How long would it take for a college football program to properly prepare for the 2020 season? That seems to be a question with little consistency right now. But as far as USC head coach Clay Helton is concerned, four weeks would be needed just before getting to fall camp.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Helton said in a phone call this week the Trojans would require a “minimum of four weeks” to get ready to take the practice field whenever the start of the college football practices are given the green light. The idea of having additional practices allowed by the NCAA has been a topic floating around the college football world, and this would certainly help this idea come together.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave the entire sports landscape in a suspended state. The various stay home orders continue to tack on more recommended time in isolation and conferences and universities from coast to coast are continuing to address the situation as they see fit. The Pac-12, for example, recently extended its shutdown of all athletic activities through the end of May. As more time goes by, decisions regarding the start of the college football season are beginning to get more pressing.
Earlier this week, Penn State athletics director Sandy Barbour stated Penn State felt it would need approximately 60 days in order to have the program ready for the start of the 2020 season. new Washington head coach Jimmy Lake has suggested the Huskies would be good enough with 30 days of practice before starting a season.
“If we started training camp the way we normally start training camp, I think that almost 30 days is going to be good enough and we can keep the schedule exactly the way it is,” Lake said this week, according to The Seattle Times. “We are constantly trying to keep our team healthy throughout that 30 days of training camp. Every practice is crucial, but I think 30 days will be enough.”
How long the various stay home orders across the nation remain in effect is anyone’s guess at this time, which means whether or not the start of the college football season will be interrupted is also unknown and unpredictable. Here’s hoping there are no delays, but the more important issue at hand for everyone is to make sure the coronavirus is taken care of. Only then, can we think about when football practices will get to commence.
To say USC has had quite an abnormal day on signing day would be a tremendous understatement. Just two recruiting cycles after signing the Pac-12’s top recruiting class following a victory in the Rose Bowl, the Trojans are lining up at the other end of the Pac-12 recruiting spectrum today. The Trojans have a recruiting class that is ranked 12th in the Pac-12 with just 11 commitments locked in for the Class of 2020.
According to the composite team rankings compiled by 247 Sports, USC’s recruiting class ranks 12th in the 12-team Pac-12 and 78th in the nation as of the time of this posting. That pits the Trojans one spot behind Bowling Green and one spot ahead of Louisiana. To be fair to USC, that is still a couple of spots higher than Missouri and Arkansas of the SEC, but those two programs are going through coaching changes. That, of course, is quite a different story for USC, where Clay Helton has been retained by a new Athletics Director.
The ongoing questions about Helton’s future may have doomed much of USC’s recruiting efforts months ago. The ongoing questioning of whether or not Helton would even be USC’s head coach put the Trojans on shaky ground compared to any number of college football programs attempting to recruit the same kind of talent USC was hoping to land. That includes talent from within the state of California.
Wednesday really drove home the idea that USC can no longer just expect to sign some of the top recruits in its state, as the state’s top six recruits all chose to go out of state to Oregon, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State. USC’s highest-rated recruit as of this post was four-star offensive guard Jonah Monheim, the 26th top recruit from California. USC has focused the bulk of this current class on the line of scrimmage with nine of its current commitments playing either offensive or defensive line. One other commitment is from a kicker. USC was hoping to get some late additions at some other positions, but the Trojans have not had much luck in that area.
It is worth a reminder that there will be some years when some schools will sign smaller classes compared to other seasons, but even this recruiting class is a stunner for USC, a top 25 team at the end of the 2019 regular season. The Trojans can fill in some gaps with transfers and additional recruits later in the recruiting cycle that will wrap up in February. Otherwise, the pressure for Helton will continue to escalate in 2020 following one of the more disappointing overall recruiting classes signed by USC.
Now that Clay Helton is sticking around as head coach of the USC Trojans, the next order of business for the program was to keep offensive coordinator Graham Harrell happy. That seems to have been accomplished.
Harrell has been signed to a multi-year contract extension to remain the offensive coordinator of the Trojans, it was announced on Monday evening.
USC hired Harrell to be the offensive coordinator of the Trojans last year following the departure of Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury, who joined the USC program shortly after being removed as head coach at Texas Tech, abruptly left USC for an opportunity to coach the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL.
Harrell’s contract extension at USC puts to rest any possibility of him leaving to take on a role at another program. Texas had been one of the biggest potential suitors for Harrell, but that ship seemed to sail as it became more likely Harrell would be sticking with USC once it was confirmed Helton would not be removed as head coach. Being signed to a multi-year contract is notable for an offensive coordinator, especially at a program where the head coach could still be on a bit of a hot seat in 2020. If things do hit a boiling point for Helton in 2020 (or 2021), Harrell could be in a position to take over the helm and prove himself worthy of a chance to lead the program. It would be the first time as a head coach, but that no longer seems to be as much of a concern for some programs given the recent rise of Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma and Ryan Day at Ohio State.
But for now, Harrell will continue to get time to expand the USC offensive attack.
It’s official. Clay Helton will be the head coach at USC in 2020. USC Athletics Director Mike Bohn confirmed that decision on Twitter on Wednesday.
“I am pleased to let you know Coach Helton will continue to be our head coach,” Bohn said on his Twitter account. “His commitment to our student-athletes and to leading with integrity is vital to restoring our championship program, which is the goal for all of our teams.”
Bohn’s official statements confirming Helton’s job status for 2020 comes days after an erroneous report was published suggesting Helton had coached his final game with the Trojans, only for that story to be widely shut down almost immediately by multiple reputable sources. It is also the long-awaited word, one way or the other, from the new USC AD on Helton’s status after initially holding off on making any decisions so soon after being hired.
USC’s season may not have gone as some have desired a season after missing out on the bowl season, but Helton does have the Trojans ranked in the top 25 and heading back to the bowl season. USC was one win shy of playing for a Pac-12 title. So, for now, any dreams of USC fans hoping to land Urban Meyer as their next head coach may have to wait at least one more year before any changes occur with the program.
Earlier today, Mike Bohn was officially introduced as the new athletics director at USC. Among the top issues for Bohn to address when meeting with the media was the job security of head football coach Clay Helton. Not too surprisingly, Bohn was not particularly interested in suggesting he is ready to name a replacement to lead the Trojans on the football field.
“We all understand the importance of football; it’s very similar to every institution that I’ve been a part of,” Bohn said when speaking to the media at an introductory press conference on Thursday, according to Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. “It’d be premature to be talking about coaches or any situation when I just arrived and am in the process of learning and trying to listen. But I have a good sense of really quickly being able to connect and find out how we’re doing and where we’re going, and I want to impact recruiting.”
This comment is not exactly a strong show of support for Helton, but it is not a statement of incoming doom for Helton either. Realistically, this is the safest of answers the new AD could possibly give as he is not drawing any line and leaving time to evaluate the situation deeper. There is still a month of football to play, and USC could still end the season on a strong note that could suggest Helton is worthy of retaining the job. The popular opinion seems to be that USC should move on from Helton as the Trojans have regressed in a number of ways since winning the Rose Bowl three seasons ago. USC won the Pac-12 championship two years ago but lost to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl (the Rose Bowl was used as a College Football Playoff semifinal, so the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions were transplanted to the Cotton Bowl).
Last season, the downward trend continued with no bowl appearance nat all. USC needs one more win in their final three games to clinch bowl eligibility this season with road games against Arizona State and Cal in the next two weeks. USC hosts UCLA in the regular-season finale and the Trojans lost to Chip Kelly and the Bruins last season. Failing to go bowling would likely lead to a guaranteed coaching change with the Trojans.
So Bohn has some time before any decision really needs to be made on the future of the head coaching position at USC.