He was the interim coach last season and did such a good job that former USC athletic director Pat Haden signed him to a long-term contract.
For Clay Helton, it was a dream come true in his dream job. USC began this season with great expectations despite a schedule that had “Danger” all over it during the first month, which included an opening game against defending national champion Alabama, and games against defending Pac-12 champion Stanford and rising Pac-12 contender Utah.
When the Trojans stumbled out of the gate with a 52-6 loss to Alabama and a 1-3 start, the words of praise for Helton turned to questions of doubt.
Helton did what most coaches do in such situations. He went into the bunker, made some changes, including a switch at quarterback to a freshman named Sam Darnold who didn’t look quite ready for prime time in early September.
No one questioned that USC had the talent to win games. But something was missing.
Not any more. The Trojans are playing like, well…USC. They are on a 6-game winning streak which has elevated their record to 7-3. Their last win was a solid (non-fluke) 26-13 victory over previously unbeaten and No. 4 ranked Washington–in Seattle. Darnold is playing like a potential Heisman Trophy contender.
If the Trojans could have a do over of their first month of the season, this season might have had a different ending for the Men of Troy.
Not that it is lost. USC has two regular season games remaining–UCLA and Notre Dame. Beat UCLA and hope for a Colorado loss and then a win over Utah next week and USC could be playing for the Pac-12 title.
For the win over Washington and the turn around to the Trojans season Clay Helton is TMG’s Newsmaker of the Week.