By Jimmy Hyams
Tennessee offensive coordinator Tyson Helton shared play-calling duties last season at USC with former Vols quarterback Tee Martin.
The former Houston quarterback called plays at Western Kentucky (2014-15) under the guidance of head coach Jeff Brohm.
As UT’s signal caller, he will get input from several members of the offensive staff – and perhaps a bit from another source: Jeremy Pruitt.
“Everybody talks about Coach Pruitt being a great defensive coach,’’ Helton said. “He’s a great all-around coach.
“Just over the eight months that we’ve had a chance to sit down and talk football, about what’s important about offensive football, what we need to do, how we need to attack people, he brings a lot to the table in that area.’’
You might think, as a defensive coach, Pruitt would have a conservative approach to playing offense. Not necessarily, said Helton.
“He’s a guy that says, `Hey, you have to be aggressive. You have to be able to attack people,’’’ Helton said.
Pruitt will also say “you have to understand the situations that you’re in,’’ Helton said.
“There’s times you say, `Hey, we gotta run the cock. We gotta bleed the clock. We gotta pound the football.’ So he understands all those situations.
“I think sometimes people say, `Well, a defensive coach wants you to go run the football and win the game 10-3.’ That’s not his style. His style is do what’s best to put the team in situations to go win games and that’s what he’s brought to the table for us.’’
So when it comes to picking a starting quarterback, will that be Helton’s decision or Pruitt’s call?
“At the end of the day, that’s coach’s decision,’’ Helton said. “That’s why he’s the head football coach. But we’ll sit down as a staff. He’ll ask everybody’s opinions.
“I think he does a great job of that, of taking information from everybody, of different perspectives. He and I will sit down at some point in time and he’ll say, `Alright Tyson, what do you think?
“At the end of the day, he’ll make that decision and we’ll be on board with it and we’ll go from there.’’
As a play caller, Helton can draw from his experience of playing at Houston for his dad, Kim. From working at USC with older brother Clay. From coaching at Western Kentucky with Brohm. From coaching at Hawaii with June Jones.
“I think you take all of those experiences and apply it here,’’ Helton said.