USC Football used to have an amazing draft attraction with the NFL. It's still good but one has to wonder if the recent later than expected rounds of success are due to the culture of the program under Helton. USC practices are known to be soft to be what some would call a players lounge and Helton is very keen to keep it your family place to practice. Clay doesn't reprimand players and in fact, he has been tougher on his staff on player conduct than he is on the players directly. Faith-Family-Football is real to Clay, I will give him that.
Parents get that twinkle in their eyes when a Power five coach enters their family room to court their high school football treasure. Clay makes an amazing impression when you listen to families interviewed post-visit. He as that allure for the families as their child is about to wander off the home front and into a new phase of their lives that the parents have very little control and support capability on campus.
In the past few years, no secret to Trojan faithful, we have witnessed the soft culture to football development. No injuries are allowed no potential for injury is the design. While the elite programs develop physicality Helton's teams throttle that back. They work on a full roster being available each and every week. Compounded by COVID-19 where I would say that Helton had an ally in the virus as it played into his vision of no pads less interaction and a full roster to choose from come game day.
This is the problem. These teams over the years of Helton's management are soft. Trojan teams used to command respect when they enter the field home or away. They were known to be attacking and physical. But no more. Hufanga gave us that glimpse of the past in his aggressive style of play but one player going aggressive is not a program focused as such. The Trojans do show up, outside of one game vs Colorado but their spirit is left in the past. This 2020 team was handed a tough hand with the COVID-19 crisis. But so was every team in every sport. The PAC-12 conference made it easy for the schools and pampered them with a short season designed to show they would play but an impossible task to qualify with the eye-test that their top programs were deserved a second look for the playoffs and more competitive bowls. Of course, the Trojans played into that soft image by losing at home to the Oregon Ducks. Game over.