USC Football Mailbag: What Should Happen To Clay Helton?

Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Clay Helton reacts during an NCAA football game against the UCLA Bruins at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Clay Helton reacts during an NCAA football game against the UCLA Bruins at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

What does the future hold for Clay Helton? What is USC’s offensive philosophy?…Our weekly USC football mailbag seeks the answers.

Welcome to the Reign of Troy mailbag, a weekly feature, where we will answer all questions related to USC football.

If you have a question for the mailbag, send it in to @ReignOfTroy on Twitter or via email to

Let’s get started:

Why did the coaching staff go with a visual snap count in a stadium that is never that loud?— Mike @USC4MPD

In his post-game press conference, Clay Helton said that the defensive line was interfering with the cadence, so to combat it they went to silent cadence.

As you state, Stanford is not a very loud place, so this will be something to watch against Utah, a place that gets extremely loud and where the Utes will want to avenge themselves after last year’s blow out.

Does Helton get fired if we lose big to Utah? (I’m actually hoping this happens)— Trevor @JuanPieceOfCake

While I understand how you can feel that way, keep in mind that a mid-season firing is why Helton is there in the first place. Had Sarkisian stayed through the end of the year, Helton would not be the head coach, even if Sarkisian was fired at the end of the season.

Having said that, a loss to Utah would put the Trojans at 1-3 and 0-2 in Pac-12 play, which would put Helton in a scorching hot seat.

It would not have to be a blowout, but if USC loses to Utah, I would not expect Helton to be leading the team in the 2017 opener against Texas.

How long will it take for Lynn to figure it out that Helton is not the guy. Not because we lost,because no improvement— Armando @mondoman102

Lynn Swann has talked about being patient with Helton and allowing him to recruit his own players, which sounds like at least 3 years.

There are several fallacies with this view. First, Helton recruited every player on this team; he has been here six years. Second, Helton became an offensive coordinator under Lane Kiffin, who called the plays, so there is no evidence that Helton has his own system.

Swann has been a winner throughout his career, having won a national championship and four Super Bowls; he in many ways set the USC standard.

So while he says patience to the public, remember that Pat Haden said similar things but then fired Lane Kiffin midseason. So, if the Trojans don’t make progress, expect Swann to make a move after the season.

Should USC fire Helton, go get Tom Herman after the season.— Gerald @grldnlsn

If Helton is fired after the season, Tom Herman would be on top of the wishlist. Keep in mind that other programs like LSU may have openings, and also that the Big 12 may add Houston, which would give Herman a huge bonus.

However, given the fact that even running the table won’t guarantee Houston a playoff spot, expect Herman to be open to other jobs.

The other caution I would add is that it is not best to focus on just one candidate because you might not get that person. Have a list of three to five people, which increases the likelihood of getting one of them. Herman would be a great hire, but there are other great hires out there.

How long before recruits start decommitting?— @ImaFANATIC116

USC does not have many top flight recruits at the moment, so they more than likely won’t decommit. Some recruits have gone on record as saying they don’t care how much USC loses; they still want to use USC as a gateway to the NFL.

Should Helton get fired, things may change. But USC sells itself, so there is nothing to worry about. USC had a top ten class last year with all the turmoil.

Is Paul Hackett available?— Eric @erictoya

Yes,  but that would be worse than Helton.

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How long before SC goes in a different direction at HC?— Andrew @hogeandrew

Depends on how the season goes.

If USC loses to Utah, they almost assuredly  won’t win the South, which is what won Helton the job last year. This is a deeper team than last year, making the situation worse.

If Helton wins seven games, he is likely safe for one more year. Anything less than that will get him fired at year’s end.

USC still has to play Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, and UCLA, all of whom are playing better football than the Trojans right now and are better coached. Helton could easily go 6-6 this year.

Why can’t our offensive line count? Clearly our snap count and cadence was too much for us to handle. Costed us in the 1st half— Marc @Mflames44

The offensive line has been a mess at USC for several years and has been the epitome of showing how undisciplined USC has been since the departure of Pete Carroll.

It is hard to say why they can’t control their cadence, but one theme that is coming through this season is that USC is not a team right now; they are a collection of individuals.

Can you find out who is actually calling the plays and what is the philosophy of the offense. It doesn’t look like Stanford— @bourbon03

Tee Martin, who is a first year offensive coordinator, is calling plays.

There is no philosophy for this offense; they call it “Gumbo” according to Martin, meaning they are a mixture of everything.

The problem is that if you are everything then you are nothing.

How can you “be like Stanford” when you run no huddle from the shotgun?  And why can’t we learn how to run a hurry up offense.— James @jstocks724

Helton is a master of double-speak; saying one thing and doing another. USC was successful when Browne was under center, but they quickly went away from it.

More from Reign of Troy

The hurry-up offense is something that USC says they want to run, but they never commit to it. USC could run it, but they would have to simplify, which is in the best interest of the team at this time.

Does USC have a FB? This is a team that’s run first right?— John Derry @jderry78

USC does not have a recruited fullback, but they have a fullback who used to be a linebacker named Rueben Peters. He has not been utilized much so far. USC could use one of its tight ends in that role, but has not yet at this point.

As stated earlier, USC does not have a coherent philosophy on offense, but that is to be expected with a staff who is doing their current assignment for the first time.