USC Trojans: Tee Martin

Lunch links: Stanford's QB future?

February, 11, 2014
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Not knowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may never feel certain of not losing himself again.
When Steve Sarkisian took the reins at USC in early December, he immediately began to assemble a coaching staff filled with assistants known for their prowess as recruiters, five of whom made the move from the University of Washington along with him.

But when the Trojans head coach spoke to the media on Wednesday, following a banner day in which USC closed with a fury to land the nation’s No. 14 signing class, a pair of holdovers from the previous staff drew the most praise – wide receivers coach Tee Martin and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Clay Helton.

After all, it was Martin and Helton who served as the one constant for many of the prospects committed to or considering the Trojans throughout the coaching change. And it was because of their efforts that the new staff was able to make what Sarkisian called a “seamless” transition.

“What they did with the players that were committed to us, and holding on to the relationships with the players that were not committed to us yet, and then as we brought on one coaching staff member after another, the ability of those guys to integrate together and collectively recruit what I think is a fantastic class in a short amount of time,” Sarkisian said, “those guys deserve a great deal of credit.”

[+] EnlargeClay Helton
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsClay Helton kept recruiting even when his own future at USC was unresolved, and the results showed on signing day.
Standing out in particular to Sarkisian was the fact both Martin and Helton’s commitment to the program never wavered for a second, even when their future at USC was completely up in the air.

“You know, they didn’t know if they were going to be kept on, but they continued to recruit,” Sarkisian said. “It was very clear that these guys love USC, they wanted to be a part of it, they wanted to continue to work for USC, and they did it at a really high level.”

Of course, Martin’s standing as an exceptional recruiter already was firmly established before this cycle began. Still, with what he accomplished this time around, there’s little doubt that his status was elevated even further. Primarily responsible for the Los Angeles-area targets, as well as those in Florida and Georgia, he was involved with no fewer than 11 of USC’s eventual signees, including the three ESPN 300 prospects the Trojans reeled in at the end – offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and athlete John “Juju” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly).

“Tee has done a fantastic job,” Sarkisian said. “Tee’s energy, his work ethic [and] his relentlessness in recruiting has been tremendous. I think he does a fantastic job of developing relationships with the high school coaches and with the recruits themselves.”

Helton doesn’t necessarily have quite the reputation in recruiting circles that Martin does, but according to Sarkisian, he was equally as impressive. He played a key part in the recruitment of at least six eventual Trojans, including the No. 1 tight end/H-back in the ESPN 300, Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./ St. Bonaventure), as well as standout offensive linemen Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) and Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial).

Noticeably low key when he’s off the field and dealing with the media, Sarkisian was quick to point out that when it comes to Helton’s pursuit of top-notch high school players, he’s as competitive and intense as any coach around – something he learned first-hand when the two went head-to-head in the past.

“I’ve had to battle Clay on the other side where I’ve felt like, ‘Geez, this guy just won’t stop,’" Sarkisian said. “You know, I feel like I’ve got the kid, and then Clay just keeps coming around and around.”

In addition to their work ethic and determined mindset, Martin, who hails from Alabama, and Helton, a Texas native, also share an ability to communicate and relate to recruits and their families that Sarkisian believes stems from their down-to-earth southern backgrounds.

“They’ve got that southern hospitality about them that I think the parents, the kids, they feel Clay, they feel Tee,” Sarkisian said. “They can really connect with them. They don’t have rushed conversations. They take their time. And in the end, the time that they spend, the quality of conversation that they have with the parents and the kids holds true.”

It’s those unique traits that Martin and Helton bring to the table that adds an element of variety that Sarkisian believes is one of the recipes to a strong coaching staff.

And with Wednesday’s results serving as potential proof of that fact, it’s safe to say that he’s thankful to have both of them around.

