USC’s next offensive coordinator may be a younger version of Kliff Kingsbury

Like Kliff Kingsbury, Graham Harrell was a Texas Tech quarterback, back in 2008, and is a disciple of the Air Raid offense.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

USC may have found its next offensive coordinator. He appears to be a younger version of the last one.

North Texas offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, who like Kliff Kingsbury was a Texas Tech quarterback under Mike Leach and an “Air Raid” disciple, interviewed with USC on Sunday in Los Angeles for the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach openings, Harrell’s father, Sam, told the Times.

Sam Harrell said there’s no deal in place for his son to take the job Kingsbury vacated, but that it’s in the “working stages” as of Sunday night.


Sam Harrell, the longtime head coach at Ennis High near Dallas, said his understanding is that USC coach Clay Helton would hand play-calling duties to Harrell and allow him to fully implement his offense.

The last three seasons, Graham Harrell’s offenses have set North Texas records. The last two seasons, the Mean Green have finished in the top 18 nationally in total offense, as quarterback Mason Fine has thrown for 7,845 yards and 58 touchdowns with 20 interceptions.

Sam Harrell said his son’s version of the “Air Raid” uses the run game more than Leach. Last year, the Mean Green rushed for 1,999 yards. In 2017, running back Jeff Wilson rushed for 1,215 yards and the team rushed for 2,280.

Before North Texas hired Seth Littrell as head coach and he handed his offense to Harrell, the Mean Green had played in one bowl game in 11 seasons. With Littrell and Harrell, North Texas has played in three straight bowl games.

Harrell was considered for offensive coordinator openings this offseason at North Carolina and Oklahoma State. The 33-year-old, who had a brief NFL career as a Green Bay Packers backup, also coached wide receivers under Leach at Washington State.

“It’s been an active time for him,” Sam Harrell said. “He really likes being in Texas, likes where he is, but when you get opportunities to take a step, he’s going to be open to those.”


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Helton’s interest in Harrell indicates that in pursuing Kingsbury, the Trojans coach was not just going after the hot name on the coaching market, but also saw the benefit of taking USC’s struggling offense in the direction of the “Air Raid.”

The Trojans last year were unable to consistently run the ball or give quarterback JT Daniels adequate protection. With Daniels and all starting wide receivers back next season, USC appears well positioned to flourish in this offense.

Sam Harrell said Helton told his son he would want Harrell to come in and “simplify” the offense and that the Trojans’ plan has been too much “a little bit of this, a little bit of that.”

USC finished last season tied for 90th in scoring (26.1) and 84th in total offense (382.6).


Twitter: @BradyMcCollough