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Clay Helton lands Georgia Southern job

Georgia Southern opens up the 2021-22 hiring cycle with the recently fired USC coach.

Clay Helton is zeroing in on the Georgia Southern job, according to a report Tuesday from Yahoo's Pete Thamel. No timeline was attached to the report, but Thamel wrote a deal could be in place "in the near future."

Helton was let go as USC's head coach on Sept. 13, and Georgia Southern fired Chad Lunsford on Sept. 26 after a 1-3 start.

Helton is expected to get to work immediately, though Kevin Whitley will remain interim head coach through the end of the season.

The early move would allow Helton time to familiarize himself with Georgia Southern's current roster, to build a staff, to hold together and add to the Eagles' 2022 recruiting class ahead of the December signing period, and to begin mining the transfer portal. 

Though his time had worn out in Los Angeles, Helton would instantly be one of the most qualified and well-recognized coaches in Sun Belt history. Simply put, it's not every day a Sun Belt school hires a coach with a Rose Bowl victory on his resume. He went 46-24 with the aforementioned Rose Bowl victory, a Pac-12 title, three Pac-12 South crowns and two 10-win seasons. 

Georgia Southern is one of the proudest programs in the entire Group of 5, a school with six FCS national titles and 11 conference crowns that has seen its standing fall behind Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, Louisiana and even Georgia State in the Sun Belt. The conference is scaling up quickly and rapidly, with Marshall, Southern Miss, Old Dominion and FCS power James Madison joining in the coming years.

As the competition ramps up, so too will Georgia Southern's commitment to football, which starts with Helton. 

Update: The hire is now official.