As the USC Trojans football season approaches, the world got a taste of a little college football and what we may expect this year from each school with the annual Pac-12 Conference media day. On day 2, the Trojans were represented by head coach Clay Helton, QB Sam Darnold, and OLB Cameron Smith.
Cam Smith steps into his leadership role:
Cam and Sam had a very open interview session with the media. Cam spoke about the younger players growing into their new roles and the importance of the older players showing them the Trojan way. He spoke very highly of many of his teammates and demonstrated a lot of confidence and trust in his teammates. As the leader on the defensive side of the ball, I expect a lot out of Cam this year. Both with his physical ability and leadership ability.
Sam Darnold shows poise and focus in the spotlight:
Sam, as you would have expected, had the biggest crowd on day 2 of media day. With so many eyes on him, one could not help but wonder how he kept his professional composure throughout the day. Sam spoke with confidence and indicated that he has been studying this year by watching more tape. He understands that instinct is key and when you stop thinking, you will start winning by just doing. Sam looks to be ready to take on the pressures and challenges that come with being a USC QB. Heisman trophy, Pac 12 Champion and winning a National Championship, all come with that job. He did not appear to be wavered by these expectations.
Clay Helton is ready for the challenge:
Lastly, coach Helton is truly the leader of this squad. There is no Lebron James type of player on this team that calls the shots and tells the coach what to do. Coach Helton is the boss and he understands what obstacles and expectations he has in front of him for this season. He is fully aware of the loss of key players, the number of young players he has to fill those spots, the schedule with no bye week and the expectation to win a National Championship. However, being aware of this laundry list of expectations is one thing, having a strategy to achieve and overcome the challenges is another thing.
Helton Welcomes the pressure of National Championship Expectations:
Following the Rose Bowl win last year, coach Helton has the strategy to stay on top. He points out the importance of momentum and creating a game plan that can get USC going early to get through the long season. He indicates that USC is stacked (in not so many words), that the red-shirt freshman and the new players to the USC squad are going to be up for the challenge. He indicated that consistency in his coaching staff allows his players to better understand their roles and expectations. Lastly, he not only knows of the pressure to win a National Championship, he welcomes it. You don't play for USC or coach at USC with an ideology that being average is okay. With a mentality that doing good is sufficient. Excellence is the expectation.
WATCH LIVE: USC head coach Clay Helton, QB Sam Darnold and LB Cam Smith speak at Pac-12 Football Media Days! #FightOnPosted by USC Trojans on Thursday, July 27, 2017
I believe media day is a necessary evil to allow reporters access to all teams and get some information to give them a foundation for the year. But I also believe that through the answers given, the demeanor and the words chosen by the coaches and players, we can all get a small taste of the psychology and mentality of that coach and player.
Coach Helton stated that "Iron sharpens iron and a pro sharpens a pro", he knows that he is creating elite football players and future leaders on and off the field. USC has a coach with a mentality that pressure will make the team better. That competition will make the entire team grow, and with that growth comes maturity and leadership. That is where the shine without the bling appears. There is no need for specific words or indications that USC will win it all. I can feel a certainty in coach Helton, Cam, and Sam. The certainty that last year was only a taste of what is to come this season.
So as the season begins to get fired up I am very optimistic. No, I am certain that coach Helton and his coaching staff will not only put a good team on the field, they will put an excellent team on the field. Anything less than excellence will be a failure.