“The end result,” Sarkisian said, “was that they had a big factor in the class that we signed.”
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Friday's offerings: The battle for the top prospects in the West is going to be fierce, but USC coach Steve Sarkisian is doing all he can to make sure the Trojans have some of the nation’s best recruiters on his staff; a major winter storm could hinder the official visit plans of many teams across the country this weekend; and are the Sooners about to steal an in-state recruit away from LSU?

Trojans add ace recruiter
Sarkisian will have to assemble an all-star staff if he wants to win the recruiting wars in the West. So far that’s exactly what he’s doing. After Tee Martin announced Wednesday night he was sticking around as an assistant for the Trojans, the school announced Thursday that Washington linebackers coach Peter Sirmon would join the staff. Sirmon is considered one of the best position coaches in the Pac 12, but he’s also well respected as a recruiter. I visited with him a few weeks back for a story about Husky recruiting efforts, and I instantly can tell he why recruits gravitate toward him. He’s very charismatic and should be an excellent fit for the Trojans. It will be interesting to see if USC also can land Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi. Both reportedly have large buyouts from Washington, but Sirmon, Wilcox and Lupoi are close friends and often go on the road with each other to recruit.

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Notebook: Juco DT visits Trojans 

October, 28, 2013
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The USC Trojans lost junior college defensive tackle Michael Wyche (Chesapeake, Va./East Los Angeles College) last week when he decided to switch his commitment to Miami (Fla.), but they quickly moved in on another highly regarded lineman.


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WeAreSC recruiting mailbag 

October, 18, 2013
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WeAreSC recruiting reporter Blair Angulo answers reader questions in his mailbag every week. Have a USC recruiting question of your own? Submit it via Twitter @WeAreSCstaff or @bangulo.

@jboyd_2: Coach Ed Orgeron and Tee Martin seem to be reaching out and offering more since Lane Kiffin was fired.

WeAreSC: That is correct. Seven offers have gone out in the three weeks since Kiffin was let go, with four of those offers going to prospects committed to other schools. It’s been a mix of no-brainers (ESPN 300 quarterback Brad Kaaya) and surprises (three-star safety Uchenna Nwosu), but the aggressive strategy appears to be paying off. Recruits seem to be reconsidering the Trojans with Kiffin gone, and the outlook might only improve once the coaching situation is sorted out.

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Recruits like the current USC staff 

October, 8, 2013
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Many questioned the decisions of former USC head coach Lane Kiffin while he was at the helm, but his abilities as a recruiter were, for the most part, nationally recognized. Despite a vastly underwhelming 2012 season, Kiffin and his staff managed to reel in 12 four-star recruits, all of whom ranked inside the ESPN 300.

Now, despite Kiffin’s ouster, the Trojans stilly have some heavy hitting recruiters on staff. WeAreSC asked prospects for their opinions on some current USC coaches as recruiters:

On linebackers coach Mike Ekeler ...

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Josh RosenBlair Angulo/ESPNESPN Junior 300 quarterback Josh Rosen is a big target for USC, which has struck out on 2014 quarterback prospects so far.

BELLFLOWER, Calif. -- Before leaving the USC campus on Friday night, interim head coach Ed Orgeron told reporters it was time for the staff to become visible on the Los Angeles recruiting scene. He and assistant coach Tee Martin wasted no time following the evening practice session, heading directly to Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco for an intriguing matchup against Los Angeles Crenshaw.

Upon arrival, Orgeron did everything short of kissing babies.


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There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Ed Orgeron.

That much was evident within the first few minutes of the USC practice on Wednesday afternoon when the Trojans broke from their warm-up stretching exercises. Instead of immediately sprinting to their various drills, the players came together in the middle of the field for some “bull-in-the-ring” drills with players hopping up and down with intensity at some early practice contact.

That was but the first sign that things were going to be different with Orgeron as interim head coach. Orgeron stopped one drill when the offense wasn’t running the play to his satisfaction and he had them do a walk-through of the play again to make sure they got it right before moving on. Instead of focusing solely on his beloved defensive line, Orgeron tried to move around the field and spread his intensity to the entire team.

