USC Now mailbag: Trojans assistants, motivation and Lane Kiffin

Lane Kiffin

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin coaches the Tide against Texas A&M on Oct. 17. Would USC bring him back?

(Scott Halleran / Getty Images)

The dust has settled, at least momentarily, at USC as the team prepares to play Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game Saturday.

Clay Helton is the permanent coach, with a five-year guaranteed contract according to Pat Haden.

What a relief, we didn’t have to track the flight patterns of any coaching candidates. It almost seemed too easy.

What changes will Coach Clay Helton make on his staff? I would love a more aggressive defensive and offensive coordinator. With our secondary, we have good corners that should be on an island so that we can put pressure on quarterbacks. Offensively, we need to run with power, but I believe we need to implement a dual-threat quarterback that has a strong arm. 


— Cass Brown

Helton said at his introductory news conference that he would evaluate the staff and make any necessary changes after the season.

That is obviously the respectable — and stable — move to make as USC prepares to play Stanford for the Pac-12 title.

Helton also was smart to wait till the off-season because potential staff changes could affect recruiting. 


I expect that a couple of the current assistants will be retained.

However, since Helton took over as interim coach, he seems to have a well-thought-out plan, from top to bottom, on how he would run the program, and I’m certain that includes assistants with whom he would want to work.

Although Clay Helton appears to be a fine choice for head coach, the timing of the announcement seems odd. Helton has done a lot of good in restoring some attitude and pride to the team, and they’ve responded well to help him reach this goal. Still missing, though, is consistency. With two unquestionably big games remaining, why take a chance on disturbing that fine blend of aggression and finesse that has been growing? Wouldn’t there be a greater incentive for the team to continue its upward climb if there was still a need to prove he’s the guy?

— Don Green

Simple answer, no.

Players wanted to win for Helton so that he could earn the permanent job.

The administration obviously felt that Helton had done enough — and had a good enough plan — to be named coach and didn’t wait to announce that decision.

After the seemingly endless adversity and turmoil that players have gone through over the past several seasons, it would have been cruel for the administration to dangle a head-coach carrot in front of the team for the sake of motivation.


USC needs stability, not mind games.

I think USC made a good choice in hiring Coach Helton. USC has done well hiring non-big-name coaches in the past. Most of them have been in-house. I hope Coach Helton is given a number of years to see what he can do. My question is: Do you think bringing back Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator is a bad or good idea. Coach Kiffin is doing a good job running the Alabama offense considering they don’t have a good quarterback. I know it sounds crazy.

— Peter Mota

Nothing like a good Friday morning laugh to wrap up the mailbag, Peter.

I can’t stop chuckling over the idea of Lane Kiffin returning to USC as an offensive coordinator.

Do you think Pat Haden will meet Kiffin at LAX?

USC hired Helton, in part, because he’s different from Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. Helton is under the radar, self-admittedly not “glitzy” and has returned the Trojans to hard-nosed football.

Never say never, but I highly doubt Helton would bring back Kiffin, despite his ability as a play caller, because of all the drama that USC was plagued with during his tenure.


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