There are a lot of names and unknowns surrounding Florida coach Will Muschamp’s coaching search for a new offensive coordinator. But there are some things we do know (some of the information based on sources), and we’re going to use those knowns as the basis for deducing who the new guy might be.
Here’s what we know:
* We can eliminate these coaches as potential candidates — JU coach Kerwin Bell, the former UF quarterback, former Southern Cal coach Lane Kiffin, former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey and Fresno State offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, who recently transitioned the Fresno offense from a pro-style attack to an up-tempo spread. There is no significant interest in these candidates from Muschamp, according to reliable sources.
* Muschamp is looking for a young, up-and-comer who has a good coaching background and has a chance to establish himself as an elite offensive coordinator at Florida. He’s also looking for a guy who has experience coaching both a pro-style offense and an up-tempo, no-huddle spread.
* Sources have confirmed Muschamp will not announce his new hire until after the bowl season, meaning the new coordinator will be coaching in a bowl game.
That, of course, leaves a long list of candidates. But among the many potential candidates, one really jumps out — Southern Cal offensive coordinator Clay Helton.
* Helton is young (only 40) and is considered an innovative and rising star in the profession. When Lane Kiffin elevated him from quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator to offensive coordinator a year ago, he said Helton had other offers to become the offensive coordinator at two top-five programs. So, this guy is well-known among coaching circles.
* Helton has coaching experience in both a pro-style offense and an uptempo spread attack. Before coming to USC as the Trojans quarterbacks coach four years ago, he spent 10 years at Memphis, the last three as the offensive coordinator in a spread offense. In those three years as the Tigers’ coordinator, his offense ranked among the most productive in school history. The 2007 and 2008 offenses were among the top six in school history in total yards and points. Both were ranked in the top 26 nationally in total offense. Quarterback Martin Hankins became Memphis’ No. 2 career passer and set single-season records for completions, passing yards and touchdown passes in 2007. In 2009, Curtis Steele had his second consecutive season with 1,000 yards rushing. This season at USC, the Trojans’ pro-style offense took off after Kiffin was fired and Helton assumed the play-calling responsibility. With Helton calling the plays, the Trojans won six of their last eight games. There’s a side note here, too. One Internet site earlier this week said that Muschamp and Kiffin have had conversations about the offensive coordinator’s job at UF, reporting that Kiffin was interested in the job. Maybe the real story is Muschamp was talking to Kiffin to pick his brain about Helton. Just a thought.
* Muschamp’s decision to hold off announcing his new coordinator until after bowl season may have something to do with the fact Helton is more than just the Trojans’ offensive coordinator, he’s also USC’s interim head coach for the bowl game. Over the years, many coordinators (and other assistants) around the country have been offered and accepted other jobs during bowl preparation. But because Helton is the interim head coach, maybe Muschamp wants him to have his moment at his current school before moving on to his next job (he’ll definitely be getting a job somewhere after USC’s bowl game).
* Helton has a Florida connection. His father, Kim Helton, was a standout center for the Gators (1967-69) and later became UF’s offensive line coach (1973-78) under Doug Dickey. It was while Kim Helton was coaching at UF that his son, Clay, was born in Gainesville.
So, maybe, just maybe, Clay Helton will be coming home in just a few weeks as the Gators’ new offensive coordinator.