In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.
The acid test: Clay Helton (photo above) certainly has had some overall productive results in his early stint as USC’s head football coach, both on the field and recruiting. However, with no Sam Darnold to execute his offense in 2018, we’ll see how Helton navigates this issue without Captain Comeback. It’s reasonable to assume that while the Trojans’ record next season might not be as successful as the previous two campaigns, the questions become can the Men of Troy win games when designated an underdog, and can they be victorious in the favorite’s role? The 2018 season – sans Darnold – will be critical when evaluating Clay Helton’s level of coaching excellence.
Vote of Confidence: So, do you think that Helton at this point deserves to be ranked with the likes of Jim Harbaugh, Chris Petersen, David Shaw, Mark Dantonio, or a Gus Malzahn? Well, CBSSports.com recently came out with eight levels of coaching competence – the best of the best to the also-rans. The CBS top three levels ranked in order included: Elite: First-ballot Hall of Famers (1.Nick Saban/Alabama, 2. Urban Meyer/Ohio State, 3. Dabo Swinney/Clemson); Steve Spurrier tier:Blue-blood Champions (1. Jimbo Fisher/Texas A&M, 2. James Franklin/Penn State, 3. Chip Kelly/UCLA); Proven winners: Barry Alvarez tier: Success at the Power Five level (1. Gary Patterson/TCU, 2. Chris Petersen/UW, 3. David Shaw/Stanford, 14. Clay Helton/USC). In the overall rankings, CBS states through its rankings that Helton is among the top 23 colleges coaches in Division 1.
Feats of Clay: It seems no matter where you go, the conversation returns to: How good a head coach is Clay Helton at USC? The facts: Helton can boast an exhilarating last-second 2017 Rose Bowl victory over Penn State and a 2017 Pac-12 title for the Men of Troy, the first since Pete Carroll’s team did back in 2008.
Feats of Clay – Part 2: Facts: Clay Helton did not win the 2016 Pac-12 title the year of his historic Rose Bowl victory, and, yes, Helton’s team did win the 2017 Pac-12 title, but his team was obviously overmatched against Ohio State in this past season’s Cotton Bowl loss. Needless to say, an interesting set of accomplishments and disappointments.
Dodd’s take: In another CBS Sports take, columnist David Dodd has his post-spring Top 25 and ranks the Trojans No. 16 in the country. Regarding the Trojans, Dodd writes, “The Trojans have quarterback issues. There’s no one on the roster who has started the game. Incoming freshman J.T. Daniels could be the guy, but again, he’s never played. No worries? In his first two seasons as head coach, all Clay Helton has done is win a Rose Bowl and the Pac-12.”
Recruiting dynamo: Now, if you want to look at Clay Helton in terms of recruiting, it’s certainly hard to say that he hasn’t guided his staff to some very impressive recruiting classes the last couple of seasons. However, there are many that believe that USC recruits itself no matter whom the coach. When you get a real recruiting hurricane like a Pete Carroll as the USC head coach, those recruiting results with the USC brand name can be quite a windfall.
End of debate: Should the Trojans surprise the Pac-12 with a second consecutive title with an inexperienced quarterback (Fink, Sears, or Daniels), there would be little argument that Clay Helton isn’t an elite coach. Winning big ends a lot of coaching debates.
From the press box…
Progress: According to a recent Coliseum renovation update video, it was proclaimed that the “temporary press box” will be ready by early June and new seats will be installed in the next couple of months. The stadium, according to a renovation spokesperson, will be ready for football in August. Here’s the Coliseum renovation update video: https://twitter.com/USC_Athletics/status/991497502284177408
Progress – Part 2: And now the latest still visual on the Coliseum renovation: https://app.oxblue.com/open/usc/lacoliseumrenovation
The miniature: Perhaps I mentioned this before, but the new soccer stadium where the old Sports Arena used to be looks like a much smaller version of old RFK Stadium in Washington D.C., once home of the old Senators and Redskins.
IMHO: Heading into 2018, it says here that the Trojans are the preseason No. 3 team in the Pac-12 behind Washington and Stanford.
Transfer please: The American Football Coaches Association’s board of trustees voted unanimously last week in favor of an idea to allow athletes who sit out a year per the current NCAA transfer rule to gain that year of eligibility back if they graduate from their new school.
Transfer please – Part 2: If the aforementioned transfer eligibility rule comes into play in the future, it would allow transfers to play for five years instead of the current four and give them six total years to play for five seasons if they redshirt before transferring.
Transfer please – Part 3: Now before the transfer shopping begins, not so fast, my friends. The coaches will discuss it throughout their spring meetings, but it can’t be operative unless approved by the Division I Council, which wouldn’t be any earlier than next spring.
The post-game show…
Number please: From a recent New York Jets tweet, it announced that Sam Darnold will wear his former USC number, No. 14, in the Big Apple. Last season, Jets’ WR Andre Roberts wore No. 14.
Where they are now dept: Former Trojan tight end Randall Telfer has been traded by the Cleveland Browns to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for DE Dadi Nicolas. The Browns appear to be jettisoning a number of their veteran players.
Play bill: Former Trojans OL Khaliel Rodgers has been invited to the Buffalo Bills Rookie Camp.
Coming soon: Now that we’re in May, it means that those college football magazines will be on the stands in early June. Reading them sure beats the boredom of the “off season.”
The last word: The Trojans are offering a Mother’s/Father’s Day special offer. For $250, you can celebrate either one of these holidays with two tickets to a Trojans’ football game and a choice of gift, which includes a travel tote or Wilson Golf putter, and a “game day experience for two.”