Helton’s Future a Mystery…

Clay Helton’s USC future mired in scrutiny despite team’s surging potential

Clay Helton’s future as USC coach continues to be shrouded in mystery despite the team’s big win over rival UCLA on Saturday. (Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Ryan Kartje (LA Times)  —  In the wake of rivalry victory, at the end of an uneven regular season that may very well be his last at USC, Clay Helton preferred to live in the moment, ignoring his uncertain future for as long as he could.

Soon, however, that future would beckon from across the dinner table. Hours after the Trojans took care of their crosstown rival Bruins with a 52-35 victory on Saturday, Helton had a recruiting dinner to attend, where he’d have to sell prospects on the future of USC’s football program, in spite of its uncertainty.

Even before a decision on Helton’s status seemed imminent, that pitch wasn’t going well this recruiting cycle, as USC ranks 76th in 247Sports composite rankings, just behind Bowling Green and just ahead of Texas-San Antonio, the latter of which has been a part of the Football Bowl Subdivision for only six years.

Asked in his postgame news conference how he might pitch those recruits now, Helton’s voice raised to a boom.

“If you want to come and do something special, jump on the train with some damn good kid quarterbacks, some damn good skilled young kids and have a lot of fun, then come on!” he said.

“Is that good?” he said with a grin.

Whether Helton will even have a seat on the Trojans’ train next season remains to be seen, but regardless of who’s conducting, USC will have no shortage of talent when it opens the 2020 season.

Kedon Slovis, fresh off a school-record 515-yard passing performance, will be a sophomore. The backfield will be intact. Its deep receiving corps loses Michael Pittman Jr., and possibly an NFL-eligible Tyler Vaughns, but gets back everyone else, and will have a healthy Kyle Ford and an eligible Bru McCoy, both top recruits a season ago.

An offense that improved leaps and bounds over the final six weeks of this season should only be better a year from now. In its final five victories, USC’s offense averaged 523.6 yards per game, which, over a full season, would’ve ranked seventh in the nation.

“When they come together, the offense down the stretch started to play at a really high level,” offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said. “All the guys that came knew we had a special offense. A lot of it has to do with confidence. It helped to feel, as we started going down the stretch, that man, we can be unstoppable. They started to feel that.”

Pending the decision on Helton, Harrell may not have the chance to continue building on a relatively successful debut season in charge of USC’s offense. If a new coach is put in place, especially one with an offensive background, the Trojans may have to scrap the Air Raid and start anew with a different system.

For Slovis, who finished the regular season with 3,242 yards passing and 28 touchdowns in 11 games, such a change could alter his development. A new offense could also open the door for injured quarterback JT Daniels to retake the job Slovis stepped into.

On defense and special teams, changes appear to be a foregone conclusion. Even if Helton remains the coach, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and special-teams coach John Baxter could be in jeopardy of losing their jobs after less-than-stellar seasons for both units.

Defensively, USC ranked sixth in the Pac-12 Conference this season in points (27.8) and yards given up (415.2). Last week, Pendergast was asked where he felt his unit improved the most over the course of the season. He pointed to the number of young players who garnered experience as the defense was overcome by injury.

“We got a lot of repetition with a lot of different players at all three levels,” Pendergast said. “As of late, the continuity of the same guys playing has really helped us play a little better.”

Those same guys will return a year older next season, giving USC one of its most talented rosters this decade.

The only question now is who’ll be leading them.

latimes.com

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TrojanDailyBlog members  —  Always feel free to add information or topics to the TDB which don’t necessarily pertain to any particular moderator post or member comment.

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Eastern Ave.
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On an happier note. That number 15 guy is pretty darn good! 👍👍👍

Fight On!

grin

Eastern Ave.
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Lots of empty seats on Saturday…
Empty seats equals apathy.

Scipio
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Regarding the wait regarding the decision about CCH’s future status, I have listened to the rumors, speculation, hear say, hyperbole, conjecture, opinion, gossip, inside info, fear, and denial. I have concluded there is nothing to conclude. On a positive note, I have a few positive things to say that will thrill at least one poster. Here goes; + + + + and equally important ++++ and a long list of + + + + + + + + + not overlooking + + + + and who can forget ++++++ besides there is + + + + we will always… Read more »

Jamaica
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I said it Friday, I’ll say it now…. UCLA, CAL, ASU, Colorado, Arizona, Stanford all 500 or below teams just speaks loudly of the fallacy of Helton’s boasts of the ugliness of wins. Yes it is what USC had to play in its schedule. But join this damn good team and be a damn good player under his guidance makes you want to throw up.

Eastern Ave.
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Re watching this past Saturday’s game. It’s like watching a 7 on 7 passing league game with guys in shorts and T shirts. Our D gave up over 500 yards to a mediocre UCLA team. Our D was full of arm tackles and guys seemingly out of position. I love our team but the truth is we only beat teams who had inferior talent. When we win it’s the talent. I know it’s always about the billy and the Joes but at some point coaching needs to make them better. Call me me crazy but the coaches get paid to… Read more »

HOF19
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Two guys that will go down as “Nice Guys ” Clay Helton and Gerald Ford ???????? (Brought in right after messy times …..Nixon and Sark for sure ). They where the right guys at that time they came in ( Maybe yes ) but in their chosen professions are harder men are needed ???????…..FIGHT ON !!!!!……….(And guys who have some “My Way or the Highway ” in them ) ?

