USC Morning Buzz: The New Coach Might Want His Own Army

Congrats to everyone at USC for making the Trojans irrelevant before Oct. 1.

The resources poured into football are supposedly unprecedented the past 2 years and what do we have to show for it?

Will the new coach have the authority to come in and make root-and-branch changes?

There’s more than 60 people working in the football offices right now. Some seem to do little more than post on social media.

Usually, a new coach gets to hire a strength coach and assistant coaches. But with all the hires on the support-staff side, including some people making six figures, a new coach might want to bring in his own people in those positions too.

Especially after USC (Mike Bohn) bragged so much about these hires but isn’t providing a new coach a lot in terms of results.

50 thoughts on “USC Morning Buzz: The New Coach Might Want His Own Army

    1. Not so ’67, the clown running the ThSUCC FB program would.

      BTW, ThSUCC will leave Colorado a humiliating 1 – 3 in the Pac-12 So conf. Can’t wait to purchase the $29.99 tee commemorating ThSUCC FB excellence.

      #Cue: “High and Dry”


      1. Michael,

        I wish you were going to represent the new USC head coach. you know what he needs to make the program successful including complete control over the program, hiring his own staff, and complete automomy from the president. The AD would have final say.

        However, knowing USC with their past, they will want to control the entire situation and end up hiring another Clay Helton.

        Clay Helton Part II will be here as the next head coach.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You know what’s funny, P T? If Bohn were to read those words he’d turn to his staff and say, “Ha ha — these rubes think they can do a better job than ME!”


    2. It’s why USC won’t hire a no nonsense quality head coach because Tim Tessalone doesn’t want to relinquish control over the program and be forced to get rid of all his lackeys that he placed in the athletic dept. who don’t do shit and have gotten too comfortable collecting a check they haven’t earned and don’t deserve.


  1. I do not expect to see either of the main coordinators in place. I also do not expect to see some of the position coaches. Behind the scenes might be different, but honestly Harrell and Orlando thought they were trying out for the head coach job and wound up being truly nothing instead. The sooner the failed Air Raid and its stubborn coordinator are gone, the better. The no respect for the boss attitude of Orlando has shown that he is not for the team. In a way we can thank Helton for showing that the “great hires” will be better fires.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. No legitimate college football coach will inherit the previous coaches staff, especially if he was a loser like Clay Helton. If the new coach is currently coaching, then he’ll bring his own people, who helped build his program . Helton couldn’t attract any top assistance , because they new he was an imbecile, and a sitting duck .

    Liked by 3 people

    1. … Why I admire Mike Bohn by Michael Guarino:
      He gets to pay off all the contracts he personally negotiated last year…. AND give out a whole bunch of new ones for next year….

      Liked by 1 person

    1. …with Kedon Slovis looking directly into the camera and saying, “I spit out confusion & hesitation for breakfast!”
      And the entire o-line yelling: “We fear No One!”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Clay got thrown the keys to a friggin’ Ferrari.”

