USC football continues to rearrange deck chairs by firing assistants

USC football head coach Clay Helton (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
USC football head coach Clay Helton (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

USC football will go into another offseason with assistant coaching changes

What do the Titanic and Groundhog’s Day have in common? There’s a USC football analogy for both.

Which is your favorite? The one where Bill Murray wakes up each morning to the same tune on the radio and gradually loses his mind to the despair of reliving the same day over and over?

Or are you more partial to the one about rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship?

Both apply to USC as 2021 dawns.

On Friday, while Alabama was taking Notre Dame to task in the Faux Bowl Rose Bowl, news came down that the Trojans have fired offensive line coach Tim Drevno and strength coach Aaron Ausmus.

Where either of those coaches worthy of keeping their jobs? It ultimately doesn’t matter because it’s just their turn to fill the role of USC scapegoat. Or scape-ground hog as it were.

Assistant coaches aren’t USC football’s biggest problem

Head coach Clay Helton has now fired coaches at just about every position on the staff.

He has rebooted the defensive staff twice. That includes dropping Clancy Pendergast, Johnny Nansen, Kenechi Udeze, Ronnie Bradford, Chad Kauaha’aha’a, Joe DeForest and Greg Burns.

He fired offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Tee Martin. He fired special teams and tight ends coach John Baxter.

He has now fired two offensive line coaches, Neil Callaway followed by Tim Drevno.

Drevno was an upgrade on Callaway, by not by enough. USC’s line still performed below the necessary level. The run blocking was horrendous. The pass blocking barely passed muster despite first-round talents on the line.

And that’s the real problem. It makes no difference which assistant coaches are changed or swapped. USC’s core problems remain.

That’s because USC’s core figure has remained.

If a head coach has to fire or replace multiple sets of assistant coaches and results remain the same, that says something.

You can swap out the ingredients in the side dishes to improve the meal, but they won’t mask a subpar main course.

Helton was hired in 2015 (and he fired a bunch of coaches while establishing his first staff). He has had five seasons to prove himself. In the world of college football, that’s an astoundingly long leash to be given, especially with three different athletic directors pulling the strings.

In 2018, USC set out to follow the Notre Dame model to give Helton a chance to prove himself with a culture change. The result was a frustrating 2019 season. Going into 2020, he was kept on in the hopes that more resources would prove the difference. They haven’t.





2021! The deck looks different, but the day is the same. And the ship is still sinking.

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