The start to the college football season is still more than seven weeks away but fans of programs with big games in Week 1 already are on edge. And there is no bigger game to kickoff the season than defending national champ Alabama taking on Pac-12 power USC.
Trojans coach Clay Helton talked briefly about the matchup Thursday when Pac-12 Media Days started in Hollywood as SEC Media Days were wrapping up in Alabama. Here are the questions he was asked about meeting the Crimson Tide and his answers.
Q. How much Alabama film have you guys watched to this point? Obviously there’s been some turnover there, but what impressesyou most about them?
CLAY HELTON: I think one that just leaps off the tape is the coaching and just the way they’re coached, and it’s not —you can go back five years. We’ve got tape from five years ago. They’re still as well-coached. You’re talking about —
Q. The penalties or–CLAY HELTON: No, just assignment-wise, the style of football they play, the discipline they play with. You’re talking about oneof the greatest head coaches in the history of the game in Coach Saban and maybe the best in our generation. He’s just somebody that’s been a family friend, coached with my dad at the Houston Oilers. I’ve had a relationship with and just have the utmost respect. When you watch the tape, you know you’re seeing a Coach Saban-coached team. That’s what jumps off.
Q. Would you have ever guessed to have your first game as head coach against Nick Saban?
CLAY HELTON: In a dream to have that opportunity? You know, why do you come to SC? You come to compete, and you want to compete at the highest level. If you don’t like that, don’t come. So to be able to play the defending national champion, to be able to play a gentleman that you have the utmost respect for that’s the leader in our profession, that doesn’t make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, I don’t know what does. That’s why you come to SC to coach or play. I’ve kept on saying, if you want to be the best, play the best. We have an opportunity to play one of the best schedules in the country, if not the greatest opportunity to show who we are. Play Alabama, play Notre Dame, play the Pac-12 schedule. It’s what dreams are made of.
Q. How do you think Clancy will impact your preparation?CLAY HELTON: It’s going to be fun to watch. I can’t wait to watch it. You know, I’ve been doing it for 21 years. My dad is a coach for40 years. I’ve been around the game a long time. Two of the most brilliant men I’ve ever been associated with are Lane Kiffin on offense and Clancy Pendergast on team. So to see that chess match and to see that played out, I wish sometimes I could just have a box of popcorn and watch it. But to see that chess match that’s going to go on is a lot of fun. Obviously there’s some familiarity between the two knowing each other, and they’ve changed a little bit since the last time, but just watching tape on Alabama’s offense and some of the wrinkles that they’ve put in, what Clancy has learned from his last stint in the NFL and some of the things that he’s captured, there are some subtle changes that will go on and take place. It’ll be really interesting to see. Should be a lot of fun.