Steveg
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From Wolf’s blog:
Here is what Clay Helton said in January:

“During spring ball, we not only will continue to develop our players—a process that started with our January workouts, but we will focus on our attention to detail when it comes to fundamentals and technique, penalties and turnovers.”

Penalties and turnovers?

USC ranks No. 120 in penalties per game.

USC ranks No. 125 in penalty yards per game.

USC ranks No. 115 in turnover margin.

Steveg
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I would bet we are unanimous on Baxter and Clancy being replaced, either with or without Helton coming back. The weight of the schedule sure didn’t pan out like everyone thought. The front end was not as great as projected, and the back end was USC talent versus lesser talent. The tough games ended up as we all thought, one way or another USC lost them. How the heck they pulled off beating Utah and why they didn’t play that way all season is a mystery. It all reflects the unquestioned need for cultural change with a new HC. I… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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Steve, If I were in Bohn’s shoes, I would want a coach who has a strong background in defense. That side of the ball relies on toughness and discipline, which this team lacks. The O is really in great shape (hence the dilemma I pointed out in earlier posts). This really points to the Cincinnati coach, who Bohn hired away from Urban at tOSU, where Finkell was Urban’s DC.

Jamaica
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If Helton stays, I bet Dr.Folt nor Mike Bohn will be present in Arlington Texas playing Alabama to watch Clay Helton get schooled for the 10th time. I won’t want to watch it.

Rock2112
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The second-half surges of touchdowns by AZ State and UCLA constitutes “playing a bit better” defensively down the stretch? Hold my beer.

TrojanRJJ
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Our D never improved and got worked again by Chip. But for the huge improvement in the O, UCLA would have beaten Clay for a second time. Clancy will not return no matter what happens to Clay. Same with Baxter.

HOF19
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Agree with you about Clancy and Baxter .

Rock2112
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Well, and as I’ve said many times, Clay’s insistence on hanging on too long to coaches that everybody else knows should be fired will be his downfall. It’s debatable with Clancy, but not with Baxter. He absolutely should have been fired after last season as part of the “makeover.” Baxter was practically BEGGING to be fired last Saturday after the way his units performed against UCLA (and earlier in the Oregon game). Baxter is awful and Clay owned him. Bye bye!

Rock2112
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And I hate replying to my own comment, but to be clear, when I say it is debatable with Clancy, I mean whether he should have been brought back this year. It is NOT debatable whether he should be our DC next year in the event we screw up and retain Clay. Bye bye Clancy!

Trojan5
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Rock, it is ok to talk to yourself. But you aren’t allowed to answer–that it is what crazy people do. BTW—I agree that Clancy has had ample opportunity to improve the Defense. It is time for him to go.

TrojanRJJ
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Rock, I read last year that Clay and his wife and Baxter in his wife are in a Bible Study group together. This is an intensely personal relationship. As is typical for Clay, he let a close personal relationship decide on Baxter. Cost the team dearly. I think the Baxter lost the Oregon game.

Trojan5
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Let’s take a short break from the Clay Helton saga for a while. For the sake of this discussion accept that Kedon will be the USC QB going forward & JT will transfer. Where does he go? My vote is UW. JT can fully recover from his injury, & completely learn the Huskie offense while Jacob Eason finishes his career. JT will then have 2 years of eligibility remaining. If he plays well ( very plausible) he can go to the NFL after one year. Or if he needs further development he can stay for a 2nd year. Thoughts anyone?

UtahTrojan
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I agree, Kedon is our guy. JT just did not shown the progression I was hoping for (granted it was a very small sample size). My preference would be that if JT transfers it would be outside the PAC.

Chris
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WSU as Gordon is a senior. JT already knows air raid.

Paul_Muad_dib
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Interesting. I have a felling JT will will stay in the pac 12

Eastern Ave.
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My eyes never saw what some of you see in JT. My eyes did not see the intangible “it” factor. I hope JT stays and gets a quality USC education. JT can be the next man up and learn from Slovis.

TrojanRJJ
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Trojan 5. If I were JT, I think I would stay away from UW. Peterson has not developed QBs for the pros, which is where JT wants to end up. Personally, I would look to a school with a great OL and a solid running game, which he seems to need to thrive. My two top schools would be GA and Wisconsin, and perhaps LSU. Wisconsin would probably be my first choice.

usc50
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Clay Helton has shown that he needs a team to be more talented to win. But if the other team has equal or more talent he will loose. His efforts to enforce discipline and improve tackling has not worked. The worse part is the non ability to make in game adjustments.
With the recruiting going downhill and USC not having a talent edge soon it is time to go in a different direction.

RialtoTrojan
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The media is soiling their linens waiting for word on Helton’s future. It will come after the Colorado Utah game or if the impossible happens after the championship game. Until then we can just cool our jets.

TrojanMPA90
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Agree with your comments. I think Bohn wants to see what happens this weekend before making a decision.

HOF19
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A certain media person who covers USC and has the nickname “Shotgun ” keeps wondering OUTLOUD (and wondering this often ) that 1-in-3 chance SC might make an announcement about its head coaching situation TODAY .

Golden Trojan
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They don’t know for sure if SC has one or two more games to play. If a change happens, it won’t be for a week. Of course if they have the new guy ready to go it could happen any time. Helton can’t make changes at DC and ST till he knows his future. Like to have a bug in Bohn’s office. Otherwise we just have to wait. Interesting to have the team banquet last night, like admitting the season is over.