Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.
The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.
Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.
Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.
Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.
Clay Helton has been searching for a defensive coordinator the past several weeks and may need to expand his search to include an offensive coordinator as well.
According to a report out of Philadelphia, USC OC Graham Harrell has interviewed with the Eagles for a spot on Doug Pederson’s coaching staff in a similar role:
Harrell was retained this offseason amid plenty of fan fare (and money) in Los Angeles. He reportedly had interest from Texas in the same position on Tom Herman’s staff but a return to the Lone Star State was put off for a multi-year deal with the Trojans.
The former North Texas OC and Texas Tech quarterback oversaw one of the more impressive turnarounds in the country in 2019. Despite being forced to play true freshman Kedon Slovis at quarterback following J.T. Daniels injury, USC still added nearly a touchdown per game with the move to the Air Raid and rose from 91st in scoring offense to 35th.
This wouldn’t be the first time Helton and the Trojans will feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them by the NFL after a splashy move on offense. As many know, Kliff Kingsbury was on the job for a few weeks before moving on as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals last January. We’ll see if anything becomes of Harrell’s flirtation with the pros but there’s little doubt that this will not be the last time his name comes up for a bigger job going forward.
Even as Trevor Lawrence attempts to get the taste of his first-ever college loss out of his month, there’s no time like the present for a little Heisman talk.
On the biggest stage Monday night, Lawrence came up short as Clemson took it on the chin in a 17-point loss to LSU in the College Football Playoff championship game. While the quarterback didn’t throw an interception, he did complete a career-worst 48.6 percent of his pass attempts. The true sophomore was also held without a touchdown pass for the first time since a four-point win over Syracuse in September of 2018.
Despite the struggles, Trevor Lawrence hasn’t lost all of the Heisman shine as one offshore sportsbook has him listed as a 7/2 favorite to claim the 2020 stiff-armed trophy. That’s actually down a bit from the 3/1 Lawrence was at following Joe Burrow winning the 2019 Heisman Trophy in record-smashing fashion.
The quarterback of the team Lawrence and Clemson took down in the semifinals, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, is right behind his under-center counterpart at 4/1. Another quarterback, true freshman Kedon Slovis of USC, is at 9/1.
Five other returning players will start the offseason at 10/1, including Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard, who surprised many (most?) observers by announcing Monday he’s coming back for his senior season. The others at that 10/1 number are all quarterbacks — Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, Alabama’s Mac Jones, Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler.
The only non-offensive player on the early Heisman wagering agenda? Standout LSU true freshman cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., who is listed at 16/1.
Some perspective, though, on these way-too-early odds: Last year at this time, Lawrence (3/1) and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (4/1) were the heavy favorites to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy. Lawrence finished seventh in the voting this past December, Tagovailoa 10th.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your 2020 USC Trojans football program.
Coming off a five-win 2018 campaign, Clay Helton was on the hottest coaching seat in the country. Shortly after USC’s win over crosstown rival UCLA in November, it was reported that a pair of individuals new to the university — Carol Folt, hired as president in March, and Mike Bohn, brought on as the next athletic director — who would help decide Helton’s fate had given the beleaguered head coach “a lot of support.”
In early December, prior to an embarrassing 25-point loss to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl, it was confirmed that Helton would return as the USC Trojans football head coach. Two weeks later, after a historically bad Early Signing Period, Helton stridently stated that “[w]e had a very good day today that we’re very happy about.”
Saturday night, one-time USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron officially accepted his award for being named the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year. In attendance was Brian Kennedy, a USC mega-booster who is also a close friend of Orgeron’s. Following the awards ceremony, Kennedy, who stumped for Orgeron to take over permanently for the fired Lane Kiffin, was asked about the current state of the USC Trojans football program.
When Kennedy was asked about the state of the USC program right now, he did not mince words.
“Dogshit,” he said. “That’s the best way I can say it. Listen, they had the best guy in the world for it.
As stated in the lede: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your 2020 USC Trojans football program.
By the way, Coach Helton, don’t get too comfortable in your current job. Watch out for that seat as well. It’s still quite toasty and will only get warmer as the losses mount this coming season.
The long and winding road for wide receiver Velus Jones will now, finally, bring him to the SEC. The USC graduate transfer has announced he is moving on to Tennessee.
Jones announced his transfer decision with a statement share don his Twitter account. As a graduate transfer, Jones will be eligible to play his final season of eligibility with the Vols in 2020.
“I want to thank the University of Southern California and Clay Helton for allowing me to get my degree and also for the life changing experiences and connections I will have for life,” Jones said in his statement. “With that being said, I will play my last year of college football at the University of Tennessee.”
Jones appeared in 12 games for the Trojans in 2019, in which he caught six passes for 35 yards. Jones originally committed to Alabama during his recruiting process. He then flipped to USC, then to Oklahoma, and back to USC. Jones previously entered the NCAA transfer portal in 2019 before ultimately deciding to stay put with the Trojans for the 2019 season. Now, he will travel to Tennessee for one more year of college football.