LOS ANGELES — A reporter asked USC coach Clay Helton this week about the status of his team’s kicking competition.
Helton, who normally answers questions during his post-practice press scrums with a peppy demeanor, sighed.
“I’m thanking God we have about three more weeks left,” he said.
USC was left to search for a new starting kicker after Matt Boermeester was expelled from the university earlier this summer following a Title IX investigation. