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WeAreSC Mailbag (11-22)


Will Lynn Swann make the necessary changes to better USC Football or if he doesn’t will his job be in peril as well??

Swann is largely a mystery so far with his decision making, he just hasn’t made many moves in his tenure, but he is squarely in the crosshairs on this one. It’s clear which way the fan base is leaning right now, they want a change at the head coaching position. But we’re definitely hearing people within Heritage Hall saying that Swann is looking to keep Helton (with changes to his staff) for reasons ranging from a desire for stability (he will point to Brian Kelly at Notre Dame as an example of a coach who had a bad year in 2016, made some wholesale staff changes and is now competing for the College Football Playoff) and financial (a recent extension for Helton with a buyout, the current university lawsuits and payouts that will need to be made, etc.). I’m not saying I agree with those points, that’s just what we’re hearing as the talking points Swann would give. If he doesn’t make a change, however, I think there could be a real backlash from fans on tickets for Coliseum renovation, donations, etc because I haven’t seen things at this kind of emotional level too often. Lynn only needs to look as far as Pat Haden to see a former icon who took a huge fall from grace due to his decisions that didn’t work out.

Pittsburgh Trojan

Garry, In your heart of hearts do you think Helton will be back in 2019?

Yes. Right now the voices from Heritage Hall are pointing to him coming back. .



Well said.

Trojan Trev

Hi Gary-

With ND having the 8th ranked passing defense in the country, and with JT being a freshmen, will Clay make a strong effort to get the running game going this week, or at the very lease have some trick plays to try and generate some offense? If not and JT struggles, any chance we see Sears, with Clay hopefully coaching for his job and trying to pull out a miracle win?

I would like to see any and all of those options but I don’t know if we will. I think the better odds are that we will continue to see J.T. throwing to Pittman, Vaughns and St. Brown with some Malepeai runs sprinkled in. It would give me great joy to see more of an emphasis on running the ball and I even think the freshman Markese Stepp could offer a legitimate option. As for some trick plays, maybe the spirit of Sean McVay and the play calling we saw in the Monday Night Football game at the Coliseum could linger into the Trojan sideline on Saturday because that was some of the most creative play calling I’ve ever seen. Why not throw some packages out there with Sears or Fink, get creative, what do you have to lose at this point?


Garry, how are you feeling?
Fight On!

Feeling better and good to be back. Thank you.

Hi Garry,

I hope you are feeling better, glad to see you are back.

Should Helton come back next year, any suggestions as to how I can take SC football a little less seriously so the disappointment isn’t so damaging to my normally positive outlook on life…..
Or should that be a question to my Therapist?
Happy Thanksgiving, Garry.

I’m probably the wrong person to ask as far as how to take USC football less seriously, haha.. And there are a lot of people like us, which makes it an interesting time to see the university possibly going against such strong wishes from their fans/donors. There’s no question the fans are speaking loud and clear about wanting a change as we’ve already seen some low attendance levels at recent home games, and the fact that the university had to send out an e-mail recently offering available ND tickets is something we don’t see often for this rivalry game. T


In the unthinkable event that Helton returns as a coach next year, and imagining that he does so under the mandate to clean house with his coaching staff, what would be your ideal supporting cast to surround Helton with next year?

Beat the Irish!

My first calls would be on the defensive side of the ball. Can you entice a guy like Kris Richard or Joe Barry to come back and run the Trojan defense? What about Tim McDonald or Mark Carrier? On the offensive line, can you bring a Hudson Houck out of retirement to mold the o-line? How about someone like Pat Harlow, who has done good things as head coach at JSerra? And I would at least place a call to Jordan Palmer about coming to develop quarterbacks, and Norm Chow as well who is living in Manhattan Beach and could always be a great resource. It would be very interesting to see who Helton could attract if he is kept with the mandate to clean house on his staff. .


Word in the Trojan Huddle and other message boards is that Lynn Swann had every intention of retaining Coach Helton for next season and letting him right the ship. Whether or not those sentiments change following Saturday’s contest, remains to be seen. My question is, WHOSE decision would it be whether or not Helton returns next year, given the state of flux the university is currently in. Without a President at the helm to guide an AD on such an important decision, what’s your understanding of the CURRENT power structure within Heritage Hall? Would this be a decision that Swann makes on his own, or would the BoT and other major program donors have a say-so in how all of this plays out?

As I understand it Lynn does have the authority to make the decision on Clay Helton and there hasn’t been an indication that interim president Austin or the BOT is looking to step in and tell him which decision to make.


Garry, does your spidey sense still tell you that Lynn Swann will use the Notre Dame coaching purge in 2016 (and subsequent success) as the justification for retaining Helton? (Great to have you back and Happy Thanksgiving!)

That’s one of the primary talking points I’ve heard coming from Heritage Hall for why they would look to keep Helton. Thanks for the message and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well.


The Helton staff has recruited a lot of talented high school players over the past 5 or 6 years. How many of those players do you think have developed above their high school playing abilities during their time at USC. I don’t see a significant player development in these highly rated recruits from the high school ranks. The teams we’ve face from Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame have taken their highly ranked recruits and have made them dominate forces against our “High School” great players. That’s what it seems like to me. Any comment?

I agree, I don’t think player development has been a strength of this staff. The two recent first-round-draft choices, Sam Darnold and Adoree’ Jackson, were more natural athletes rather than players who were developed into first-round picks. And one of the biggest issues with our program under Helton is that we’ve long been considered a blueblood program on par with the Alabamas, Ohio States and Notre Dames, but that’s not how we’re viewed right now.


Garry, what letter grade would you give Helton for his handling of Markese Stepp’s playing time? 3 official appearances, 2 carries for 10 yards. Somwhere two appearances were inexplicably wasted. Unless Markese is wildly productive versus Notre Dame I give Helton an ‘F-‘

I’m not going to go as harsh as an F. Don’t get me wrong, I would have been happy to see a little more Markese but I would have liked to see more from the running game overall, and that includes the guys ahead of Markese on the depth chart. The good news is that his redshirt year was preserved which could pay benefits later on.


When is the last time you saw the USC fan base this demoralized? The end of Kiffin’s tenure was bad, but he still had some supporters (misguided though they were), and we understood that sanctions were going to be an issue.

The end of Hackett’s tenure was comparable, but I never doubted for a second that he would be fired, because at that point I still believed that gross incompetence would get you fired at USC. Now I’m not even sure about that.

This is a rare time, and I would add the end of the Tollner era to those two you mentioned when there was booing as part of the senior salute after the Notre Dame game. The Hackett one is probably the time that stands out to me, and you are correct in that there was little doubt Garrett was going to pull the plug. I think it says something that most Trojan fans I’ve spoken with would take Mike Garrett in charge of the decision right now.

Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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