SCliff Notes: The Post-Tommie Robinson Dilemma, and More USC Football News

Oct 1, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Clay Helton (center) stands on the sidelines during the second half against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Clay Helton (center) stands on the sidelines during the second half against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

Explaining Clay Helton’s dilemma when replacing lost running backs coach Tommie Robinson, and more USC football news.

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1st Word:

Tommie Robinson’s departure to LSU is a stinger for the Trojans. He was a key cog in USC’s running game, and a coach endeared by players. Justin Davis spoke at length about how happy he was to see him back during last year’s fall camp.

Now, Clay Helton’s insular hiring strategy is back at the forefront while we await a replacement, making prognosticating candidates a bit tricky.

The Trojans’ head coach built out his first staff by staying close to home, stocking up with existing coaches (Tee Martin and Johnny Nansen), former coaches (Robinson, Clancy Pendergast and John Baxter), his brother (Tyson Helton), his father’s offensive coordinator, whom he also played for in college (Neil Callaway), a protégé to another hire (Ronnie Bradford), and an inexperienced former USC All-American already employed on the support staff (Kenechi Udeze).

Without Robinson, the Trojans can essentially go three routes to fill their ninth and final spot on the coaching staff:

  1. Helton can replace him straight up with a running backs coach.
  2. Move Nansen from outside linebackers coach back to running backs, and bring in a new linebackers coach with ties to Clancy Pendergast.
  3. Target a wide receivers coach –perhaps support staffer Keary Colbert– by putting Nansen with running backs and having Pendergast double up completely with linebackers.

The flexibility comes from Martin and Baxter already holding dual responsibilities, which left the Trojans without a dedicated wide receivers coach in 2016.

Such criteria could mean USC hires anyone from former running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu, to Florida assistant Greg Nord, who has previously coached with three current Trojan staffers.

READ MORE: Five Potential Replacements for Tommie Robinson

But the biggest wrench to the process is whether or not the NCAA clears the proposed addition of a 10th staffer. A vote is expected to take place during the spring, and it’s unclear if implantation will be immediate.

That gives USC one more thing to think about, particularly about aforementioned options two and three.

If an additional staffer is coming down the pipeline, it might be best to wait on promoting from within (i.e. Colbert) given the ease of such a move. Which then puts the focus squarely on one question: Which role is more pressing for the Trojans to fill now, before next month’s spring camp and not if and when it happens?

Based on team need, that’s probably linebackers.

USC must replace Michael Hutchings, and a lack of overall depth means players like Jordan Iosefa, John Houston and newly enrolled Tayler Katoa need significantly more hands-on development than a crop of mostly veteran backs like Ronald Jones and Aca’Cedric Ware.

Does that mean you have Nansen and Pendergast tag team the linebackers like last year? Or is it best to a new guy, while having Nansen manage the backs like he did in 2014 and 2015?

We’ll have to wait and see.

10 Best USC Football and Basketball Links of the Week

  1. Post-Signing Day Pac-12 Power Rankings (ESPN)With the 2017 recruiting class all wrapped up, the Trojans continue to take the No. 1 spot in the conference.
  2. Chargers joining competition with Rams, USC, UCLA in L.A. market (OCR)After being a two-team town for decades, LA is suddenly full of football teams. Joey Kaufman and company look at how it’ll work.
  3. Stephen Carr Ranks in CFB’s Future 100 (Bleacher Report)B/R ranked the 2017 class’s running backs by their future impacts, and USC signee Stephen Carr is sitting pretty high.
  4. USC Basketball is Winning Games But Not Fans (LA Times)Zach Helfand takes a look at the yet-to-arrive hoops bandwagon following the red-hot Trojans.
  5. USC a No. 7 in Bracketology (ESPN)Joe Lunardi is high on the Trojans, putting Andy Enfield’s team in the top half of the seeding for March Madness.
  6. Following Injury, Boatwright Back on His Feet (Daily Trojan)The DT’s Jonathan Horwitz profiles Bennie Boatwright, who returned after two-month layoff and has USC playing its best basketball of the season.
  7. Underrated 3-stars in 2017 Class (Rivals)Mike Farrell named USC blueshirt commit Jalen McKenzie as a guy to watch on the offensive line, despite his three-star rating in the 247Sports Composite.
  8. Sarkisian, Like Kiffin, is a Restless Soul (FanRag Sports)Matt Zemek takes a look at the nomadic route of former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, who just signed on to be the offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons.
  9. Aubrey Solomon’s Ticked Off About Georgia Rumors (Dawg Nation)USC fell short on their pursuit of five-star defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon, as he signed with Michigan. But in a report out of Georgia, it was the Bulldogs who finished second for his signature.
  10. Lang Among Colorado Signees Raving About Boulder (Daily Camera)The Trojans lost out on three-star defensive end Terrance Lang, but the newest Buffalo says he feels at home with CU.

Reign of Troy Round Up:


NFL Draft…



  • USC Beats Oregon StateThe Trojans got their fifth-straight win on Thursday night, as Shaqquon Aaron led USC with 24 points.