Another year, another coach.
Clay Helton will be the fourth USC head coach that UCLA Coach Jim Mora has faced in four seasons. Helton, installed as interim coach after Steve Sarkisian was fired, has led the Trojans to four wins in six games.
Mora has beaten the previous three coaches — Lane Kiffin; Ed Orgeron, the interim coach after Kiffin was fired; and Sarkisian — by the combined score of 111-62.
Helton actually predates Mora in this rivalry. He came to USC as the quarterbacks coach in 2010 and has been the offensive coordinator since 2013. Helton was USC’s interim coach for the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl.
The different coaching styles won’t change Mora’s approach.
“You’re breaking down their schemes and their tactics and the way they manage a game and the decisions that they make during the game,” Mora said. “Those are the things you’re studying so you have a chance to make the right decisions on your end.”
Mora said that those are things that vary from week to week anyway.
“Certainly there is not as much familiarity when you face four different coaches. People change through the years, you adapt,” Mora said.
Mora and Helton have no previous history other than the recent years. Helton came up through the college ranks, starting as a graduate assistant at Duke in 1995. Mora came from the NFL.
“I’m sure we’ve met along the line, but you meet so many people in this business,” Mora said. “Professionally, I’ve studied him.”
Helton might be the first USC head coach Mora faces twice. The possibility remains that he will be hired permanently.
Mora indicated that Helton had earned the right to be considered.
“I have a great respect for what he has done,” Mora said. “I’ve been on staffs that changed during the season. Any time you step into that situation, it is very, very difficult. It takes a special person to step into the role and keep it going the way he has. That’s an extremely talented team, and he has done a good job keeping them on track.”
Center of attention
The Bruins will likely face at least one, possibly two, changes on their offensive line this week.
Tackle Conor McDermott left the Utah game with a knee injury. He spent Tuesday’s practice in the training room and remains doubtful. Guard Alex Redmond also left the Utah game with an injury, according to Mora. He was at practice Tuesday, but it was unclear how much work he did.
Mora, of course, was playing the injury situation close to the vest.
“I don’t know if we will have changes on the offensive line,” Mora said. “We did in the [Utah] game. That doesn’t mean we’re going to have changes this week.”
Changes or not, Mora knows he will have Jake Brendel at center. Saturday will be Brendel’s 51st career start, a UCLA record.
“Jake is in command,” Mora said. “He’s the guy who makes the line calls and adjustments in protections. Having his voice and decision-making is comforting.”
Brendel has earned that the past four seasons.
“I am pretty proud of the bonds I have made off the field with the guys,” Brendel said. “Every single person I have played with on the offensive line, I feel like I can call them up any time and talk for an hour about anything. That relationship helps when we’re on the field.”
On the field, though, Brendel is the only one doing the talking.
“I am the center and everyone has to listen to me at least a little bit,” Brendel said. “They don’t have a choice on that one.”
Defensive end Takkarist McKinley left practice for an undisclosed reason. He did not return. McKinley is third on the team with 4.5 sacks this season. … Linebacker Deon Hollins has gone on a media blackout, according to UCLA officials. Hollins was reprimanded by the Pac-12 Conference last week for comments about game officials.