Clay Helton fires assistant coaches

Just six days after being named the permanent head coach, Clay Helton fired four members of his coaching staff.

It didn't take long for USC's newly minted permanent head coach Clay Helton to make major changes to the football program. Less than 24 hours after the Trojans 41-22 loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game, Helton fired several members of his assistant coaching staff. and other media outlets began to report on the staff shakeup Sunday afternoon. During Helton's regularly scheduled Sunday evening post-game conference call he was able to confirm the firings.

"Today I did make the decision to make some staff changes," Helton said on a conference call.

USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is the biggest name to be let go. Wilcox was the defensive coordinator at Washington and came to USC in December of 2013 with Steve Sarkisian. His squad has been under heavy criticism since Wilcox arrived at Troy, mostly for the lack of aggression his defenses have displayed.

Two weeks ago Oregon's Vernon Adams set a USC opponent record by throwing six touchdowns in the Ducks 48-28 victory. Sunday evening  Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey also had a record-setting performance with 461 total yards. Both McCaffrey and quarterback Kevin Hogan each caught, threw and ran for a touchdown against USC.

Defensive line coach Chris Wilson and defensive backs coach and defensive passing game coordinator Keith Heyward were the other defensive coaches fired by Helton. Wilson's son Caleb is a freshman walk-on tight end for the Trojans.

Wilson joined the USC staff in January of 2014 and Heyward, who was also on staff at Washington,  came to USC with Sarkisian in December of 2013.

On the offensive side of the ball offensive line coach and running game coordinator Bob Connelly was also fired. He joined Sarkisian's staff in February of 2015.

"Each of these men are, I want to say, are outstanding men and outstanding coaches," Helton said. "I thank them for the timeless work they did throughout the season. At this point in time I made the decision to go in a different direction. These are quality individuals that I have the upmost respect for.

"I made this decision now in the best interest for these four coaches, instead of waiting until the 30th I wanted to give them the best opportunity to move forward with their career."

Helton retained running backs coach, special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Johnny Nansen, wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Tee Martin, former tight ends coach (moved to quarterbacks coach in October) and associate head coach for offense Marques Tuiasosopo  and linebackers coach,  recruiting coordinator and associate head coach for defense Peter Sirmon.

Former offensive administrative assistant Lenny Vandermade was promoted to fulltime tight ends coach in October by Helton and he remains on staff.

Going forward USC will not be hiring any new coaches to prepre for the Holiday Bowl.

"We have a plan in place that we are going to address with the staff obviously," Helton said. "We're going to be on the road recruiting this week and we will meet with our team tomorrow. With the coaches that we have on staff along with our graduate assistants, we feel more than confident in doing a great job for this bowl game."

Besides the promotion of graduate assistants, USC strength coach Kenechi Udeze could help out by coaching the defensive line. Udeze was an All-American at USC and a first round NFL draft pick in 2004. He was forced to retire in 2008 after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Stay tuned to for more information on the Trojan coaching staff as the team gets ready to play in the Holiday Bowl against Wisconsin.

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Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at

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