The USC wideout earned his No. 1 jersey through hard work and is primed for a big senior season.
Max Browne and Sam Darnold passed for two touchdowns apiece, Adoree Jackson returned a punt 77 yards for a score, and USC rebounded with a 45-7 victory over Utah State on Saturday.
Kessler threw for 187 yards and a touchdown, running in another in the loss.
Justin Davis rushed for 130 yards for the Trojans, while Ronald Jones II became the top freshman rusher in USC history.
Cody Kessler completed 30 of 41 passes for 248 yards and two scores for USC.
USATSI Gallery - Utah State @ USC
Sept. 3, 2016
Dec. 30, 2015
USC falls to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship, on December 5, 2015.
The Trojans win on the road against Colorado, on November 13, 2015.
After starting the 2015 season as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Clay Helton was named USC’s permanent head coach on Nov. 30, 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.
The 44-year-old Helton, who has been at USC since 2010, is 6-4 as the Trojan head coach (5-4 in 2015, with wins over a pair of Top 25 teams), including 0-2 as the permanent head coach. He 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.
“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.”
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.
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, 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 running backs 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
*1-0 as USC's interim head coach for bowl game