Alabama Football: With a new staff, Clay Helton points to the Tide for a USC turnaround


Other than historical, there are few similarities between Alabama football and the USC Trojans program. Clay Helton looks to change that.

Southern Cal is getting a head start on Alabama football next week. The Trojans begin spring practice on Tuesday and will get in seven practice sessions before the end of March. Alabama football will get a more leisurely start with an opening session on Mar 13, followed by spring break.

The different schedules are symbolic rather than substantive. Southern Cal has some catching up to do, but like the Crimson Tide cannot use more than 15 spring practice sessions. The pace may be laid back in southern California, but Clay Helton’s new staff is amped up to make progress this spring.

Helton has several new assistants because he fired so many coaches at the end of last season. Critics say it was ‘fire or be fired’ for Helton. More than a few Trojans’ fans preferred for Helton to exit with the staff. The Trojans went 8-5 last season, after going just 5-7 the season before. Describing USC last season, one USC blog said the Trojans “beat all the weak teams” and “lost to all the tough teams.”

Football coaches sometimes benefit from short memories. The end of USC’s 2019 season was an embarrassing 49-24 loss to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl. Someone can check the record books, but a guess is losing by more than three touchdowns in a Holiday Bowl has never been a springboard to national championship contention.

When the six new assistant coaches and Offensive Coordinator Graham Harrell met with the media this week, none of them said anything about championships. There was a lot of talk about toughness. As in finding it again in players clad in cardinal and gold. The toughness was lacking on one side when USC and the Crimson Tide last met in 2016. The outcome was a 52-16 pasting by Alabama football. In the 2016 opener, USC could not run on the Tide defense and its passing attack was limited. Alabama football could have scored a couple more touchdowns if Nick Saban had allowed it.

The spring goal in Los Angeles is to build enough toughness the Trojans will not get physically whipped again. If experience is an equalizer, USC has a chance to compete with the Crimson Tide. Bill Connelly is a data wizard who has developed an experience rating algorithm over the last decade. It is complicated enough we suggest using the previous link for the details. The bottom line is USC is the fifth, most experienced team in college football. The Alabama Crimson Tide is No. 88 out of 130 teams.

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USC needs more than a toughness rebuild. The Southern Cal staff must also rebuild recruiting. Vanderbilt out-recruited the Trojans for the 2020 class. The Commodores finished with the No. 52 class. USC was No. 55.