After just over three weeks without an offensive coordinator, USC and Clay Helton finally moved on from the Kingsbury debacle and hired former Texas Tech quarterback and North Texas offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. Harrell allows USC to stay the course with the Air Raid offense that they hoped Kingsbury would put in place. While playing under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, Harrell played six games as a freshman and then started for each of the next three years, throwing for 15,793 yards and 134 touchdowns, topping 5,000 yards and 45 touchdowns in each of his junior and senior seasons.
Harrell adds to the long list of former Mike Leach proteges, whether they be assistant coaches or former players, who have become coaches around college football and the NFL, which include names like Kliff Kingsbury, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Houston’s Dana Holgerson, West Virginia’s Neal Brown, former Baylor head coach Art Briles, SMU’s Sonny Dykes, and UCF’s Josh Huepel. Harrell coached under fellow Leach disciple Seth Littrell at North Texas the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Before his time at North Texas, Harrell got his start in the coaching business under Leach as Washington State’s as an offensive analyst and outside receivers coach. As a coordinator, Harrell led the Mean Green to back to back nine win seasons and back to back seasons inside the top 30 offenses in the nation, finishing 19th in 2017 and 29th in 2018. Under Harrell, North Texas QB Mason Fine had back to back seasons throwing over 3,500 yards and over 25 touchdowns.
Moving from C-USA to the Pac-12 will be a tough adjustment for Harrell, but the Trojans have the talent to make this Air Raid offense work, hopefully revitalizing USC’s football team after a very disappointing 2018 season. In a disappointing 2018, the Trojans offense averaged 26.1 points per game, which was good enough 10th out of 12 teams. The Trojans also finished in the bottom three in yards per game and rushing yards per game. Bottom line is the Trojans offense needs a boost, and head coach Clay Helton is betting on fellow Pac-12 coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid. Harrell will hope to emulate his former coach, as Washington State has finished in the top 2 in the Pac-12 in points per game in 2 out of the past 3 years.
Helton needs this Air Raid offense to really allow sophomore JT Daniels to maximize his offensive weapons that are coming back for the 2019 season. Helton turned to the former Green Bay Packer in Harrell, who has many career parallels to Kingsbury. Harrell will be tasked with turning around a stagnant Trojan offense, and if he does so, he could save Clay Helton’s job.