    LOS ANGELES — “Clay Helton walks in the room after Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, and nobody thinks, ‘That’s a real guy,’” a former USC assistant coach, one who had been celebrated for his work on the recruiting trail for more than a decade, told The Athletic. “We had some assistants who were more recognizable than the head coach. When the heavy hitters came in — Saban, Urban Meyer, Dabo — it was the ultimate checkmate. It wasn’t anything against him (Helton). He did the best by the kids. He tried to treat everybody right, but how does USC not even end up in the top 30 nationally? (In 2020, USC had the nation’s No. 64 recruiting class — 12th in the Pac-12.) That should never happen. Never.”
    And that was what he pointed to, that recruiting dynamic, when asked how USC lost its way. Regardless of on-field results, USC has traditionally been viewed as the most talented team in the Pac-12. Now, it’ll simply take the eye test or some recruiting calculations to tell you that title belongs to Oregon.
    From 2009 to 2018, USC had five recruiting classes ranked in the top four nationally and nine top-10 classes. But when the NFL opened the 2021 regular season, USC wasn’t even among the top 20 programs with players on NFL rosters for Week 1. (In 2016, the Trojans were tied for second.) How does that happen? How exactly did USC fall off so badly?
    After The Athletic spoke to a dozen people who either worked in the program, were closely affiliated with it, coached against the Trojans or have a deep knowledge of the Southern California recruiting scene since Pete Carroll left for the NFL, this much is clear: There are several factors that have led to the Trojans squandering their talent advantage over the rest of the West Coast — largely recruiting deficiencies and a lack of development — and their next head coach will be the one dealing with the ramifications.
    “I don’t think the people who support the team realize the damage,” said one parent of a former USC player whose son played in the NFL this weekend. “You know how when celebrities get in trouble, then bring in a team to fix all their problems? SC needs five of those.”
    Last week, a different former USC assistant coach, who is now coaching at another FBS program, sat on the phone reflecting on what went wrong for Helton, the man who hired him. He thought Helton did a good job of letting coaches coach and not micromanaging. But ultimately, there’s more to the gig than people skills.
    “Looking back on it,” the coach said, “he didn’t hire the right people, and maybe I am one of them. That sounds bad.”
    In the early 2000s, Carroll built a recruiting juggernaut at USC. He set the tone with a dynamic personality which served the Trojans well as the face of the program amid the crowded sports market that is Los Angeles. But he also built a star-studded staff of recruiters with headliners Ed Orgeron, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, who remain some of the best recruiters in the sport nearly 20 years later. And that’s not to overlook assistants like Kennedy Polamalu and Rocky Seto, who were really strong recruiters.
    Carroll left in 2010 to coach the Seahawks, and Kiffin was hired to replace him. Two of the coaches he brought back were Orgeron and Polamalu. The recruiting formula wasn’t going to stray too far from what had been successful.

    But Kiffin, who was dealing with the fallout of crippling NCAA sanctions, was fired early in the 2013 season. Orgeron took over as the interim and went 6-2 to finish the regular season, but Sarkisian eventually landed the job. That’s when cracks started to show in the recruiting foundation. Sarkisian was a Carroll disciple himself, but most of his staff consisted of assistants who came with him from Washington, which was consistently average during Sarkisian’s time there, or assistants who were at USC but hadn’t really experienced true success there, like Helton.
    “What happened was after Sark got fired, and really it started after the whole thing when Ed didn’t get the job. So you had Lane and these Pete Carroll disciples, those old-schoolers,” one of the former assistants said. “They had a way. They knew how to get talent — wide receivers were supposed to be like this; the D-linemen were supposed to play like this — it was very clear, but then it started to waver.
    “Clay got thrown the keys to a friggin’ Ferrari.”
    “When they brought Clay in, I just think the lack of hiring really good (assistant) coaches was the downfall,” one successful Southern California high school coach said. “Kids want to be in a professional environment and want to have an opportunity to potentially play in the NFL and play in the College Football Playoff — and they know SC is nowhere near that happening with those guys.”
    During one eight-year stretch under Carroll that sparked seven top-four finishes, the Trojans produced 16 first-round picks — 10 more than USC has had in the last eight years.
    “Clay’s a nice dude but had no edge to him,” said a former Trojan player who now works in the NFL. “They took advantage of him. Pete was a grinder but as a player you never knew that. When the players weren’t around, he was totally different with the staff. Pete had a big personality and was fun, but he was also a disciplinarian. He had KP (Polamalu) and Ed Orgeron — those guys handled the discipline. They were tone-setters. Pete managed his staff in a great way. That’s what they need to get back to. Someone who can capture the team and the city.”
    As far as recruiting went, there was a lot of dead weight on Helton’s staff. Former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was never too interested in recruiting. Neither was former secondary coach Ronnie Bradford nor offensive line coach Neil Callaway.
    “He had guys on the staff who he let not recruit at all,” one of the former assistants said. “He got away from what USC is.”
    Said one former recruiting staffer, “Coaches on the 2018 and 2019 staffs didn’t recruit. Didn’t care. No leadership. Acted like it was a country club to hang out rather than compete. It was 1,000 percent laziness.”
    That helps explain how defensive players USC could really use on its roster now got away during the 2019 recruiting cycle: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Mykael Wright and Mase Funa, who all signed with Oregon, and Trent McDuffie, who signed with Washington. Another big miss came a year later in the 2020 class, when five-star quarterback Bryce Young, from Trojans pipeline Mater Dei, decommitted from USC to sign with Alabama as uncertainty over Helton’s job status reigned.

