Embattled Clay Helton Vows Trojans Will Be Ready…This Time

USC’s Clay Helton remains hopeful about college football restarting this year

Perhaps it would have served as a springboard, launching the Trojans into Pac-12 title contention. Or maybe it would have been a wake-up call, vindicating every lingering doubt about the program’s direction.

Instead, amid the reality that is college football in 2020, there will be no matchup Saturday of dueling powerhouses. For USC, there may be no fall football at all.

The week college football was meant to kick off in earnest, pre-pandemic, workouts remain on hold at USC because of positive cases of COVID-19. On a Thursday night he otherwise would have finalized his plans for Alabama, Helton was at home watching South Alabama upset Southern Mississippi, soaking in what little college football he could find.

Still, he’d prefer not to linger on what might have been or dwell on the Pac-12’s decision to delay. He has “mixed emotions” about the weekend, he says, but he’s put Alabama out of his mind. He has told his players to do the same.

“I’ve always been one that lives in the moment,” Helton said. “I’m focused on the priority of getting our team ready for the next opportunity.”

Still, it’s impossible not to wonder how a standard fall season might have altered the path of the program — and, namely, the fate of Helton, who would have been coaching for his job in 2020, if there had been games to coach. That could still be the case in the coming months if the Pac-12 returns for some form of a season; though, a seven-figure loss within the athletic department could make paying Helton’s reported $20-million buyout and finding a new, worthy coach financially untenable.

All of that could be unnecessary, of course, if changes made over the offseason have their intended impact. A revamped coaching staff and rebuilt defense under new coordinator Todd Orlando were supposed to debut against Alabama. Optimism abounds for both; though, even Helton has yet to see his new, full defense in action.

With public health officials still limiting gatherings in Los Angeles, USC has instead spent most of the past month since postponement on fundamentals. Before workouts were put on pause, players spent five of 12 allotted weekly hours working solely on technique.

“I’ll tell you, the two weeks we’ve had of that, it’s been a joy,” Helton said. “It took us back to the grassroots of football. Six to 12 kids out there at a time, you’re literally going back to the basics, fundamentals, techniques, it was awesome.”

That work was abruptly shut down on Aug. 26. Shortly after the decision was made, Helton called a team meeting to discuss it. He tried to keep a positive tone.

“In this arena we’re in, those kids went 50 days of having no positive tests, being able to train in a safe environment, really having a great discipline about themselves to be able to allow us to do what we love,” Helton said. “At some point in time, it was inevitable that there would be positive cases. It’s how you react to those positive cases.”

He still has hope for a season. A major breakthrough in testing, which will allow for daily, rapid tests within the conference, could make a rescheduled season possible sooner than Jan. 1. 

But Helton doesn’t want to get ahead of himself. USC still doesn’t have clearance to fully practice. Community spread is still a problem in the Pac-12 footprint. And the conference still doesn’t know the potential cardiac impact of the virus on athletes.

“It’s always great to have hope, but it’s important to be a realist,” Helton said. “We have more steps to go. But when they’re ready, we’ll be ready.”

USC will re-evaluate on Tuesday if it’s ready to return to workouts, after two full rounds of testing.

On the Saturday his team was otherwise set to clash with Alabama, Helton said he would be duct-taped to his cellphone, calling 2022 recruits, with whom contact was just allowed by the NCAA.

It’s not exactly the way he envisioned his Labor Day weekend.

latimes.com

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Jamaica
Knighted Member
September 11, 2020 11:03 am

By the time Clay Helton finally leaves USC football, what is this program going to look like? What kind of an immediate future will it have in what players are left? How long will it take the successor HC to rebuild what is basically an average slightly above 3-star laden team with a few 4-stars in it? Will Folt finally give Bohn the freedom to bring in who he wants as HC with few strings attached or will we finally find out what her hidden agenda is regarding USC football’s future? A very scary thought right now….

gametv
Active Member
September 11, 2020 11:14 am
Reply to  Jamaica

There is no way they hire a Urban Meyer and probably also no way they hire a Bob Stoops because of the control he would demand. But I bet they could do a deal with Fickell, and that is the guy I want. He worked at Ohio State and understands how to build a program. He is turning UC into a real top team, despite the inability to get top 4 and 5 star athletes, so that proves he can develop kids. His salary needs are not outrageous. He has no past blemishes. My belief is that a good head… Read more »

gametv
Active Member
September 8, 2020 8:57 pm

Kingsley confirmed it. Clay Helton is the ultimate repellent for top 100 athletes.

If Clay doesnt beat Oregon, sack Helton (he wont beat Oregon this year or ever!).

gametv
Active Member
September 9, 2020 11:20 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

You are right that we never really stood a chance with Helton and Drevno, but isnt that the problem? If Helton wants to claim that they are “Taking Back the West” then he needs to deliver on it. Taking Back the West doesnt include allowing the top 3 receivers in CA to go to other programs, the top 3 offensive linemen in the West to go to Oregon, etc. The new defensive staff has made some real progress in a short period of time, but why has the offensive coaching staff, which has been in place for a year, having… Read more »

Chris
Knighted Member
September 7, 2020 7:30 pm

Byu is boat racing Navy who had yet to go live during practice. That sounds way too familiar. Trying to play football with no contact practices is just folly.

