Graham Harrell turned down other jobs this offseason, but USC football offered a “once in a career opportunity” for the offensive coordinator, and he took it.
Graham Harrell certainly didn’t plan to be USC football’s offensive coordinator. Five years ago, when he was just a lowly offensive analyst for Mike Leach at Washington State, he wouldn’t have imagined himself in this spot in 2019.
“It’s been a fast ride and an exciting one,” Harrell said on Monday, speaking to the media for the first time since taking the job with the Trojans.
Even landing the USC job was a “random deal,” he explained.
“I wasn’t looking for a job at all. I actually turned a couple jobs down because I felt we had a chance to be special [at North Texas]. Then out of nowhere Coach Helton called me.”
In the middle of the week, USC head coach Clay Helton got in touch. On Sunday, the Trojans flew him out to Los Angeles for an interview and offered him the job that day. He went home and slept on it, accepting the offer on that Monday. A couple days layer, on January 30, he was announced as the Trojans new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
If Harrell felt at home in North Texas, surrounded by family and returning plenty of talent with the Mean Green, why did he take the leap to join Helton’s staff, especially with pressure mounting for the embattled head coach?
“A job like this is maybe a once in a career opportunity,” Harrell said.
It’s not just that USC is one of the elite programs in the country. Harrell was ready to embrace the challenge and pressure that comes with it.
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“A lot of jobs throughout the country, you can be average and everyone is happy with you. You don’t get in this profession to be average. You get in this profession to win championships,” Harrell explained.
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“The reason I came here is because there aren’t many times in your career that you have a chance to be at a place that you have legit chances to win national championships year in and year out. If you ever get one of those schools you better jump on it because you may never get it again.”
After going 5-7 in 2018, USC feels as far from a national title as it has been since the end of the Pete Carroll era, but Harrell certainly understands the aspirations, and expectations, of Trojan fans. Getting back to championship level will require a massive overhaul on offense, which Harrell will now be responsible for.
Fortunately for Harrell, he will have a host of new weapons to work with as he looks to turn things around. Having observed USC’s winter workouts over the past few weeks, Harrell has already gotten a look at the kinds of players who will be at his disposal.
“They look a lot different than the guys I’ve had that’s for sure,” he laughed.
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Harrell’s first chance to get hands on with players will come next week, when the Trojans start Spring Camp on March 5.