Clay Helton Fired By USC, 5 Possible Coaching Candidates

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Clay Helton Fired By USC, 5 Possible Coaching Candidates

Coach Hot Seat

Clay Helton Fired By USC, 5 Possible Coaching Candidates


USC fired Clay Helton two games into the 2021 season. Who are 5 possible candidates to replace him?

Clay Helton was fired by USC. Now it’s time to shoot for the stars.

There’s no excuse whatsoever for USC to be anything but in the College Football Playoff chase every single season.

It might be asking too much to replicate the Pete Carroll era, but USC should be an automatic preseason top ten program with the ability to hang with anyone in the nation – it shouldn’t be getting hammered by Stanford.

Clay Helton was okay.

He won a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl, and his 2020 team would’ve had a theoretical argument to be in the College Football Playoff had it beaten Oregon for the Pac-12 championship.

Even so, there was a 5-7 season in there, 2020 was the only time he lost fewer than three games – and that’s mostly because it was a shortened campaign – and it doesn’t help that the UCLA program up in Westwood is starting to look like a thing under Chip Kelly.

Helton is a likable guy – it’s partly why he was given every shot to make USC into a powerhouse again – but 46-24 isn’t okay if you’re in charge of that program.

The recruiting has been fine, and Kedon Slovis is an NFL prospect, but – for example – was USC able to keep DJ Uiagalelei in the state? No. Was it able to keep Bryce Young to his commitment? No. Losing JT Daniels was inevitable, but that goes to an overall issue that it all just didn’t work like it was supposed to.

And now Helton is done, Donte Williams will take over in the interim, and USC has to find a new head man.

First, let’s start with this. No, Urban Meyer isn’t leaving Jacksonville for the USC job.

And no, Pete Carroll isn’t leaving the Seattle Seahawks to come back.

And no, Ed Orgeron isn’t an option.

And no, Lane Kiffin isn’t going to return, even if he’s the perfect fit and a far, far better coach than he ever got credit for.

But USC can’t hire just anyone. It has to reach out to the elite of the elite because it really can get almost anyone – it’s that big a gig.

Here are five possible candidates who at least need to get a phone call.

5. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati head football coach

Everyone loves him right now after winning 31 games in three seasons as he turned Cincinnati into a Group of Five powerhouse.

This would be a huge jump in every way, but considering his Ohio State background – and the lessons learned from a 6-7 2011 season as the head man with the Buckeyes in a strange transition year – he’s hardly a stranger to big programs with massive expectations.

At 48 he’s entering his prime, he proved he could coach up okay recruits and turn the team into something great, and he certainly knows how to recruit the five-star types after his ten years in Columbus.

He checks all the boxes, including being the hot coaching prospect the fan base would gush over.

NEXT: Chris Petersen, FOX college football studio analyst


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