Helton On Hot-Seat Rumors: "I Never Worry About It"

USC coach Clay Helton says his Trojans are "getting ready to do some special things"

Zach Gelb
May 19, 2020 - 7:58 am
Clay Helton Trojans

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After going 10-3 in 2016 and 11-3 in 2017, Clay Helton seemed well on his way to returning USC to national prominence. The last two seasons, however, haven’t gone as planned. The Trojans went 5-7 in 2018 – their worst finish since 2000 – and 8-5 in 2019.

Helton has seemingly been on the hot seat for the last two years, yet he is still the head coach at USC. He doesn’t concern himself with rumors about his job security, either.

“I never worry about it, to be honest with you, because if you’re worried about that, you’re not doing your job,” Helton said on The Zach Gelb Show. “I’ve worked my whole life to be able to be in a situation to be at this level of football, at the most elite level of college football there is. You understand when you walk into that seat that the expectations and the standard are excessively high, and I love that. That’s why I love the job. Eight wins isn’t good enough. There’s a lot of universities that are celebrating eight wins, and this is not one of those places. This is one of those places that demands championships, and that’s what drives me each and every day. When you’re winning Rose Bowls and winning Pac-12 titles, yeah, they’re going to pat you on the butt. But if you’re not doing that, they’re going to fuss at you. 

“That’s the nature of the job, and if you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t have taken it,” Helton continued. “I’ve always thought that the job of the coach is to go win games and take care of his players. The job of the media is to say ‘What’s going on?’ and to give opinion. And the fans bring the passion. That’s what makes the game great. You know that’s part of the game. You know that’s part of being a head football coach: you get the opportunity when you’re successful, the fans cheer. And when you don’t, when you’re not successful, they’re going to get after you. It comes with it.”

While last year’s 8-5 campaign may seem unimpressive on the surface, Helton may have overachieved. After all, starting quarterback J.T. Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the year. Freshman Kedon Slovis, however, stepped in and performed admirably, completing 71.9 percent of his passes for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Helton is extremely optimistic heading into the 2020 season.

“I really like our football team this year,” he said. “I’m really excited about it. It was a really young football team last year – if you can imagine, only seven scholarship seniors on that entire team. I would [have] never imagined you lose your starting quarterback in the first half of the first game, and to watch a very young freshman quarterback grow, we kind of knew as he grew and our young players grew, we were going to be a stronger team at the end of the season – and we played our best football at the end of the season. We walked away going, ‘Wow, this is a team that could really do some special things.’ Everybody in the building has that feeling.”

Helton also has full confidence in his staff, from offensive coordinator Graham Harrell to defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and beyond.

“I’m only as good as the people around me, and right now, we have great people that are all headed in the same direction,” Helton said. “I’ve always believed, ‘You show me your friends, I’ll show you your future.’ Well, right now, I’ve got a team that’s getting ready to do some special things.”