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COLUMN: Timing of Helton hire raises questions

first_imgUSC’s newest football coach, Clay Helton, may turn out to be a masterful hire. He loves physical football, dedicates coaching time to both sides of the ball, and has that “it” factor with his inspirational speeches. He seems to be a no frills type of coach who just loves football, a model that has worked extremely well for coaches like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. A manic dedication to the job appears to be essential in the hunt for championships.This is not to say Helton is anywhere near the caliber of coach that Saban and Meyer are, not yet anyway. This alone makes the timing of Helton’s hire questionable.Yes, Helton has shown great leadership skills in times of crisis and for the most part his power running based offensive scheme has paid dividends, but he hasn’t truly wowed anyone with his coaching. After all, the Trojans went 5-2 to end the regular season under Helton. He has made mistakes in terms of clock management, and his penchant for bubble screens continues the Kiffin and Sarkisian lineage. The team is disoriented on offensive plays occasionally, and they play relatively undisciplined.None of these factors should have disqualified Helton from the job, he just should not have been a shoo-in candidate before the season ended. A lot of these mistakes can probably be attributed to his adjustment to head coaching duties midseason, as well as the youth of the team. There is no doubt that coaches can evolve and get better, especially with an offseason to develop and analyze their skills. With Helton’s work ethic, I believe this will be the case.However, understanding that each game Helton has improved as a coach, why wouldn’t the Trojan decision makers want to extend the sample size of games coached, especially two upcoming games with high stakes. Wouldn’t it have made sense to see how Helton has evolved in a big game from his debut against Notre Dame to Stanford?What about how he would do during the dead weeks in between the championship and a potential Rose Bowl or lesser tier bowl? It would have been helpful to see how he improved in that period from the last time he did this two seasons ago. Helton’s performance thus far has been solid and respectable, but certainly not to a tremendous degree that would eliminate any need to continue an exhaustive coaching search.This hire feels rushed, much like the Sarkisian one a few days after the UCLA game two years ago. We all know how that turned out. It is pretty disconcerting to see an Athletics Department failing to learn from its past mistakes and, again, rush into a decision. That’s not to say Helton may not be successful, it just would have made complete sense to wait until after the bowl season and see if there was any interest from prominent coaches.Some might say that USC needs a coach for recruiting purposes, but USC recruits USC. Plain and simple. Even Paul Hackett brought in Carson Palmer and landed a commitment from Matt Leinart. Any coach USC hired would be able to piece together a top class.Locking in on one guy and ignoring everyone else is what landed us an inept and unprofessional coach last time. Helton seems to have more character, but it is still worrisome to see such stubborn and arrogant behavior from the Athletics Department. Learning from mistakes is the only way to prevent them from happening again. USC has so many resources that the right coach turns around the program in an instant. It could have waited one more month to make sure that Helton was the best guy to do that.I sincerely hope Helton does prove to be that guy. He has the raw materials to make it happen, and if he can hone his craft further, he can create a legacy that follows in the footsteps of Jones, Carroll, and McKay. Beating Stanford on Saturday would be a great place to start his journey.Jake Davidson is a junior majoring in accounting. His column, “Davidson’s Direction,” ran Mondays.last_img read more