USC Mailbag: What's Going On With Clay Helton, Urban Meyer?
On the eve of USC's regular-season finale against UCLA, all eyes are on new athletic director Mike Bohn and what course of action he takes with Clay Helton. It could be a crazy next few days/weeks, so let's get into the questions.
It's the day of USC's team banquet and a great day for Friendsgiving gatherings. I believe that is all.
Thanks! Too early for worry. President Carol Folt and Co. did a good job keeping their AD search discreet. We might see the same with a coaching search. It'd be more concerning if they dismiss Clay Helton and don't have a hire lined up soon after.
Erik McKinney of WeAreSC.com put it best: I'm most comfortable saying Helton will coach the UCLA game and that he won't coach the Alabama game next September. Everything in between is unclear.
I could see Graham Harrell staying on with certain head coaches. He talks like someone who'd not only like to remain at USC but plans to, at least as much as he can.
Things are trending negatively on that front. It's not a matter of USC's interest in or willingness to hire Urban Meyer, though it might be spun differently if he ultimately doesn't come. The donors are down to seal the deal. But several sources, including some in Columbus, have told me in the past week that Meyer and his camp are telling people he really likes what he's doing with FOX and is not looking to get back into coaching at this time. As I say all that, some in Heritage Hall still swear Meyer is coming. His level of interest in the USC job has long been the great unknown. Maybe it changes if/when the position is officially vacant. But I wouldn't expect Meyer to be the Trojans' next head coach.
I'm told Helton stays on at least another week if USC beats UCLA, strictly for the purpose of potentially coaching the Pac-12 title game should the Trojans win the South. New AD Mike Bohn wouldn't want the players to be led by an interim coach in that game. While no one has told me Helton could return next season, it would be absolutely fascinating if USC wound up in the conference title game and won it. Are you really going to move on Helton if the team beats Oregon, wins six of seven, is 9-4 overall and ranked in the top 15, and headed to the Rose Bowl? As unlikely as that development is, I feel like USC is making itself vulnerable by waiting, it the plan is to ultimately make a coaching change.
Here's the math... USC is currently at 80 scholarships. Seven seniors are coming off the books. It was eight, but linebacker Jordan Iosefa is redshirting and will return. The Trojans also figure to add linebacker Tayler Katoa, who went on his Mormon mission almost two years ago. He'll count toward the overall 85 but not next year's signing class, which currently has 10 commits. That leaves USC with 74 scholarships spoken for and guarantees only 11 spots for the 2020 class. But that number will inevitably be higher once you factor in other departures (i.e. early draft entrants, transfers, etc.). It's going to be a relatively small signing class. But a new coaching regime would prompt a lot of movement. It always does.
I'm hearing that could be a factor.
Nothing is going down Saturday night or Sunday. Monday could be the day if USC loses to UCLA.
As much as the 2019 team has improved and persevered compared to last season -- even Helton's strongest critics would admit the Trojans are objectively better than they were a year ago, and they're primed to be even better next year -- I believe the factors noted above will ultimately force a change. USC might very well close out the regular season 8-4, ranked in the top 20 and headed to the Alamo Bowl. It's a nice rebound from 5-7. And if last season hadn't happened, Helton wouldn't even be on the hot seat. But I'm expecting this all to be deemed too little, too late.
Didn't get your question in this time? Follow @AdamJMaya on Twitter and drop him a line.