    Another big problem under Helton’s staff(s) was a noticeable lack of development with some of its blue-chip signees. Helton signed 44 blue-chip prospects during his first three recruiting cycles as USC’s head coach.
    The 2018 class, the last of those three cycles, just became draft eligible this past year. Only four of those 44 blue-chip prospects were drafted on the first or second day of the draft; only two (Austin Jackson and Alijah Vera-Tucker) went in the first round.
    The Trojans signed eight five-star prospects during that span. One has been drafted (Amon-Ra St. Brown). Five transferred to other programs. Two got into legal trouble. One went undrafted.
    The only non-blue-chip player USC has developed into an NFL Draft pick over the past five or six years has been Uchenna Nwosu.
    “It was a combo (of things),” another former recruiting staffer said. “Some bad players, some coaches who weren’t great evaluators or teachers. Every coach has a different personality and wants different traits in guys. When you are changing coaches every year, the new guy isn’t going to like some of the players the old coach signed.”
    “It was a real professional approach to developing their players (under Carroll),” the high school coach said. “You’re looking at the players they had and how much better they got in the time — I mean, look at Clay Matthews III. The guy was a beast in the NFL because of what he was able to do in that program and how much better he got from the time he started to the time he ended. I don’t see them having a whole lot of that now.”
    Another high school coach who has sent several players to USC over the years hears from his friends who are Trojans fans every signing day. They’re beaming with excitement about the players.
    “‘They got this guy, this guy, this guy!’ But a lot of the time, those guys don’t fit what they’re trying to do,” this coach said. “They signed them because they’re a five-star. This is not basketball. This is football, and you want to try to get the guys who will fit your spot.
    “I think it’s really hard to develop people when you’re starting from a fit deficit. I think that’s the problem. Maybe they did develop that kid, but that kid’s a 3-4 backer and you’re trying to play a 4-3 or whatever. … I think it all starts with the fact they’re getting guys who don’t fit and they’re having to develop them into something they’re not.”
    There’s an interesting college football experiment unfolding in Los Angeles right now. At USC, talent acquisition has always been king. At the opposite end is UCLA, which has prioritized fit and development above all else under Chip Kelly at the expense of elite talent.
    Kelly posted losing records in his first three seasons and didn’t show signs of a potential breakthrough until this month. The same kind of patience will never be afforded at USC, which has suffered through just four losing seasons since 1962 — UCLA has had 21 in the same span.
    “They have a talent deficit with SC,” this high school coach said of the Bruins, “but they’re much more well fit into their program than SC ever is. That’s why I think when they play each other, they compete so well. … I think there’s probably a happy medium somewhere in the middle.”

