In light of Bob Stoops’ sudden retirement, promoting Lincoln Riley to head coach at Oklahoma, who would replace Clay Helton at USC under similar circumstances?
Earlier this week, long-time Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops announced his retirement, putting the Sooners in the hands of offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who was promoted to head coach.
So who would replace USC’s Clay Helton if he were to step away?
definitely getting ahead of ourselves here.
After all, Stoops had a successful 18-year career at Oklahoma before he decided to retire at age 56 in order to “go live life.”
As unexpected as the news was, it would be exponentially more shocking for the 44-year-old Helton, still in the infancy of his head coaching career, to walk away from the game.
Still, this kind of hypothetical isn’t completely off base from a USC perspective. The Trojans have been forced to turn to interims not once, not even twice, but three times in the past five years.
When Lane Kiffin was fired in September of 2013, then-defensive line coach Ed Orgeron took on the mantle of head coach.
Later that year, when Orgeron resigned his post ahead of the Las Vegas Bowl in protest of being passed over for the permanent job by Steve Sarkisian, then-offensive coordinator Clay Helton took over for one game.
Then, it all happened again in 2015, when Sarkisian was removed from his post midseason and Helton once again put on the head coach hat –one he would retain, unlike Orgeron.
That’s not to say we should expect performance or behavioral issues to cause Helton’s removal. By all accounts, Helton is squeaky-clean and even if he underachieves in 2017, another midseason firing feels just a step too far. But you never really know.
So back to the hypothetical. Who would replace Helton if he were no longer around to coach the Trojans this year?
Only one assistant coach on USC’s staff has head coaching experience at the college level. That’s offensive line coach Neil Callaway.
Though he’s only in his second year with the Trojans, he served as UAB’s head man for five years and would be a safe interim to put in place without needing to worry about a hurt feelings if that tag were to stay on an interim basis.
If a deeper connection to USC were required, special teams coordinator John Baxter boasts almost as many years of coaching experience. He served as an associate head coach at Fresno State for 13 years before joining Kiffin’s staff in Los Angeles.
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Then there’s defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, whose 25 years of coaching experience would give him plenty of authority if he were to take on the head coaching job.
However, if Pendergast has any desire to be a head coach, he hasn’t shown much of it.
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That leaves perhaps the most intriguing option to take over, on an interim basis or otherwise — offensive coordinator Tee Martin.
Martin is one of the rising stars in the college football coaching ranks and it’ll be no surprise when head coaching opportunities come calling for him.
This hypothetical might be coming one or two years ahead of schedule though. As promising as Martin’s coaching career looks right now, his resume is significantly shorter than other options.
Having said that, USC could see the value of tapping into that potential for a season rather than letting it go.
Another option from left field? Former Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher is finally available after years of speculation surrounding his name every time the USC job came up for grabs.
Of course, the best scenario for USC would be to simply not lose Helton for any reason, but hypotheticals don’t care for best-cases.