Well, for the most part he will.
Off the field, Steve Sarkisian has seen a series of significant developments this offseason, from a divorce to apologizing for “behavior, inappropriate language” to seeking treatment for a potential alcohol issue. Saturday night, Sarkisian unveiled a rather significant on-field development.
According to the USC head coach’s post-practice pronouncement, coordinator “Clay Helton will assume more of the offensive play-calling responsibilities” for the Trojans this season. The athletic department’s official Twitter account writes that “Sarkisian has been developing the plan to cede play-calling duties to Helton since spring football.”
The fact that this official ceding of a major part of Sarkisian’s role comes so close to his very public off-field issues being laid bare would qualify as a little more than coincidental, although that’s not the way it’s being couched.
While Helton, entering his third season with the Trojans as “coordinator” and sixth as quarterbacks coach, will technically be the play-caller, Sarkisian will still be “involved on third downs and red-zone situations.” Still, this is a significant development for a head coach who very much prides himself on his play-calling prowess.
“I have a firm belief in my own capability to execute those duties, as the head coach and the playcaller,” Sarkisian said in September of last year.
The fact that the Trojans have a senior Heisman Trophy candidate in Cody Kessler will make the ceding of duties a little easier, even as it remains to be seen how much ceding there will actually be as the season moves on.
Last season, with Sarkisian wearing both the head-coaching and play-calling hats, the 9-4 Trojans were tied for 22nd nationally in points per game at 35.8. That average was good for fourth in the Pac-12; the Trojan defense was fifth in the conference in ppg at 25.2.
“Me being in defensive meetings, me being in every special-teams meeting, me really understanding the nuances of those things is critical to our success,” Sark said when it comes to the benefits of his diminished offensive role.
“I just felt like we’ll be a better team for it. Time will tell.”