First year Georgia Southern head coach Clay Helton came to Statesboro with an idea of a few coaches he may want to bring along with him. Over the past two weeks the Georgia Southern athletic department has slowly revealed a few of those names. On Monday Helton met with the media to comment on his latest hires.
“I went into this process asking myself five questions,” said Helton. “First and foremost, we want to make sure we are bringing in elite character people. Secondly, We need coaches who are able to develop talent into the highest level. Third is the ability to care for the players on and off the field. Fourth, and one of the most important of them all is the ability to be brutally honest with players and tell them where they need growth. Lastly, the ability to recruit at a high level, especially in our recruiting footprint.”
One of the most highly anticipated coaching vacancies for Eagle fans was who Helton would bring in as offensive coordinator. Last week it was announced that position would go to a former Helton assistant at USC in Western Kentucky OC Bryan Ellis.
Any question of whether Helton was all-in as far as throwing the ball should be answered with the hiring of Ellis, who over the past three seasons has helped lead the Hilltoppers to record setting passing numbers. WKU currently ranks second in the FBS in scoring at 43 points per game and lead the nation in passing at 436 yards per contest.
“I am so proud to have Bryan with us,” said Helton. “I know we are strong on the offensive line as well as our runners. I really wanted to improve our passing game and especially throwing down the field and with explosiveness. If you look at that area why not go and get the top offense in the country with a guy that I know and have worked with. I know he can not only evaluate offensive skill players but he can also develop them.”
Helton having worked with Ellis may have helped bring him to Statesboro, but to do so he had to steal him away from his brother Tyson who is the head coach at Western Kentucky.
“Well, when he (Tyson Helton) left me to be the OC at Tennessee and then head coach at WKU he took a couple from me,” said Helton. “I know he is happy for Bryan to have the opportunity to be here closer to his home in Peach County. He gave me his blessing on this and I gave him my blessing on the ones he took from me. We always lean on each other.”
Among the other Helton hirings is Ryan Aplin as tight ends coach, inside receivers caoch and passing game coordinator. Effrem Reed will be the Eagles running backs coach and Turner Ward is the special teams coordinator. Helton also hired Matt Transue as the director of football operations, Robert Stiner as the head strength and conditioning coach and Ryan Smith as the football general manager.
“I am not only proud of what we have been able to do as far as hiring our coaching staff who will be on the field but other personnel as well,” said Helton. “We have brought in Ryan Smith from Auburn as our general manager. We were able to get an elite strength and conditioning coach in Robert Stiner who been at LSU and Notre Dame as well as Mississippi State and USC. We also have Matt Transue who comes here after five years on the Virginia Tech football staff. We feel all of our new additions are elite platinum level coaches. We have more announcements to come, but remember many of the elite level coaches we are looking at are still playing football games.”
When Helton was at USC with the Trojan budget finding assistant coaches wasn’t difficult and while you would think with the Eagles budget restraints it may be a lot more difficult this time around Helton says athletics director Jared Benko and president Kyle Marrero has helped make the transition much easier than many would have suspected.
“I believe there is value at the place you are at,'’ said Helton. “One of the reasons I took the job was the investment that Dr. Marrero and Jared made in upping the resources as far as the coaching budget goes. Going through the process the respect this place has with a tradition of excellence and the community support has blown people away. The surrounding community and the relationships I have with many of the coaches and upgrades like the indoor training facility are also factors that have helped us get quality people here.”
The next big day for Helton will be Wednesday as it is the national letter of intent early period and the Eagles are expecting to have some big names in this year’s class.
“I can’t wait till Wednesday,” said Helton. “I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised with who we were able to get in only a three-week time period. I think people are going to be happy with the commitment we made within the state of Georgia in making commitments to the rural areas in finding kids who have maybe been overlooked. We have also been able to flip some guys who were committed to other places, and so I really think there will be an excitement over what we have been doing.”