    The expectations at USC are fairly straightforward: Compete for Rose Bowls and national championships and pull in top-10 recruiting classes.
    Top-10 classes are determined by the recruiting sites, and while they’re typically accurate at the top, USC has generally been an outlier. Stars matter, but they seem to matter more at Alabama and Ohio State than they do at USC, which has a top-10 roster according to 247Sports’ team talent composite, but doesn’t have the talent that reflects a top-10 team.
    In some instances, the Trojans signed players who were simply overrated by the recruiting services.
    “They’re over-ranked,” the parent of the former Trojan and current NFL player said. “And then the machine perpetuates it because they go, ‘Hey, who has the most five-stars?’ Everybody wants to have the most five-star athletes. It doesn’t matter if a guy is a five-star or not. … So they get all these guys on their team but they’re not good football players.”
    “USC always is gonna be ranked top 10 in recruiting but that’s because when you commit to USC you’re all of a sudden ‘a great’ recruit,’” one of the former assistants said. “We had coaches in the building who knew the guys at (the recruiting sites) and they’d call them, ‘Hey I need you to rate this kid as a 4-star before I take his commitment.’ That’s the way that stuff works.
    “If we signed 25 kids there were 10 of them that were that way. We had so many (four and five-star guys) who were just terrible. We signed one five-star linebacker and he would’ve been a really good player 30 years ago when it was just going from A-gap to A-gap but not these days when you gotta go tackle perimeter screens now and go sideline to sideline. Look at all those cats that Alabama is running around with. Saban turns down 10 five-stars a year because he knows they’re not good enough.”
    So many of USC’s recruiting problems over the past four or five years have been self-inflicted: laziness, poor evaluation, lack of development and investment. At one point two years ago, one USC assistant coach sat in his office and casually joked that their school-issued cell phone might be tapped by authorities. That likely isn’t true, but at the time, the Trojans’ athletic department should have been on edge. It was months removed from the Varsity Blues admissions scandal and, a year and a half earlier, it was caught in the middle of the FBI’s probe into college basketball recruiting.
    USC had to be clean in a recruiting environment that is far from it.
    “There’s probably 20 kids a year, maybe 30 that are getting paid big money to play college football,” the former assistant said. “The vast majority of them are quarterbacks and D-linemen. We had multiple staff meetings where Clay said, ‘If you get caught cheating, you are being fired.’ His thing was, ‘If they fire me, it’s gonna be for losing. Not cheating.’
    “USC was coming off the scandal, and he’d been part of that staff coming back. We couldn’t play the game the way the game is played at that level. Now with NIL, you can do it, which is why they created the BLVD (USC’s in-house partnership with J1S, which focuses on helping student-athletes maximize their market value). That is gonna be huge for them.”
    Of course, as all of these recruiting dynamics were slowly unraveling, the Trojans’ on-field performance started to dip. USC went 13-12 over the 2018 and 2019 season and hasn’t won the Pac-12 since 2017. To make up for its subpar on-field performance, the program has to sell its natural advantages like proximity to Hollywood and setting of Los Angeles on social media.

    “(SC) is selling the sizzle, not the steak,” one of the high school coaches said. “It’s like, well, I want the meat and potatoes. I want to know exactly how we’re going to find a way to not lose to Stanford by 21 points.”
    One of the high school coaches stood on the sidelines of Howard Jones Field and simply observed a couple of years ago. He had visited plenty of practices conducted by elite programs in the past, so this wasn’t foreign to him.
    He’d seen enough to know he didn’t like what he heard.
    “Right after their stretching lines, when they were getting ready to go practice, their coaches were all screaming, ‘Everybody wants to be us,’” this coach said. “It’s like, ‘Dude, there’s nobody who wants to be you guys.’ They’re living kind of off that old SC heritage.”
    It’s also something that other Pac-12 coaches had taken note of as well, seeing an undisciplined team built on false bravado. “You watch how they behave out there on the field,” said one Pac-12 South coach. “We’ve heard about the bad locker room and that they’re allowed to do whatever they want, acting like jackasses on the field.”
    Other Pac-12 coaches point to USC chasing recruiting stars and recruiting the kids who are, according to a high school coach, “not winners,” as well as opting for a style of play that was far removed from what had been in USC’s DNA, a program which used to pride itself on physical football.
    “They’ve lost it in the trenches,” said one Pac-12 North coach. “If you want to win championships, you’ve gotta be able to run the football and be physical up front. And they can’t, and they’re not. Part of that was going to the Air Raid, because if you’re going to that, you gotta buy into that mentality and be all in. Well, it might look good and you might have good stats, but that changes the mentality of your team. USC turned soft. It just is what it is.”
    USC’s brand still has some pull. But the next coach will have to restore the aura and it’s going to require some patience.
    “They got left so far behind the rest of the country that everyone started seeing that the brand was wearing down,” one of the former recruiting staffers said.