PN4SC
Noble Member
September 5, 2020 3:58 pm

The sooner that incompetent buffoon is no longer associated with the USC program, the better. Thank God Bohn surrounded him with more qualifies assistants, a move I’m sure Clay was not onboard with.
Regrettably, with the Marxists Folt at the top, we are probably stuck with this imposter at least until 2022.

UtahTrojan
Knighted Member
September 5, 2020 10:40 am

So Clay enjoys getting back to the basics and really teaching good techniques (did somebody recently teach him).
it never occurred to him with all of the horrible technique that his teams have displayed over the years that he should have done this sooner?

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
September 6, 2020 6:52 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen, on a brighter USC note, DE Porter Gustin made the Cleveland Browns Roster. Good luck to him — and he should do well if he can stay away from the haunting injury bug he has had much of his career. 

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
September 7, 2020 8:26 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Wasn’t it Osa Masina, ILB, who also came to USC from Utah at about the same time as Gustin, who eventually pleaded guilty for sexual assault? If I remember correctly, I believe he actually received a 3-year jail sentence.

Anyway, Masina was really, really good. What a shame — talk about messing up your promising career/life. 😟

gametv
Active Member
September 7, 2020 10:01 am
Reply to  Terrific Tommy

I think that Porter will be a real steal for the Browns, as long as he stays healthy. It seems to me that there are quite a few USC players that have great potential, but were simply not properly coached at USC. The upside after they get some proper coaching/training in the NFL will be higher than players from other teams where the college coaching staff developed them closer to their natural abilities.

Steveg
Mt Rushmore
September 5, 2020 9:28 am

Poor Clay, he has flat run out of things to say, so now he is rehashing old comments and adding “this time”. If this team is a winner and successful it will be attributable to his staff, hired by Bohn, not to CH as he would wish us to believe. If feels great to finally get to bash CH as the season begins, if even if it isn’t for us.

Jamaica
Knighted Member
September 5, 2020 9:00 am

So Clay Helton’s new moniker is “We will Be Ready This Time”…… What about the last 5-6 years coach? Why didn’t you have the team ready during those years you got well paid? So your body of work since getting the HC job should be disregarded/forgotten and those players that depended on you to give your absolute best are just…… too bad huh? The only one’s more culpable are who hired you and kept you here to tarnish a great program!

gametv
Active Member
September 5, 2020 8:01 am

the problem is that Helton calling 2022 recruits is just making them run for the hills. give us a good head coach and watch USC become a top 3 recruiting class every year. the path to a national championship always runs through recruiting (along with practice).

isnt it about time we get some real leadership at SC? some vision? someone who will fire helton, bring a respected head coach and then either reform the Pac-12, or get the heck out? i think bohn has the ability to do those things, but not the support from Folt/Caruso.

TrojanRJJ
Diamond Member
September 7, 2020 10:04 am
Reply to  gametv

Gametv, Of course, I (and I think most of the board) agree. Clay is clearly at best a subpar Head Football Coach (IMO, he is incompetent). But, given the political climate in CA (complete Covid shutdown), in the Pac 12 in general (clearly the most “woke” of any of the Big 5), and at SC in particular (a “woke” feminist President seeking to obliterate the traditional SC culture (which is based around elite football) and replace it with a “woke” culture along the lines of Berkeley or an Ivy), Clay is probably with us for at least a couple of… Read more »

gametv
Active Member
September 8, 2020 9:11 am
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

TrojanRJJ – I understand the allure of believing that Bohn can manage around Clay and somehow create a winning football team – I just dont think it really works in reality. The formula for a dominant team at SC is simple. Head coach that hires top notch coordinators, who hire top-notch assistant coaches and personnel throughout the organization. With top coaches in place, USC becomes a powerhouse in recruiting across the whole team (not just a few positions). Within 2-3 years the roster is stacked with 5 star and top 4 star athletes. The coaches use an effective training and… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
Diamond Member
September 8, 2020 12:08 pm
Reply to  gametv

Totally agree. My point is that we are stuck with Clay (not because of the buy out, but because of politics). It seems clear to me that President Madame Mao is pleased with SC football being run by an incompetent. Bohn is trying to do his best given the political reality. And, I agree, you cannot have any organization run efficiently and effectively when an incompetent is in charge. I have decided to withdraw all support. Not this administration cares.

gametv
Active Member
September 8, 2020 6:30 pm
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

I’m just hoping that Bohn builds his credibility within SC, so that when he makes the case to get rid of Helton, he is allowed to do it. Bohn and Sosna seem very data-driven, and I think the financial case against Helton is pretty overwhelming. There are various valuations of college football programs, based on revenues and profit and USC is not even in the top 15. Programs like Michigan and Notre Dame are worth almost a billion and USC is worth less than 500 million, so Clay is the negative 500 million dollar man, in the best case. If… Read more »