LOS ANGELES USC head coach Lane Kiffin selected an offensive coordinator he says was highly thought of and greatly sought after.
He had a couple (of) really big time offers to leave last year to be offensive coordinator at some national top-five schools but decided to stay here, Kiffin said. I think that hes very deserving."
The coach he speaks of was right under his nose. Hes Clay Helton. The new USC offensive coordinator served as the Trojans quarterbacks coach for the previous three seasons.
He stuck around the Trojans program because of his respect for and the opportunity to tutor Matt Barkley, Kiffin says.
Chad Morris of Clemson, who is one of the young, hottest offensive coordinators in the country, was rumored as a candidate to take the same position at USC.
Former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford was a name thrown around for the position that was immensely intriguing because of his ties with Kiffin as a mentor of the Trojans head coach.
Some of the other names rumored were former Fresno State head coach Pat Hill and current USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin.
Yet, it was Helton tabbed as the successor to Kennedy Polamalu, who was let go.
Polamalu, the former USC offensive coordinator in title, did not have any play calling duties. It is not known if the case will be the same for Helton. Toward the end of last season, Kiffin threw around the idea of him relinquishing play calling duties but no formal decision has been made.
Really, were focused on whats going to get us better right now, Kiffin said. Were not worried about next fall. Our total focus has been on our players and coaches for this spring getting better.
The Trojans new offensive coordinator has been a play caller in the past. He spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Memphis before coming to USC in 2010.
His role has now been expanded for the second consecutive season. Last year he took on the role of passing game coordinator in addition to his duties of quarterbacks coach.
Helton will continue to coach the USC quarterbacks in addition to his offensive coordinator duties.
So far, through the first week of spring practice, Helton appears to be more involved in the offense, in and out of huddles, than Polamalu was.
Anytime that you coordinate an offense, you try to take a little bit off of Coach Kiff so he can evaluate the entire the entire football program and thats what were doing as an offensive staff, not just myself, Helton said. Its our job as an offensive staff to make sure that, one, were organized and, two, our players are getting better.
Kiffin has appeared to be more hands-off, but he says hes checking in on all the position groups because its spring and also to get a feel for the new coaches on the staff. He added because its not fall camp he doesnt have to do much directing because offensively theyre working on the things the players know inside and out.
Despite Kiffins urge to oversee things this spring, Helton knows where his heart is.
Coach Kiffins an offensive guy, Helton said. Hes always going to look at what we do.