Clay Helton
    Clay  Helton

    Head Coach


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    In the News

    It didn’t take long for Clay Helton to make his mark as USC football’s head coach.

    The 44-year-old Helton is 16-7 as the Trojan head coach (10-3 in 2016, with wins over No. 4 Washington, No. 5 Penn State in a legendary Rose Bowl thriller and No. 21 Colorado en route to a 9-game winning streak, 5-4 in 2015, with wins over a pair of Top 25 teams, and 1-0 in 2013).

    Helton joined the USC staff in February of 2010 as the quarterbacks coach after spending 10 seasons as an assistant at Memphis. He added the passing game coordinator role in 2012 and became the offensive coordinator in 2013.

    After starting the 2015 season as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Helton was named USC’s permanent head coach on Nov. 30 of that year (for 2 post-season games), dropping the interim head coach title he had held since Oct. 12 (for USC’s final 7 regular season games). He signed a 5-year contract.

    “After weeks of searching the collegiate and pro ranks, interviewing candidates, and speaking with head coaches, athletic directors, NFL executives, and very knowledgeable football people, and after observing Clay in action the past seven weeks, it became abundantly clear that what we were searching for in a coach was right here in front of us,” said then-USC athletic director Pat Haden upon announcing Helton’s hiring. “Choosing a coach is an inexact science. In Clay’s case, there is exactness. We have a man with unquestioned integrity. He is a fantastic person and he is real. Clay is a leader of young men. He is a terrific communicator. He brings high character, stability, continuity, consistency, toughness and resiliency to our program.

    “We have known Clay well for the past six years. He earned this opportunity. He has been positive and upbeat handling adversity. He was built to be a head coach. Football is his family business. He is a coach on the rise and he will be coaching a team on the rise. As our interim head coach, Clay brought back USC’s style of physical football. I have been impressed with how hard and how inspired our team has played for him, as well as the support they have shown for him.”

    After his Trojans started off 1-3 in 2016 in his first full season as head coach (all 3 losses were to AP Top 25 teams away from home), USC went on a 9-game winning streak (its longest since 2008-09) to rise to a final No. 3 national AP ranking (USC’s highest since 2008 and the highest ever of any 3-loss team) and earn a berth in the Rose Bowl (finishing second in the Pac-12 South at 7-2) while playing a schedule ranked among the 10 most difficult in the nation. Troy capped the season with an instant classic 52-49 at-the-gun victory over No. 5 Penn State in the Rose Bowl. He guided USC to wins over UCLA and Notre Dame and in the Rose Bowl, just the 13th season that has happened in Trojan history. USC was perfect (6-0) at home for the first time since 2008 and undefeated in the greater Los Angeles area (8-0). His Trojans beat both teams (No. 4 Washington and No. 21 Colorado) that played in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

    Under Helton’s guidance in 2016, Adoree’ Jackson was named the Thorpe Award winner, a unanimous All-American first teamer, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Hornung Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy. Sam Darnold was a Manning Award finalist and a Freshman All-American first teamer and both Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler were All-American first team and All-Pac-12 first team picks. USC’s offense had at least 400 total yards in its last 10 games, while its defense held 7 opponents to season lows in points. Helton was named a finalist for the 2016 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award and won the Football Writers First Year Co-Coach of the Year Award.

    Helton guided the 2015 Trojans to 5 wins in the last 6 regular-season games (including victories over No. 3 Utah and No. 22 UCLA), the co-championship of the challenging Pac-12 South Division, a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game and a trip to the Holiday Bowl. He was named the 2015 Los Angeles Sports Council Coach of the Year.

    As the coordinator of USC’s offense in 2015, the Trojans ranked ninth nationally in fumbles lost (5) , 11th in both passes had intercepted (7) and completion percentage (.667), 16th in fourth down conversions (.654) and 20th in passing efficiency (153.6). USC averaged 437.9 total yards and 33.9 points a game. Quarterback Cody Kessler, a finalist for the Unitas Award and a NFL Draft third round pick, ranked in the national Top 20 in completion percentage (13th at .668), passing TDs (15th at 29) and passing efficiency (19th at 151.7). Kessler ended his career in USC’s career Top 4 in TD passes, completions, passing yards and total offense (and set school career records for completion percentage and interception rate). All-Pac-12 first team wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was in the Top 20 nationally in receiving yards (11th at 103.9), receiving TDs (17th at 10) and receptions (20th at 6.4). Tailbacks Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II each had 900-plus yard rushing seasons. Jones set the USC frosh season rushing record and was just the second Trojan first-year freshman to top the squad in rushing.

    In 2014, quarterback Cody Kessler had the most efficient passing season in USC history (69.7%, 39 TDs, 5 interceptions) while setting USC season records for completions (315), completion percentage (69.7), passing efficiency (167.1) and interception rate (1.11) and tying USC season marks for TD passes (39) and 300-yard passing games (7). He also threw a school record 7 TD passes against Colorado and a Notre Dame opponents record 6 TDs against the Irish. USC’s offense ranked in the national Top 25 in passing efficiency, passing offense, third down conversions and scoring offense in 2014. USC played in the 2014 Holiday Bowl.

    In 2013, he served as USC’s interim head coach in its victory over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Trojan offense was in the national Top 25 in red zone scoring.

