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Conquest Chronicles staff round table: Should the USC Trojans keep Clay Helton as Head Coach?

The question on everyone's mind is who will be the USC Trojans next head coach? Today the Conquest Chronicles staff shares their thoughts on whether or not USC should drop the "interim" from Clay Helton's job title.

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Trajuan Briggs: After seeing Coach Helton and his staff make key adjustments and finally live by the run, I think he is definitely the guy for the head coach job. Helton now has a bowl-eligible Trojan team that are heavy contenders for the Pac-12 title. If Helton can continue to find success over these next three games he should be the Trojans' guy for next year. The players compete for him and believe in his philosophy as a head coach. Helton has gotten these young men out of the feel sorry phase and they are ready to build off of this tough year. Helton has developed a close relationship with these players and due to being such a young unit, this team has the ability to grow rapidly together over the next 2/3 years with Helton in charge.

Marissa Deutsch: USC could definitely stand to keep Helton on as permanent head coach. He had a rough start to the season, as maybe anyone would against Notre Dame, but he more than proved himself as a capable coach with recent wins against Utah and Arizona. I think a lot of that has to do with his focus on returning to a more rush-heavy style of play. He's kept his cool in the face of multiple mid-season injuries and utilized his roster well. A little bit of consistency might be good for this team. The real test of course will be to see how he finishes out the rest of the season...

Nick Barbarino: Clay Helton has done a tremendous job in his short tenure as interim head coach of the Trojans. However, I don't see him as the right guy to take over the program permanently. Helton is a great motivator, a player's coach as some would call him, but his decision making during games has been questionable. In all four games that Helton has coached in, the Trojans have been able to run the ball consistently. For some reason, Helton often turns away from running in favor of Kessler passing, which ultimately cost the Trojans the game in Helton's only loss to Notre Dame. Heck, it took until the third quarter for Helton to realize Arizona had no answer for Ronald Jones II. After two misfires in Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, the Trojans need somebody to come in and restore stability to the program. As of now I say the Trojans should look outside of the program to fill their vacant head coaching position, but Helton could change my mind depending on how USC finishes the season.

Kaylin Neely: Yes, keep him for the rest of the season. But, just for this season. He's doing the job and he's doing it very well. Players have voiced support for him. Playoffs are in sight. 10 out of 10.

But, the damage has been done. USC isn't one of the top 25 programs right now, according to most rankings. One of the biggest concerns I have is the status of the football program is so damaged it will take a few years to re-build. Bringing in a guy from the top of the football coaching hierarchy helps expedite the recovery process.

I think a big name coach with a killer resume is really important, especially for recruiting purposes. It gives players confidence they are making the correct choice. A big resume provides safety and security. It's a proven record.

A lot of coaches have shutdown even a possibility of coaching the Trojans. If I'm a top recruit in the nation sitting in my living room with offers from USC, Alabama, and LSU, that's a huge factor in my decision. The south is looking really good. I want to play in the NFL. I need a coach who I know can help prepare for me for that.

Nick Schober: There's an awful lot of football left to be played so it's still a hard question to answer. While one could also argue that the amount of NFL, or eventual NFL, talent on both sides of the ball could record wins regardless of who was at the helm, handing #3 in the nation their first loss is an undeniable success, and Helton's only loss to date as skipper comes from a very talented Notre Dame team, in South Bend. He also seems to have the team behind him, rallying the Trojans after falling behind to Arizona, scoring 21 points in the 4th quarter. Cody Kessler has gone on record, stating Helton has his vote "100%."

Big tests still loom large with a trip to one of the most hostile atmospheres in college football still to come. The Ducks are still in the hunt for a Pac-12 North title and are looking for a statement win to put them back in the conversation. A very talented UCLA team will also make their way into The Coliseum at the end of the month. Despite his success and player support, Ed Orgeron lost to Notre Dame and UCLA, and those are very hard to overlook. If Helton wins out, beating UCLA and winning the Trojan's bowl game, it would be awfully hard to deny him.

Khefa Nosakhere: If Sean Payton and Mike Tomlin are not available, USC should keep Clay Helton with the caveat that Clancy Pendergast signs as the defensive coordinator. Justin Wilcox must go. If USC continues to win, Helton has shown he can coach during difficult, unusual circumstances. He also coached USC to a bowl win when Orgeron left the team when he was not offered the position. The USC brand and Tee Martin can make up for the lack of Helton's name recognition. Amazingly, with 3 more victories USC can make it to a decent bowl game and offer freshmen extra reps as well as extend its season. If USC wins the Pac-12 championship, Helton deserves to represent the Trojan Family on the gridiron.

Michael Mahan: Simple answer: no. I think Helton is the perfect interim coach for this team at this very moment, but that's not the same thing as being the right guy long term. While I do like the idea of keeping super-recruiters Tee Martin and Chris Wilson on staff (which Clay most certainly would do), I think USC needs a complete culture change and the best way to do that is to clean house. The recent Trojan teams are guilty of getting caught up in their championship-level hype instead of maintaining a championship-level attitude and work ethic. USC needs a coach who will make his players earn their reputation on every play and not let them coast by based on what some recruiting service thinks of them. Over the last 5 years, USC has had more players drafted (25) than Ohio State (23) or Auburn (14), and both have won national titles since then. USC needs a coach who can take a group of exceptional individuals and mold them into an elite team.

If I were making the hire, I would give the job to Michigan State's Mark Dantonio. He has a defensive background, he runs a pro-style offense that would fit USC's personnel and culture, he's proven to be a great in-game coach who isn't afraid to take risks to win, and his teams consistently over perform. He also played DB back in his day, sound like any ex-coaches you know?

With all that being said, the lack of an obvious candidate right now is huge for Helton's chances. I think there is a very real possibility that after multiple hiring-misfires, Pat Haden will make the safest hire possible instead of rolling the dice with a uncertain coaching commodity, and his safest option right now is Clay Helton. He can point to Helton's interim success and the near-universal player support to justify what will probably be his last big decision with the athletic department before he steps aside. I don't think Helton would be the worst option in the world, especially if the athletic department and big-money boosters don't have strong feelings about the other candidates, but I don't think he'll be the coach to bring us another national championship, and isn't that what really matters?

Andrew Green: USC should not keep Clay Helton. Of all the complexity of football, there is one quality that the great teams have that Helton teams don't: they value each play. LSU can win without a solid QB because they use each play to move forward. Auburn has struggled because Jeremy Johnson took plays off and was eventually benched. Some teams value possessions and others don't. Even looking as strong as USC has looked the past few games, I have seen enough of Helton to know that his process will fail long term.

There are plenty of great options for USC, particularly since we are still in the speculation phase. My ideal candidate would be Dan Mullen. I believe he is the perfect combination of offensive coaching, recruiting, and sales within the fan base. His teams have won everywhere he has been, and USC would represent a big step up in his coaching career.