First Impressions and Connections

I saw Bryan Ellis, a USC quality control assistant just last season, interviewed on Trojans Live with Jordan Moore and John Jackson. It was the 29-year old’s first live interview as the new Trojan QB coach that I’ve watched. Coming on the heels of Clay Helton, Matt Fink, and Jack Sears, I had no idea of what to expect.

Ellis instantly appears poised, confident and amiable. He’s clearly a football guy with coaching in his blood and his focus reminded me of a young Lane Kiffin. He’s obviously thought a lot about quarterbacking from Day 1. His dad (Ricky Ellis) was his high school offensive coordinator until young Ellis transferred to be the signal-caller at a better program (where he led Peach County to a 14-1 season by throwing for 3,600 yds and 31 scores, and a AAA state championship in ’06).

Ellis’ dad was fired the moment his son transferred, as he had told his son he would be. “Every meal I’ve eaten has been put on the table because of football. My dad scrapped his whole career for me,” said USC’s new QB coach.

Ellis received only one scholarship offer  —  and you guessed it, from Neil Callaway, who was the head man at UAB before moving on to coach OLs at Western Kentucky. And it was for the Hilltoppers where Ellis coached WRs before calling plays in a 2016 Boca Raton Bowl 51-31 rout over Memphis. He also called passing plays for USC in the Cotton Bowl loss to Ohio State. Sam Darnold passed for 356 yards.

Ellis says he has a superior relationship with Trojan offensive coordinator Tee Martin both on and off the field. That will be a welcome change from the open animosity that existed between Tyson Helton (now Tennessee’s OC and QB coach) and Martin. Tyson was also Ellis’ QB coach at UAB.

He also spoke of working in the booth with Tee compared to on the field. “Working in the box takes the emotion out of the game. That can be good because it allows me to think more and be calmer. But I like being on the field too.”

As far as what we can expect from USC’s QBs in 2018, Ellis said he looks to exploit what each QB excels at and will train them to adjust on the fly. “We need to figure out what each guy does best in our multiple-system offense. Sam could create on his own. He won’t be replaced. We’ll see what they do best and that’s what we’ll do. Things will change. We won’t be staying put. I’ll force them to learn every day, so they can always adjust to things like it’s just another day.”

Ellis is glad he has the luxury of coaching dual-threats who will be taking the snap. “That way we don’t have to be perfect with play calls.They can get us out of trouble. But we’ll sink the system into what they do well.”

And how will fall arrival JT Daniels fit in? “He has the opportunity to be the QB,” explained Ellis. “He’ll be up to speed. We’re doing whatever we can legally do with him now. We’ll sign elite quarterbacks every year. They’ll always have a chance to come in and play.” Or as Jackson, who believes Fink or Sears will start, phrased it, “Any slip-ups from those two, and Daniels will be right there.”

First spring practice note: JuJu Smith-Schuster was in attendance.