“I loved it,” Orgeron said with a smile. “I loved being able to get in the offensive linemen’s butts, to be able to scream at the quarterbacks. We wanted to work with enthusiasm, be physical and have some fun.”

At one point Orgeron challenged freshman defensive end Kenny Bigelow by yelling, “We’re coming after you 95.” Bigelow waved both hands in the air as if to say, “Bring it on.”

If there was anything Orgeron was looking to accomplish with the first practice of his USC head coaching tenure, it was to get a change in direction.

“We needed a new start,” Orgeron said. “We weren’t out here going through the motions, we were being physical and I liked the way we ran the ball. We were really positive and upbeat, having fun. But there’s a difference between having fun and being silly, we aren’t being silly. We’re doing little things like upgrading the desserts at training table. You give an offensive lineman a cookie, you make him happy.”

Of course, Orgeron knows that cookies alone aren’t going to make a big difference but doing things his way, and in his style, are going to give him the best chance of taking advantage of his opportunity as the interim coach.

“This is my shot,” Orgeron said. “This is our shot. I told myself after I got fired at Ole Miss that if I ever got another opportunity I would do it my way. I didn’t know if I would ever get another shot but I feel that I’m very well prepared for this. I want this team to compete like Trojans are meant to compete.”

Practice Notes

• Orgeron gave several injury updates: Marqise Lee (knee sprain, day-to-day), Morgan Breslin (hip strain, no update on how long he will be out) and Silas Redd (knee, hoping to have ready for Arizona). Redd pronounced himself healthy and said he will definitely play against the Wildcats. Justin Davis left practice early with a left ankle injury but Orgeron had no update on the severity. Kevin Graf was held out of practice, but no specifics were given.

• Buck Allen and Ty Isaac got plenty of reps at tailback with Redd getting limited work and with Davis out. Nathan Guertler took the first-team reps at right tackle until he went out, Nico Falah took the reps after that.

Scott Starr had a strip and caused fumble on walk-on tailback Taylor Ross.

Devon Kennard had a sack on Cody Kessler.

Kevon Seymour had a nice pass breakup on a deep Kessler pass to Victor Blackwell.

• Former tailback Chauncey Washington was spotted on campus after practice. He is back at school finishing up his last semester for his degree with plans to attend USC film school.

• Orgeron confirmed that Clay Helton will call offensive plays from the field, with Tee Martin in the press box.

Notebook: WeAreSC recruiting roundup 

September, 30, 2013
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It took USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron less than a minute and a half to utter the word “recruits” during his news conference Sunday following the firing of Lane Kiffin. Given how important recruiting will be for the Trojans the next two years, nobody would have been surprised if Orgeron blurted that word even more quickly.

[+] EnlargeEd Orgeron
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesEd Orgeron will try to build some recruiting momentum as USC's interim head coach.
Known as one of the nation’s top recruiters, Orgeron figures to play an integral role leading up to national signing day in February. In fact, the energetic, 52-year-old coach had already contacted some top targets Sunday morning.

“We’ve already spoken to our recruits about the value of USC and what’s going on at USC,” Orgeron told reporters Sunday. “Recruiting has been one of our strengths here and it will continue to be one of our strengths. We expect to have a great recruiting class and continue to bring some of the best recruits across the country to USC.”

Orgeron’s pitch, despite his interim status and uncertainty surrounding the coaching situation, will be simple. He will touch on the education, prestige, opportunity and past glory.

“There’s a lot of great things about USC still here,” Orgeron said. “Nothing has changed about USC.”

In this week’s WeAreSC recruiting notebook, we touch on the impact Kiffin’s dismissal could have on USC recruiting and more:

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USC recruiting mailbag 

September, 20, 2013
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Recruiting reporter Blair Angulo answers reader questions in his mailbag every week. Have a USC recruiting question of your own? Submit it via Twitter @WeAreSCstaff or @bangulo.

