USC Football 2016 Preview: Breaking Down the Coaches

USC head coach Clay Helton during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
USC head coach Clay Helton during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /
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USC head coach Clay Helton during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
USC head coach Clay Helton during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /

USC football’s 2016 coaching staff features a collection of fresh faces and a mix and match of familiar figures from the last two regimes.

Leading up to the start of the 2016 football season, the story of the USC football coaching staff is this: new faces, old faces, same expectations.

In total, a combined seven new faces — comprised of coordinators and position coaches — have joined the USC coaching staff since the commencement of the Clay Helton Era.

It’s been quite a while since USC was able to put together a nationally-acclaimed coaching staff, think back to the glory days of the Pete Carroll Era in the 00’s.

In fact, since Carroll’s departure in 2009, no coach has led USC to a conference title since Carroll did so back in the 2008 season.

In the eyes of many, the 2016 season will be the first test for Clay Helton’s regime of coordinators, assistants, and position coaches.

Whether USC improves on their No. 20 ranking to start the season, or descends into unranked irrelevancy, will likely have much to do with the coaches Helton has installed to assist in leading the team’s personnel.

If there’s one football program in the nation which does not tolerate too many growing pains from a coaching staff, it’s USC.

Here’s a look at the coaching staff which will be leading the men of Troy come this fall:

Clay Helton | Head Coach

After taking over as interim coach in 2015 following the Steve Sarkisian fallout, Helton salvaged the season by leading the Trojans to a Pac-12 South title and a second consecutive appearance in the Holiday Bowl.

Helton’s interim tenure in 2015 included notable victories against No. 3 Utah and most memorably, No. 22 UCLA.

Salvaging the 2015 season proved to be enough for former USC Athletic Director Pat Haden to bestow Helton the role of permanent head coach.

Much has been made of the fact that since being named the permanent head coach on Nov. 30, Helton went 0-2 to conclude last season — these losses coming to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game and Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl.

Despite this, there is still a load of optimism and expectation for the start of the 2016 season, which will more universally be judged as the beginning of Helton’s reign in Troy.

A coach with over 20 years of experience — including stops at Duke, Houston, and Memphis — Helton joined the USC staff as a quarterbacks coach in 2010. Since arriving, Helton eventually inherited the role of offensive coordinator before undertaking permanent head coaching duties for this fall.

Upon taking hold of the program, Helton has made a very concentrated effort to change the culture of the program. In addition to instilling his three F’s philosophy in his program — Faith, Family, Football — he has also made it a priority to alter the way the team operates in a practice setting.

A new policy implemented by Helton was the decision to have no music playing during practices, which had been done in previous years; this action was taken to improve communication between the players and coaches, according to Helton.

Helton made a plethora of changes to his coaching staff almost immediately after being given the head coaching role. Promptly, Helton fired four then-coaches shortly before the Holiday Bowl in December.

To reconstruct his coaching staff, Helton appointed Tee Martin as USC’s offensive coordinator and announced that Clancy Pendergast, a former defensive coordinator for the Trojans, would be returning to coach the defense.

This past weekend, Helton made his biggest decision yet as coach when he settled the Max Browne vs. Sam Darnold quarterback battle, ultimately selecting Browne to be the starter.

While choosing Browne as the starter was likely the most-widely acceptable one for Helton to make, it will be interesting to see how he manages Browne and any growing pains that may come with his progression as a starter.

While Helton is no stranger to college football sidelines, how he fares in the uncharted waters of full-time head coaching will be something to watch. Especially with what many believe to be a championship-caliber team in USC.