    The 2019 recruiting class has some true gems, such as Drake Jackson and Drake London, the two best players on the 2021 team. Chris Steele has turned into an All-Pac-12 player and Kedon Slovis has been better than anyone expected. But the previous staff acted out of desperation late in that recruiting cycle and looked to add bodies, so the class was filled with several players who appear to have no reasonable path toward contributing on the field in the future. The new coach will inherit a lot of those players.
    The 2020 class was built during the peak of Helton hot-seat talk and has some nice pieces that have developed well, but that class is more notable for the players the Trojans missed on — nearly all of California’s top prospects, like Young and five-star linebacker Justin Flowe — than those it did. USC didn’t sign a quarterback, linebacker or a single defensive back.
    The 2021 class was much improved, thanks to a recruiting infrastructure that was beefed up after USC’s administration devoted more resources to it. And it hired assistant coaches who were better recruiters, like Donte Williams and Craig Naivar, who did a great job recruiting the secondary and rebuilding its talent. And that class has Foreman, and Jaxson Dart, who displayed his potential this past weekend.
    That class is the foundation of USC’s future. As for the Class of 2022: The Trojans have a commitment from the state’s top-rated player, Domani Jackson, five-star defensive lineman Mykel Williams and four-star quarterback Devin Brown. But the offensive staff struggled to land verbal commitments from talented in-state skill players like Raleek Brown (Oklahoma), Tetairoa McMillan (Oregon) and C.J. Williams (Notre Dame).
    And with Helton’s firing, this will be a transition class.
    That’s three out of the past four recruiting classes that will likely be below the normal USC standard. A new coach will help, and the transfer portal could fill some gaps, but as of now the Trojans’ 2022 squad has the potential to be their least talented team in a long time. While the roster may be fine in comparison to most of the Pac-12, it won’t stack up well with Oregon, which keeps building its depth and adding high-quality players in impressive fashion.
    “Mario (Cristobal) is now that guy in the Pac-12,” one of the former assistants said. “He’s recruiting at Oregon the way they recruit at Alabama. The Oregons of the world start beating SC in recruiting. Really, after Ed left (in 2014), in comes the SEC and they’ve infiltrated, so now you’ve got Alabama, LSU and Georgia. It was, ‘Go in and get what you want.’ USC lost its presence. No one was protecting the land.”
    So yes, a new coach will take over a USC program with national and Pac-12 championship expectations. But USC’s new coach will not be walking into a “normal” USC situation, where the roster is stocked with more talent than everyone else on the West Coast, like Kiffin and Helton inherited.
    “USC the brand has been hurt so bad. Whoever they get, it needs to be a name — oh damn, that’s the USC coach now?” one of the former assistants said. “Getting offered by USC used to be a big deal. Guys would cry on the phone when I told them they had a USC offer, but that doesn’t happen anymore. I think James Franklin’s name was huge. He took back a state when he got rolling at Penn State. He’s got the No. 1 class in recruiting. He’s been in the SEC. He’d be a minority hire. That would be beneficial.
    “They’re gonna need something different that people want to see that guy win. Like, we’re rooting for that dude that just got the SC job.”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Adding resources during a low revenue period for USC football and athletic dept. does not make any sense. Bohn’s first step should have been to fire Helton at the conclusion of last season, and then work with the new coach to add resources as needed within the athletic dept. to match up with the direction he wants to take the program.

    Patching up a sinking ship just before it sinks is not the correct solution, and especially not fair to the marketing personnel, and assistant coaches who were hired for probably a year before they are let go by the new head coach of USC football.

    It would not be easy to find the new leader for USC football especially in the condition the program is at now. I am sure whoever that leader is will keep a few on board, but not very many. I still say they should offer Pete Carroll the entire package like Mckay had- Head Football Coach and Athletic Director with the idea he hires the new football coach to replace him within 2-3 years.

    Remember 1 thing- if we can get a successful current head coach he is going to want power to move his program to the next level quickly. I am sure having Mike Bohn here at USC is not making the head football coach opportunity very attractive.

    My feeling the job goes to Luke Fickel because other head coaches are not sure if they can work with Mike Bohn so why take the risk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PJM…you are right on the target with Spratling…the long hair hanging out back of his turned around ball cap makes him look like some jive a$$ from “American Graffiti”
      He’s just a wee bit to old for that Schtick… how he got on at the Times baffles me.
      247 should have kept Weber and bounced Spratling.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I just received a survey from the Athletic Department about my game experience at the Oregon St. game. It was wonderful answering the questions truthfully. I basically pulled from all of your comments. I actually said, “how was Gomer’s payout greater than the lost revenue from one game?” And, “instead of putting fluff on your video board, how about 5 minutes of truth from Bohn explaining his plans for the new coach and how he expects that to improve the fan experience”. I know it won’t go anywhere, but it was nice to vent.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Calabasas,
      The proof of HOW little they care is they will NEVER get back to you, they will NEVER follow up …


  6. I am pretty sure that most of the big contracts, including Harrell’s are up after this year. Assistant contracts are generally two year contracts. Orlando was working as an LB coach at Texas tech before this gig, I am pretty sure that he didn’t have the room to negotiate a three year contract. Naviar was unemployed at the time.