Mike Reed, via @_micahsdaddy_: With rumors of linebacker commit D.J. Calhoun’s status, how long would fans have to wait before recruits decide on USC or look elsewhere?

WeAreSC: Another loss on the field could be the final straw. Still, if there were to be a coaching change, many recruits have indicated they would look at USC differently moving forward. A great hire would instill hope and perhaps provide a recruiting boost. A great season would do the trick as well. The good news for fans is that there is still plenty of time for both scenarios.

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2015 OL Robertson picks up USC offer 

September, 5, 2013
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USC landed four-star offensive lineman Nico Falah from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco in February, has his former teammate and Class of 2014 ESPN 300 guard Damien Mama atop its wish list at the position and, on Thursday looked again to the local powerhouse in sending out another scholarship offer.

Class of 2015 offensive tackle Zach Robertson (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) shined at the Trojans' linemen camp in early June, but didn't know how interested the coaches were since he had to leave campus early. On Thursday, he received good news from USC assistant coach Tee Martin.


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WeAreSC roundtable: Progress report 

August, 8, 2013
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As the Trojans prepare for the first scrimmage of fall camp, WeAreSC staffers give their thoughts on several items from the opening week of camp.

The quarterback battle

Garry Paskwietz: Yes, this is a close competition but if you were to poll the majority of people who have attended practice, the vote would go to Cody Kessler. It doesn’t mean Lane Kiffin is thinking that way, it just means Kessler looks a little more polished and in command to those watching from the sidelines. One thing about [Max] Wittek, however, is that he is really zipping the ball, there is no doubt about his arm strength. It will be interesting to see if the Thursday scrimmage gives one of them a leg up in this battle.


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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Even with dynamic two-way athletes Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central) and John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) lining up with the offense Monday in the first day of The Opening, the defensive backs were a standout group as it relates to USC recruiting.

Roommates Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), as well as 2015 defensive back Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), four-star cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and four-star safety Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South) all turned in good showings during one-on-one drills. Brown, the nation’s No. 5-rated cornerback and No. 3-rated prospect in the state of Texas, also reached the SPARQ championship finals after posting some impressive numbers in preliminary testing, including a pair of 4.35 times in the 40-yard dash.

Tony Brown
Blair Angulo/ESPNNo. 5 cornerback Tony Brown is still very interested in USC.
“On a daily basis, I try to contact coaches that recruit me,” said Brown, a world-class sprinter ranked No. 27 in the ESPN 300. “I try to contact every coach. I’m still open. My month of June was all track and field, so I haven’t had time to chill and go through everything. Whenever I get the chance, I’ll definitely start narrowing everything down.”

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The USC coaching staff seemed to shift its recruiting strategy during the spring evaluation period, showing a willingness to offer underclassmen rather than waiting until later in the process.

Six Southern California-based 2015 recruits currently have offers from the Trojans. For comparison’s sake, five-star cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), the No. 5 overall player in the ESPN 150, didn’t land a USC offer to his list until this past January.

Stanley Norman
Blair Angulo/ESPNStanley Norman could be the next big 2015 SoCal target for USC.
Highly coveted defensive back Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) was the first 2015 prospect the Trojans offered. Then, once the evaluation period got underway, it was defensive lineman Rasheem Green and linebacker John Houston Jr. of Gardena (Calif.) Serra, receivers Cordell Broadus (Diamond Bar, Calif./Diamond Bar) and Desean Holmes (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany), and safety Marvell Tell (Encino, Calif./Crespi).

Two-way athlete Stanley Norman (Culver City, Calif./Culver City) might be next.


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Three-star defensive tackle Peyton Newell (Hiawatha, Kan./Hiawatha) might not attend a big-name school or reside in a pipeline state, but with more than 30 scholarship offers stacked up, he’s one of the most highly sought prospects in the Midwest.


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