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USC football lays out criteria for strength coach Ivan Lewis’ replacement

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
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USC football head coach Clay Helton confirmed the departure of strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis on Tuesday, beginning the search for his replacement.

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The Seattle Seahawks haven’t officially announced the hiring of strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis, but the Trojans have officially begun the search for his replacement.

At the start of January, it was widely reported that Lewis would be heading to Seattle to replace another former Trojan strength and conditioning coach, Chris Carlisle. On Tuesday, USC head coach Clay Helton acknowledged the departure while addressing a host of recent developments around USC.

“I am happy for Ivan,” Helton said, calling it a dream of Lewis’ to coach in the NFL. “I want all our coaches and players to be able to fulfill their dreams.”

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Though it was voluntary, Lewis’ departure fulfills a desire by many around USC who wanted to see a culture change in the Trojan locker room and weight room following 2018’s disappointing 5-7 campaign.

With athletic director Lynn Swann and Helton both referencing Notre Dame’s turnaround from a 4-8 season in 2016, Trojan fans and many of those covering the team took it to mean USC would be making similar sweeping changes across the football program. After all, one of Brian Kelly’s most significant moves was to part ways with his longtime strength and conditioning coordinator.

That change is now coming to Troy, and Tuesday included Helton’s first comments on what it is he will be looking for when it comes to hiring a new strength coach.

“Ivan’s replacement will be someone who can develop our players’ total body as well as design programs for their skill specific needs,” Helton said. “…They should have the leadership skills and confidence to lead a group of 110 young men, being firm but fair and holding them accountable to their responsibilities. Someone who will coach them hard, but also develop relationships built on trust and honesty. And someone who will establish toughness, discipline and teamwork that will carry over to the practice field and games.”

Specifically, Helton referenced strength, conditioning, speed training, functional football movements, preventative injury exercises, flexibility, diet and sleep as aspects he values in the strength and conditioning program.

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A couple of those stand out. First and foremost, USC’s injury record in recent memory has been an issue with injury crises striking regularly. In 2017, the Trojan defensive line was ravaged. In 2018, the secondary finished the season with a true freshman walk on playing with the first team.

Diet is another emphasis which has been a talking point in recent years. At Media Day ahead of the 2018 season, Porter Gustin spoke about his efforts to improve the nutritional options available to players in the program after seeing how outmatched the Trojans were physically against Ohio State. That a player had to raise that issue seemed a concern at the time and said concern only grew as the 2018 season proceeded as it did.

Helton says he is looking for a “forward thinking” strength and conditioning coach who is willing to use sports science to gain a competitive advantage.

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Finding a coach who fits all of that criteria is the hard part, especially in a timely manner. The Trojans will begin Spring Camp at the start of March, but winter workouts are already underway.

At the very least, USC’s players will have a different voice in their ears going into the 2019 season, and sometimes that can make all the difference.

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