    I think Harrell was given a raise and a one year extension after 2019, so his contract should be up. The buys out for the other offensive assistants, if necessary, will be minimal.

    BTW, reading through the comments on here: this is perhaps the dumbest site in all of college football.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Poor George is stuck trying to defend an illusion: the idea that a guy who let Helton off the hook, then assembled a collectivity of screwball assistants to prop him up and who won’t stand up to a president who (you can tell from taking one look at her) is off her rocker — is executing a GRAND PLAN…which no one else can see.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Let’s play word association…

    Imagine yourself the parent of a five-star recruit awaiting your official home visit from USC.

    Gomer: “Knock knock”

    Parent: “Who’s there?”

    Gomer: “Gomer”

    Now please fill in the blank with the first word that most likely came to said parent’s mind.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Just remembered MG, two years or so ago you thought the air raid was the greatest offense on earth. How’s that working out? MG, I already lived through the air raid. 3-5 yrs to recover.

        And as you well know, when administrators gain power, they rarely relinquish it.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. There was never a 64 ranked class. That was where it was in the middle of the 2019 season. One service ranked the class at #14 another at #20. More importantly, the class was top ten in quality (the “per stars”) average. That’s only because the administration seemed to step in and send up an SOS signal. That class was bookended by averaged top 5 classes. It’s important to get that right, because not to is to forget just how bad our coaches are.

    Sometimes fans will see our 4* and 5* players out of position, taking the wrong angle or leverage, not covering an area, or set up for mismatches by position or numbers at the point of attack and assume our players getting beat in those instances are somehow suddenly no good. No, it’s the coaching.

    Same thing happens in size. Recall in 2019– we watched one of the very lightest OL in college when we played them, Iowa, beat us in the trenches when we had one of the bigger DLs. But they were well conditioned and strong for their size, very good fundamentally, very good by scheme, and they brought on beefy TEs and backs to help block, and they committed to run first and play action with those backs and TEs. We looked helpless and weak, still do with this scheme, those the bodies are there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s bad news when all the teams in your conference discover all they have to do to beat you is: be mean & physical.
      Cuz guess what you’re gonna see every week once everybody realizes that?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Vs SC: defense: Drop 8, delayed pressure or the occasional secondary blitz, line games. People always jump Slovis’s passes and go low because the book on him is that he’s weak armed, and easily flushes from the pocket and throws a short low pass.

        Offense: any misdirection or double teams, line games, fly sweeps, screens, QB draws, play fakes– at least two TDs from OSU were TEs that were literally entirely uncovered. I’m convinced #84 for the Beavs is still wandering around in the Coli end zone still wide open for another TD!

        This isn’t SC being manhandled (SC even has some good success running between tackles but Harrell only does that twice a game), it’s SC being coached the level of a second rate HS team.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Awfully astute analysis, G. C.
        Allow me to add this: Against Washington State, Harrell saw how successful we were throwing to London [and letting him take the ball away from the defender]. Oregon State pushed and interfered with London on ALL those jump balls. They got called on several –but they got away with it plenty, too.
        They did the same thing to the receivers on the shorter routes, causing them to drop some balls too.
        We can expect this kind of physical play from defensive backs the rest of the way. Hope we’re ready for it. Cuz you’re right — Harrell isn’t going to up the level of his coaching.


  9. USC football program clearly in worse shape now than when Mike Bohn and Carol Folt took over in 2019. Whatever upgrades Bohn has made to the support staff, he should’ve made with a new coach starting two years ago. By keeping Clay Helton, Bohn and Folt have totally abandoned the players this year and last.


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