Tuesday was a great day in Kliff Kingsbury’s professional life. The same cannot be said for Clay Helton.
Helton, the embattled USC coach, took another “L” on the heels of a 5-7 season, as Kingsbury officially departed the Trojans to lead the Arizona Cardinals. Kingsbury’s hiring as USC’s offensive coordinator created some needed excitement around the program. Now the angst is back.
But Kingsbury’s abrupt exit doesn’t change the reality facing Helton. Among high-profile coaches, he will enter the 2019 season with the hottest seat. With or without Kingsbury, Helton needs to show significant progress in his fourth season at USC.
But Helton won’t be the only Power 5 coach feeling heat in 2019. Here’s an early look at how the coaching hot seat will look when the games begin.
THE HOTTEST SEATS
Clay Helton, USC
Record: 32-17 at USC and overall (6-4 as interim coach)
Helton narrowly escaped the 2018 season with his job. The remaining guarantee on his contract helped. So did USC’s administrative flux (no permanent university president). And the guy did win the Pac-12 in 2017, USC’s first league title in nine years. But Helton likely will need to deliver at least a Pac-12 South championship to secure his position for 2020. His biggest obstacle remains not so much what he’s done as Trojans head coach but who he was when he got the job: a fairly anonymous coordinator. Kingsbury’s replacement will be key, as Helton must get more from JT Daniels and the offense. Helton also must change his pattern of slow starts as USC opens with Fresno State and faces Stanford, Utah, Washington and Notre Dame before Oct. 15.