When I woke up this morning to the news that head coach Clay Helton is here to stay, I was ecstatic. As the day went on though, I began to read more criticism of the Helton hire and grow wary of Haden’s decision. Why not just wait until the end of the season and conduct a national search? Even if Helton ultimately wins the job, what’s the rush?
Furthermore, if Haden is on his way out, why is he the one to make the hire in the first place? The entire idea behind Haden stepping down at the end of the season is that he’s not fit to hire the next head coach.
But ultimately, my faith in Haden and Helton was restored when I saw a video posted by the Athletic Department of the team reacting to Helton’s hire and cheering his name and crowding around him in celebration. And that is why I have been in support of Helton all season.
He has turned the team into a band of brothers. I don’t know what goes on in the locker room or in team meetings, but Helton has rallied the team after so much adversity this season and given them something to play for.
He brought back family dinners on Monday nights and Monday practices for redshirts and players not getting a lot of reps.
Perhaps it’s his consistency. Helton is in his sixth season with the Trojans, having been a consistent presence through Kiffin, Orgeron and Sarkisian.
Helton’s hire has left many Trojan fans scratching their heads as to why Haden felt that Helton was a good hire while Orgeron was not. But I actually agree with Haden on this one as well. Orgeron, like Helton, certainly had heart and knew how to motivate his team. That was realistically the extent of Orgeron’s reach. Helton, on the other hand, has proven he has a style of his own — a slowed-down tempo reliant on the run game. He also beat UCLA, something Sarkisian and Orgeron never did at USC.
I had the opportunity recently to sit down with next year’s starting quarterback Max Browne, who couldn’t speak highly enough of Helton and said that he and the team were fully behind the coach. Sophomore cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and many other players echoed Browne’s sentiments, with many players even taking to Twitter to publicly show their support.
That’s not to say that players always know best in terms of who should lead the team, but when players not only voice their support, but also show it in their success on the field, it seems hard to ignore.
Lastly, I think making the move before the Pac-12 Championship game gives the team something extra to play for. They’ll face a Stanford team that is even better than when they met in Week 3, so Helton will need to rally his team in a way that only he knows how.