USC hires three new assistants, promotes Clay Helton to OC
USC coach Lane Kiffin will likely retain play-calling duties despite a disappointing 2012 season.
USC's staff overhaul is complete as head coach Lane Kiffin hired three new coaches and promoted Clay Helton to offensive coordinator, the school announced over the weekend.
Mike Summers, formerly of Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisville (among others), will be the running-game coordinator and share offensive line coaching duties with current line coach James Cregg.
Tommie Robinson will be the running backs coach after serving in the same role for the Arizona Cardinals the past three seasons.
Former Indiana co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler will take over coaching the linebackers for the Trojans.
It was also announced that special teams coordinator John Baxter would add coaching the tight ends to his repertoire.
The coaching shifts mean that USC will have an imbalance on its staff, with seven of its 10 coaches dedicated to the offensive side of the ball, and only Ekeler, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast coaching the defense.
With Kiffin on the hot seat following a disappointing 7-6 season, however, the move of quarterbacks coach Helton to the title of offensive coordinator might be the most important one. The former Memphis offensive coordinator will replace Kennedy Polamalu, but questions remain as to how much responsibility he'll have for the offense. Kiffin has been the de facto offensive coordinator despite relinquishing the ceremonial title to Polamalu, and he has always retained play-calling duties.
The press release announcing the promotion of Helton did not mention who would be calling plays, which would seem to imply that Kiffin would hold on to the role despite intense criticism of his calls last season.
It seems that a sense of urgency would be in order in Troy after such a poor 2012 season but, if anything, it looks like Kiffin has decided to stay the course on offense and bank on a change of scheme on defense (from a 4-3 to a 5-2 alignment) to spark the program's renewal.
The fact that Kiffin's job is in jeopardy might have dissuaded any talented offensive coordinators from making a go of it at USC. But if Kiffin doesn't last the fall, this offseason will be rightfully viewed as a missed opportunity to revamp an offense -- and a program -- that underachieved in 2012 despite being loaded with NFL talent.
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