Interim head coach Clay Helton put himself out there on Tuesday, saying unequivocally that he wants to be the permanent head coach of USC football.
“I want to be the head coach. I also know the reality of the situation, in college football at this level you have to prove yourself,” Helton said.
At the press conference which followed USC practice, Helton began his campaign for the job by winning over the room with passionate messages for his former head coach, his current staff and his players.
First Helton offered well-wishes for Steve Sarkisian, who was fired on Monday, vowing not to kick a man while he was down by commenting on media reports about Sarkisian’s drinking problem.
“We love coach Sark. He is a very good man and a good football coach,” Helton said. “We look forward to him getting healthy.”
Looking forward at USC’s chances to remain competitive in the Pac-12 this season, Helton cited an exceptional staff around him and excellent players to rally with.
“We will compete every day like Trojans. We will try to win every game that we have,” said Helton. “We will fight everyday to be champions.”
Though Helton remains a dark horse, he could build off of the things that made another dark horse candidate look so palatable in 2013.
“I learned a great deal from Coach O. One of the things that I learned from Coach O is how you bring everyone together as a family,” Helton said.
With that in mind, the interim said that the team will be having a family dinner tonight to continue the team building which Helton has already seen this year and in 2013.
With Helton taking over head coaching duties, Marques Tuiasosopo will now handle the job of quarterbacks coach.
He filled that role for Washington in 2013 and was a successful quarterback for the Huskies back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Former USC offensive lineman Lenny Vandermade, who has worked as an administrative assistant, will take over the role of tight ends coach.
Helton will remain the offensive coordinator and will continue to call plays.
Helon confirmed that starting center Max Tuerk is out for the season with a knee injury, while both Claude Pelon and Steven Mitchell will be out for the Notre Dame game.
Pelon injured his knee against Washington and will need some time to get back. Mitchell suffered an ankle sprain on Thursday as well. He is probably closer to a return than the defensive lineman, but Helton was not confident that they would see him out on the field before Saturday.
There was positive news on the injury front. Cornerback Iman Marshall was a full participant Tuesday and looked great, according to Helton. Wide receiver Darreus Rogers has also been able to get out onto the practice field and it appears that he will be good to go against Notre Dame.
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