USC hires Clay McGuire as offensive line coach

USC coach Clay Helton fires up his players before a game against Oregon.
USC coach Clay Helton before a game against Oregon during the Pac-12 Football Championship at the Coliseum on Dec. 18, 2020.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

USC has found a new offensive line coach who should have no issue fitting in with its Air Raid offense.

Texas State offensive line coach Clay McGuire, who spent a decade on two different staffs under Air Raid aficionado Mike Leach, has been hired to lead the Trojans’ offensive line, reiterating USC’s commitment to a system of offense that often has been criticized over the last two seasons.

USC has certainly found a disciple of that system in McGuire. The offensive line coach played for Leach as an H-back from 2000-04 before spending four seasons on Leach’s staff at Texas Tech while USC’s current offensive coordinator, Graham Harrell, set records as the Red Raiders’ quarterback.


When Harrell joined Washington State’s staff for two seasons as outside receivers coach under Leach, McGuire was the offensive line coach. He served in that position for six seasons, all of which finished with Washington State’s offense ranking in the top three nationally in passing yards.

Jon Arnett, one of the greatest running backs in USC history and a College Football Hall of Famer, died Saturday at the age of 85.

Jan. 18, 2021

That familiarity with the Air Raid offense — and the coordinator of that offense —- was clearly at the forefront of USC’s search to replace Tim Drevno, who spent the previous three seasons coaching the Trojans’ offensive line. Drevno was not retained in large part because of his imperfect fit in the Air Raid after a career spent coaching in largely pro-style schemes.

Still, Drevno managed to develop a first-round draft pick in offensive tackle Austin Jackson in 2020 and another likely destined for the first round of the 2021 draft in Alijah Vera-Tucker. At Washington State, McGuire often had less talent to work with but still produced a two-time All-American in Cody O’Connell in 2016 and 2017, as well as a 2019 first-round draft pick in left tackle Andre Dillard.

McGuire briefly returned to Texas Tech as running backs coach in 2018, where he presided over a run game that ranked 109th in the nation. It was not immediately clear Tuesday if McGuire would also be responsible for coordinating the Trojans’ run game, which was previously Drevno’s responsibility.

USC struggled mightily in that regard last season, rushing for a paltry 97 yards per game during a shortened, six-game season. Texas State, where McGuire spent the last two seasons, wasn’t much better at just 131 yards per game.

“Coach Drev is a great man, and his extensive experience in the NFL and his knowledge is undoubtable,” running backs coach Mike Jinks said last week. “But at the end of the day, it’s being in there with someone who’s got experience with what we want to do from a schematic standpoint that is the mesh we’re trying to get right now.”


Mike Bohn, USC’s athletic director, says the football program is making progress under Clay Helton. “I can’t think of one area where we didn’t improve.”

Jan. 18, 2021

USC is hoping that mesh will improve under McGuire to unlock an offense that had its share of issues up front. Those questions aren’t expected to go away with a new coach, as the Trojans will be tasked with filling the void left by Vera-Tucker at left tackle, with no obvious replacement.

After another season of staff upheaval, McGuire’s hire will round out a USC staff that replaced two assistants from its 2020 staff. USC recently hired Notre Dame’s Robert Stiner to lead its strength and conditioning program after the contract of Aaron Ausmus was not renewed.