USC Trojans Football: How Will Offense Change Under Clay Helton?

Rick McMahan@@RickMcMahanSenior Writer IFebruary 28, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin looks on against the Colorado Buffaloes at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Now that Lane Kiffin has put the finishing touches on his coaching staff for 2013, Trojan fans are expecting big changes from the disappointment that was the 2012 season.

To be certain, the defense will have a new look with Clancy Pendergast replacing Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator (he will coach the defensive backs as well) and Mike Ekeler taking over for Scottie Hazleton as linebackers coach.

Along with the new personnel comes a different defensive scheme with Pendergast installing a 3-4 (along with a 5-2 look upon occasion) to combat the spread offenses so prevalent in the Pac-12.

And those are not the only changes made by Kiffin during the offseason.

The offense has also undergone a major facelift with Mike Summers joining James Cregg as an offensive line coach, Tommie Robinson in as the new running backs coach and special teams (and assistant head coach) John Baxter now coaching the tight ends.

But perhaps the biggest move—or "non-move" depending on your perspective—was the recent announcement that quarterbacks coach Clay Helton will assume the title of offensive coordinator, taking over for Kennedy Polamalu who was recently dismissed.

In addition to leaving many fans scratching their heads over the dismissal of Polamalu, who was enormously popular, the elevation of Helton to the coordinator position also is somewhat puzzling.

It is well known that Kiffin would prefer to call plays himself and this is likely to continue in 2013.

If so, then the Trojans offense will look the same this year as did last year and the year before although there will be some simplifying required now that Matt Barkley is no longer around at quarterback.

Adding to the mystery is the rumor that Trojan athletic director Pat Haden offered a not-too-subtle urging that Kiffin hire an offensive coordinator, presumably so that he would shed his call playing duties.

If that was indeed the case, then the "Helton running the offense" probably won't satiate Mr. Haden.

So how will the Trojan offense change in 2013?

Well, USC could "script" the first 10-15 plays on offense to start games, which would not only allow for collaboration between Helton and Kiffin but also would free up the head coach to manage the overall efforts of the team—at least early in the game.

And depending on the situation, the same strategy could be used to open the second half as well.

This would at least give the perception that Helton is guiding the offense even if he is only playing a supporting role.

Ultimately though, it appears that this is still Kiffin's offense and he will manage it in much the same manner that has been his custom since his return to the Trojans.

That would be fine with USC fans if the offense closely resembles the 2011 version when the Trojans went 10-2 and finished sixth in the AP poll.

But if it takes on the persona of 2012 when turnovers, penalties and missed opportunities manifested that ugly 7-6 record?

Then all bets are off and it was nice knowing you coach Kiffin.