually winning in overtime. But MacIntyre and the Buffs aren’t letting that loss cloud the rest of the season.
“I think they’ve responded well,” the head coach said. “They’ve practiced well. We can’t let the game before affect next week’s game, so the guys are excited about playing a really good Arizona team.”
That next game is in Tucson on Friday. Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate had his coming-out party when CU and U of A faced off last year, rushing for four touchdowns and passing for one more against the Buffs.
MacIntyre said this of Tate ahead of Friday’s showdown: “He’s an excellent player. I just hope we can tackle him in space. We couldn’t tackle him in space last year. He’s a phenomenal athlete.”
UCLA head coach Chip Kelly
Chip Kelly returns to Eugene this week, where his coaching career took off with the University of Oregon. The program reached its greatest heights under Kelly’s watch, including three Pac-12 championships and a national championship game appearance.
A reporter on the teleconference asked Kelly about the difference between being with Oregon for its meteoric rise versus being at UCLA during a tough time for the program:
“I think you can’t always be caught up in the results,” he said. "It’s the process. And the group of kids we have here are awesome. We’re down in numbers with injuries and whatnot but our players are great. They’re awesome.”
So, will he take time to reflect and reminisce once he arrives at Autzen Stadium?
“No, we’ve gotta focus on the team across the other sideline or we’ll get beat,” Kelly said. “It’ll be an unbelievable experience. It’s a special stadium, a special fan base, but we’ve gotta think about the 2018 Ducks, not what went on in 2009 to 2012.”
Washington head coach Chris Petersen
For much of this season, Washington was the Pac-12’s strongest bet for getting a team in the College Football Playoff. But now, with three losses on the Huskies’ schedule, those aspirations have been put to rest for the year.
A reporter on the teleconference asked Chris Petersen how that is sitting with him and the team:
“We’re just so focused on trying to get better. There’s only four teams in the country [playing in the College Football Playoff]. We’re not one of those teams but we have a lot of work to do and they know it. That’s what they’re focused on.”
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham
Utah is the only Pac-12 team not coming out of a big upset game over the weekend, so it’s business as usual as the Utes prepare for a high-scoring Arizona State squad in Tempe on Saturday. Whittingham spoke highly of the program that has beaten Utah five out of seven times since joining the conference in 2011.
“They’ve got weapons, certainly. That quarterback [Manny Wilkins] is a very dynamic player and a dual threat. He’s got a terrific receiver — one of the best, if not the best in the country — in N’Keal Harry. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Washington State head coach Mike Leach
A reporter on the teleconference asked the head coach about the Pac-12’s parity — trés appropriate following last weekend’s amplified #Pac12AfterDark results — and if that parity hurts the league’s national prominence.
Leach’s response: “It might. It might because it’s hard to win every week. I think our conference is the hardest one to win in every week.”
He noted that Pac-12 teams playing nine conference games, rather than eight like the rest of the country, doesn’t do any favors, and he also mentioned how an expanded playoff would help.
“But, from top to bottom, we have really good teams,” he said.
Cal head coach Justin Wilcox
The Golden Bears pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the weekend, topping the then-No. 15 Washington Huskies in a defensive battle. That was a big matchup but, then again, so is the Bears’ next one with Washington State on Saturday.
Head coach Justin Wilcox had this to say about not resting on laurels or letting down emotionally following a big win:
“Our motivation comes from within. We have a ton of respect for Wazzu and what they’re doing, but our motivation comes from wanting to win games and playing really well. I think if you look for motivation in external factors, it’s going to be hard to have sustained success.”
Stanford head coach David Shaw
Shaw had high praise for Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who led the Cougs to a 41-38 win over then-No. 24 Stanford on Saturday.
“To be a good fit for Mike Leach’s offense, you gotta be a quick decision-maker, you gotta be an accurate passer, and those are the two really big things,” Shaw said. “But this guy goes above and beyond. He’s a really good athlete. He’s got great feet and he can make some big-time throws. … He’s an outstanding quarterback.”
Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards
A reporter on the teleconference asked Herm Edwards, who’s back coaching a college team for the first time in a long time, about adjusting to the college game and the Pac-12:
“I think the big part that I’m learning is the emotion of football teams,” he said. “You think about — every week there’s a couple games you scratch your head. Like, how did that happen, right? … When people wonder why there’s so many upsets I just think, emotionally, how is your team settled? What type of emotions do they have every week? If it’s not consistent, you get these upset games.”
Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal
The Ducks are looking to bounce back from their loss to Arizona, which knocked them out of the AP Top 25 and handed them their third loss of the season.
The biggest lesson they learned in that game? “If you don’t start fast, you get hit square in the mouth and you must respond better than we did — in the way we coached and in the way we played,” Cristobal said.
He followed up, saying that this week is about responding with much more urgency in making corrections leading up to their Saturday contest with UCLA.