    In 2012, quarterback Matt Barkley won the Wuerrfel Trophy and was a finalist for the Manning Award, Unitas Golden Arm Award, Senior CLASS Award and ARA Sportsmanship Award as he became the Pac-12 career recordholder for passing yards (12,327), completions (1,001), touchdowns (116) and total offense (12,214). He also was a 2012 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete. He was a fourth round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. USC played in the 2012 Sun Bowl.

    In 2011, Barkley was a Manning Award and Wuerrfel Trophy finalist as he set the Pac-12 season record for TD passes (39) and the USC season mark for pass completion percentage (69.1%), as well as school game standards for completions (35), pass yardage (468), passing TDs (6) and total offense (470). He was eighth nationally in passing efficiency and 16th in total offense. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

    Helton began his 10-year (2000-09) Memphis career as the running backs coach for 3 seasons, then coached the Tigers’ receivers for the next 4 seasons before becoming the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the final 3 years. He served as Memphis’ interim head coach for several months in early 2006 when head coach Tommie West had off-season heart surgery.

    Among the Tigers’ running backs he tutored was school rushing/scoring/all-purpose running recordholder DeAngelo Williams, who went on to finish seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2005 and be an NFL first round selection.

    As the receivers coach, he produced a pair of Conference USA All-Freshman picks in Maurice Jones (2005) and Duke Calhoun (2006), as well as the school’s No. 4 all-time receptions leader in Ryan Scott. In 2003, Memphis set school season records for receptions and receiving yardage.

    As the Tigers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the 2007 and 2008 offenses were among the top 6 in school history in total yards and points. Both squads were ranked in the top 26 nationally in total offense. Quarterback Martin Hankins became Memphis’ No. 2 career passer and set single season records for completions, passing yards and touchdown passes in 2007. In 2009, Curtis Steele had his second consecutive season with 1,000 rushing yards, Calhoun became the school’s all-time leading receiver and Carlos Singleton set the career mark for receiving touchdowns.

    Memphis played in 5 bowls during Helton’s time: the 2003 and 2007 New Orleans Bowls, 2004 GMAC Bowl, 2005 Motor City Bowl and 2008 St. Petersburg Bowl.

    Helton was hired as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arkansas State after the 2009 season, but was there just 2 months before coming to USC.

    Before Memphis, he was the running backs coach at Houston, his alma mater, for 3 seasons (1997-99), working under his father, head coach Kim Helton.

    He began his coaching career at Duke, serving as a graduate assistant in 1995 and then the running backs coach in 1996.

    He played quarterback at Houston in 1993 and 1994, playing for his father both seasons and captaining the Cougars as a 1994 senior. In 1993, he completed 1-of-3 passes in late duty in Houston’s 49-7 loss to USC in the Coliseum.

    He spent 1991 and 1992 at Auburn, where he earned 1992 SEC All-Academic honors. He redshirted there in 1990.

    He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and interdisciplinary science from Houston in 1994.

    He prepped at Clements High in Sugar Land (Tex.)

    He was born on June 24, 1972. He and his wife, Angela, have 3 children: sons Reid (a USC student), 19, and Turner, 13, and daughter Aubrey, 17. Besides being Houston’s head coach from 1993 to 1999, his father, Kim, was an assistant in college (Florida, Miami and Alabama Birmingham), the NFL (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Oilers, Los Angeles Raiders, Washington Redskins) and the CFL (Toronto Argonauts) following his playing career at Florida. His brother, Tyson, is the quarterbacks coach and pass game coordinator at USC after assistant coaching stops at Western Kentucky, Cincinnati, Alabama Birmingham, Memphis and Hawaii and playing at Houston.


    BIRTHDAY: June 24, 1972
    FAMILY: Wife, Angela; Sons, Reid, 19, and Turner, 13; Daughter, Aubrey, 17
    HIGH SCHOOL: Clements HS, Sugar Land, Tex.
    EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, mathematics and interdisciplinary science, Houston, 1994
    PLAYING EXPERIENCE: Clements HS, Sugar Land, Tex.
    Auburn, quarterback, 1991-92
    Houston, quarterback, 1993-94

    1995 Duke Graduate Assistant --
    1996 Duke Running Backs --
    1997 Houston Running Backs --
    1998 Houston Running Backs --
    1999 Houston Running Backs --
    2000 Memphis Running Backs --
    2001 Memphis Running Backs --
    2002 Memphis Running Backs --
    2003 Memphis Receivers New Orleans
    2004 Memphis Receivers GMAC
    2005 Memphis Receivers Motor City
    2006 Memphis Receivers --
    2007 Memphis Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks New Orleans
    2008 Memphis Offensive Coordinator/ Quarterbacks St. Petersburg
    2009 Memphis Offensive Coordinator/ Quarterbacks --
    2010 USC Quarterbacks --
    2011 USC Quarterbacks --
    2012 USC Passing Game Coord./Quarterbacks Sun
    2013 USC Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks* Las Vegas
    2014 USC Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Holiday
    2015 USC Off. Coord./QBs/Head Coach# Holiday
    2016 USC Head Coach (10-3) Rose

    *1-0 as USC's interim head coach for bowl game
    #2-5 as USC's interim head coach for last 7 games of regular season and 0-2 as permanent head coach in post-season

    DeAngelo Williams, Matt Barkley