USC football roundup: Clay Helton coaching ranking a toss-up

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Coaching rankings disagree on where head coach Clay Helton stands as he prepares for a make-or-break season with USC football in 2019.

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Where, oh where, does USC football head coach Clay Helton deserve to sit in college football rankings?

The simple answer is, no one seems to know.

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This week two major publications released their head coaching rankings with The Sporting News and CBS Sports coming to very different conclusions on the Trojan head man.

Sporting News rated Helton as the No. 6 coach in the Pac-12, behind UCLA’s Chip Kelly at No. 5, but ahead of Oregon’s Mario Cristobal at No. 7.

On a national scale, they settled Helton at No. 31, a drop from No. 17 where he was ranked last year. That was just a couple spots shy of Kelly at No. 29 after a similar drop from No. 18.

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CBS Sports also ranked the coaches in the Pac-12, but slotted Helton quite a bit lower at No. 9. Cal’s Justin Wilcox got the nod at No. 8, Cristobal at No. 7, Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin at No. 6 and Kelly at No. 3.

What seems to be consistent is the perception of Washington’s Chris Petersen, Stanford’s David Shaw, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and Washington State’s Mike Leach. Those four generally compose the top tier of coaches in the conference.

In whatever order they end up, Helton rightly appears in the middle tier including Kelly, Sumlin, Cristobal, Wilcox and Arizona State’s Herm Edwards.

Helton has a strong resume, with a Rose Bowl victory and Pac-12 title on his record. The 5-7 showing in 2018 is a definite black mark which has given the media pause when it comes to evaluating his tenure.

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Ben Kercheval of CBS Sports explained it well: “There isn’t a more polarizing coach in the Pac-12 at the moment — and maybe in all of college football, for that matter…Like Tom Herman at Texas, Helton is going to rise and fall faster and harder than most coaches simply based on his employer. But heading into 2019, there’s no doubt he’s on the hot seat.”

S&C social media blitz

One key component for Helton changing the hearts and minds of his doubters will involve the new strength and conditioning program being run by Aaron Ausmus.

The season will ultimately tell how effective Ausmus’ tactics are at improving USC’s competitiveness on the field, but the Trojans sure are pushing it hard on social media.

It’s not just the state media building the positive perception of the offseason program though.

After USC’s player-run practice on Friday, Keely Eure of tweeted about linebacker Jordan Iosefa looking “exhausted” as he exited the field after Ausmus’ conditioning session.

“Hardest workout of my life. I’ve never died so hard,” Iosefa said.

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Cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart tweeted, “These strengthening coaches mannn. They about to have us great.”

Later he tweeted about sore biceps:

USC’s NFL Wall

USC put up a few new additions to their wall of NFL Draft picks this week.

Wide receivers coach Keary Colbert posted the pictures on Instagram with Chuma Edoga, Iman Marshall, Marvell Tell III and Cameron Smith’s plaques:

Included was a key question for USC players and recruits: “Who’s next?”