- Johnny Curren, WeAreSC, Reporter
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USC coach Lane Kiffin has finalized the Trojans' coaching staff and announced that quarterbacks coach Clay Helton will take over as offensive coordinator.
Helton's appointment does not necessarily mean he will call the plays for USC. Kennedy Polamalu was offensive coordinator last season but did not call plays. Kiffin has not provided clarity on any potential changes in Helton's role besides the title.
Helton has been the quarterbacks coach the past three years at USC and worked closely with Matt Barkley. Helton was the OC at Memphis for three years before joining the Trojans.
Kiffin fired Polamalu on Feb. 10, giving no specific reason other than wanting to go in a different direction.
"Clay Helton has been vitally involved in our offense in his time here and spent last season as the passing game coordinator," Kiffin said.
Kiffin also announced the hiring of three new assistant coaches, marking the completion of what will be a somewhat new-look coaching staff when the Trojans take the field this spring. The new additions include Mike Ekeler, Mike Summers and Tommie Robinson, and they follow the hiring of Clancy Pendergast as the team's defensive coordinator just over a month ago.
"I am excited to have completed the reconstruction of our staff," Kiffin said. "It was a very exhaustive and thorough process. Mike Summers, Tommie Robinson and Mike Ekeler bring extensive coaching backgrounds to the Trojan program. They all are looking forward to start working with our players immediately."
Ekeler is the new man in charge of the linebackers, a position held by Scottie Hazelton in 2012. The linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at Indiana for the past two seasons, he's noted as being a young and energetic coach with strong ties to Bo Pelini, whom he worked under at Nebraska (2008-2010), LSU (2005-07) and Oklahoma (2003-04).
Ekeler played at Kansas State under Bill Snyder.
"I have followed Mike Ekeler's career and have been very impressed with what he has accomplished on and off the field," Kiffin said. "He has been on staffs that produced Top 10 defenses, including leading the country in scoring defense. The fact that he is the only player that Bill Snyder ever personally appointed as a team captain at Kansas State speaks to who Mike is and what he is all about. He will bring intensity, energy and command to our linebacker group. He also is a proven recruiter on the national level."
Summers, who spent the last three years at Kentucky as the Wildcats' offensive line coach and running game coordinator, will hold the same responsibilities under Kiffin at USC. At Kentucky, Summers was on the same staff as current Trojans wide receivers coach Tee Martin for two years. In 2012, the Wildcats averaged almost 140 yards rushing per game, and in 2010 the offense's 6.1 average yards per play was the second-most in school history.
Summers also spent time on the staffs at Arkansas, Louisville, Ohio, Oklahoma State, The University of the South-Sewanee, Oregon State, Northern Illinois and Texas A&M, as well with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL in 2007. He coached with Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, Louisville and in Atlanta, and was just added to Petrino's staff at Western Kentucky earlier this winter.
"Mike Summers has been an integral part of many high-powered offenses, including one that led the nation in scoring and total offense and others that ranked very high in the various offensive categories," Kiffin said. "I was particularly impressed by how highly regarded he is by fellow coaches and by the players he has coached."
Robinson takes over as the new running backs coach -- a role that Polamalu previously held -- and will also take on the title as the team's passing game coordinator. He comes to USC with 26 years of coaching experience, the last three of which were spent with the Arizona Cardinals where he coached the running backs.
Prior to that, Robinson spent the 2007-09 seasons on the staff of the Miami Hurricanes, and he's also coached at Memphis, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, UNLV, Utah State, TCU and Arkansas, as well as with the Dallas Cowboys.
"Tommie Robinson is a veteran who not only is an effective coach and teacher, but he is known for developing great relationships with his running backs," Kiffin said. "I know he will do that here and hold our players accountable on and off the field."
Kiffin also announced that associate head coach/special teams coordinator John Baxter will now also coach the tight ends. Additionally, James Cregg will remain on the staff as an offensive line coach, giving the team two coaches at that spot.
"With so many young offensive linemen who will be so important to our success, I felt it was critical to have two coaches working with this group," Kiffin said. "It was a natural step to have John Baxter work with the tight ends because he has coached that position for much of his career."
WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz contributed to this report.
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