Cody Kessler cast his vote for Clay Helton to become the next USC coach after practice Tuesday, telling reporters that he believes in the interim head coach completely.
Kessler will not be around next year to play for whichever head coach the Trojans ultimately decide to hire. His eligibility ends after this season.
However, he is not the first Trojan to put his support behind Helton, who stated when he was promoted to interim that he wants to earn the job.
“We want him to stay,” left tackle Chad Wheeler told the LA Times after USC’s victory over Cal.
Linebacker Su’a Cravens, who has the choice to declare for the NFL draft at the end of the year or return for his senior season under a new head coach, made it clear after the Trojans fell to Notre Dame that his team is on Helton’s side.
“We love Coach Helton. We love him as much as we loved Coach O,” Cravens was quoted by Keely Eure of USCFootball.com.
The specter of Coach O will certainly hang over USC’s upcoming hire. When Pat Haden passed Ed Orgeron over for Steve Sarkisian, the hurt feelings within the program were immense.
Orgeron had rallied the Trojans to a 10-4 record after early season struggles under Lane Kiffin led to the head coach’s removal. During that span, USC lost in South Bend to a ranked Notre Dame squad then ripped off a five-game winning streak including an upset win at the Coliseum over top-five Stanford. With the Trojans an unlikely challenger for the Pac-12 south title, USC was beaten soundly at home by UCLA, a game which many believe ended Orgeron’s candidacy.
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Helton has already matched a number of those accomplishments, to the point that the comparisons are impossible not to notice.
Like Orgeron, Helton lost to the Irish on the road, but he already has the upset over a highly-ranked Utah under his belt. All that remains are three winnable games to complete the five-game winning streak before the pivotal match up with UCLA awaits to determine his fate.
The vocal support of the players and a few more wins should keep Helton’s name in the pot for now at least.