9 min Read

O/NSO: Quarterbacking a coaching background edition

The Obvious: During the past generation, the USC Trojans have been righteously called Quarterback U, honoring such illustrious signal calling names as Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, and a headlining list of former and current first team All-Pac-12 quarterbacks such as John David Booty, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Sam Darnold, and the current chosen one, Kedon Slovis.    

The Not So Obvious: The irony of all those great Trojans quarterbacks within the past 25 seasons comes the revelation that the current USC coaching staff features six former quarterbacks, including head coach Clay Helton (cover photo above at the University of Houston), and seven if you wish to stretch it a bit to include USC athletic director Mike Bohn. So, let’s take a moment to look at Helton and his staff collection of former throwers.  

The Obvious: Trojans head coach Clay Helton is a former quarterback for Sugar Land (Tex.) Clements HS, Auburn University, and the University of Houston.

The Not So Obvious: Helton played quarterback at Houston in 1993 and 1994, playing for his father both seasons and captaining the Cougars as a 1994 senior. He even took some snaps when Houston played in the Coliseum in 1993, completing 1-of-3 passes in late duty in Houston’s 49-7 trashing by the Trojans. Before his Houston playing days, Helton spent 1991 and 1992 at Auburn, where he earned 1992 SEC All- Academic honors. He redshirted there in 1990.

Trojans head coach Clay Helton (photo above) was a quarterback at both Auburn and the University of Houston.

The Obvious: Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell played the position at Ennis (Tex.) High, Texas Tech, and in both the Canadian Football League and the NFL.  

The Not So Obvious: Harrell played for his dad, Sam Harrell, at Ennis (Tex.) High, throwing for Texas career records of 12,532 yards and 167 touchdowns. He led Ennis to the state Class 4A title as a 2001 sophomore. As a senior in 2003, Harrell set state records for season passing yards, completions and touchdowns (4,825, 334, 67). He then went on to play quarterback for Texas Tech (2005-08), Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL – 2009), Green Bay Packers (2010-12), and the New York Jets (2013). While at Texas Tech, he finished his career with an NCAA-record 134 touchdowns passes, the second-most career yards in NCAA history (15,793) and the third-highest career passing average (351.0).

Trojans offensive coordinator Graham Harrell (photo above on left) as the quarterback for Ennis HS standing alongside his dad, Sam Harrell (photo above on right).

The Obvious: Trojans running backs coach Mike Jinks played quarterback for Converse (Tex.) Judson HS and Angelo State.

The Not So Obvious: Jinks played quarterback for three seasons at Judson High, where he was outstanding and played in the state title game against Dallas Carter in 1988. Judson lost the game but gets credit for the state title because Carter used an illegible player. Jinks then went on to play at Angelo State (1990-93), starting his junior and senior years. He led the LSC (Lone Star Conference) in passing average in 1994. Jinks is only the second Ram to lead the LSC in that category since 1965.

Trojans running backs coach Mike Jinks (photo above) as the starting quarterback for Angelo State.

The Obvious: Trojans offensive line coach Clay McGuire played quarterback for Crane (Tex.) High.

The Not So Obvious: McGuire starred as both a quarterback and defensive end at Crane High, where he was named Texas Class 3-A all-state and player of the year as a senior. In addition, he was a two-time district MVP. FYI, Clay was also a two-time all-state selection in baseball whose fastball was clocked at 92 miles per hour.

McGuire played tight end and wide receiver at Texas Tech (2001-04). FYI, in his four seasons at Texas Tech, he had 32 receptions, for 320 yards (10.0 avg.), and two touchdowns.  

Trojans offensive line coach Clay McGuire (photo above) was once a decorated quarterback at Crane (Texas) High School in Crane, Texas.

The Obvious: Trojans tight end coach Seth Doege was a quarterback at Crane (Tex.) High.

The Not So Obvious: Another Texas Tech grad, Doege (pronounced DAY-ghee) prepped at Crane (Tex.) High, where he started at quarterback as a freshman and sophomore, and then later at Frenship High in Wolfforth (Tex.), but knee injuries sidelined him for his junior and senior seasons. Despite the injuries, Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach honored the school’s earlier 2006 offer of a scholarship, and Doege signed his letter of intent to play for the Red Raiders in February 2008. Doege was Texas Tech’s starting quarterback for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. After playing for Texas Tech, Doege signed as a 2013 undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons, and in 2014, he was signed with Saskatchewan of the Canadian Football League.

First-year Trojans tight end coach Seth Doege (photo above) is a former quarterback at Crane and Frenship High schools and went on to QB at Texas Tech.

The Obvious: Trojans safety coach Craig Naivar is a former quarterback at Taylor (Tex.) HS and was a quarterback/safety at Hardin-Simmons University.   

The Not So Obvious: As a quarterback and safety at Taylor High, where he was known as a “versatile, tough-minded” quarterback/safety, Naivar considers his Ducks proudest moment as playing as a senior in the regular-season finale after coming back from a broken ankle (he had a metal plate and six screws inserted during surgery) in the second game of the season. From Taylor, Naivar went on to become a four-year (1990-93) letterman safety and quarterback at Hardin-Simmons. As a senior, he was team captain, won all-conference honors, and played on a conference championship team that advanced to the national semifinals (NAIA D-2).

Former Taylor (Tex) and Hardin-Simmons quarterback/safety Craig Naivar (photo above) is the current USC safeties coach.

The Obvious: Trojans athletic director Mike Bohn played quarterback at Boulder (Colo.) High and Kansas University.

The Not So Obvious: After his prep playing career at Boulder HS, which is also the alma mater of former Trojans All-America tackle Tony Boselli, Bohn went on to be a backup quarterback at Kansas University and started one game against No. 6 Nebraska in 1982. In that game against the Cornhuskers, who won 52-0, Bohn was sacked five times for 54 yards in losses, intercepted once but did complete 4-of-14 passes for 63 yards. Poignantly, Bohn finished his college quarterbacking career by mopping up in a 28-3 loss at Colorado and thus playing both his final college and high school games in his hometown.

USC athletic director Mike Bohn (photo above) is a former Boulder (Colo.) HS and Kansas Jayhawks quarterback.

The Obvious: And finally, it isn’t surprising that with so many former quarterbacks on the Trojans staff, passing the football is the No. 1 priority.  

The Not So Obvious: So next time the Trojans bring in a new head coach, it might be prudent to check the new guy’s playing background. You just might be getting an inkling into his offensive philosophy and criteria for the assemblage of his staff.  

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

More Articles By Greg