Steve Sarkisian: Letting Clay Helton call plays was partly to get him to stay

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday September 01, 2015

Steve Sarkisian announced on Saturday that USC offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Clay Helton had taken over play-calling. On Monday night, he revealed another reason for that.

Helton, a respected play-caller, had several job offers in the offseason, and Sarkisian didn’t want to lose him.

“I felt like we had a really good guy on our staff that we weren’t utilizing enough in Clay Helton,” Sarkisian said on his radio show. “Clay had some really good job offers this offseason. To get him to stay, this was part of the thing to get him to stay. I was going to continue to groom him as a play-caller.”

Helton called plays at Memphis from 2007-09 and did for seven games at USC in 2013 under interim head coach Ed Orgeron. When Sarkisian arrived in 2014, the head coach retained Helton, but took the play-calling back. Sark said he now wants to focus more on head-coaching duties.

Helton took over play-calling in the spring, and Sark originally wasn’t planning to announce that until after the first game, but opted to after Saturday’s mock game.

Helton will move back down to the field to call plays, and wide receivers coach / passing game coordinator Tee Martin will move back up to the coaches box, which is the setup the two had under Orgeron.

“When he called them with Ed, he came to the field,” Sarkisian said of Helton. “He’s more comfortable being on the field. I am, too. I did it as a coordinator, too. I stayed on the field as well. That works for them, for Clay’s comfort level, which is the most important thing. I need Clay comfortable in what environment he wants to be in to call the best game.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to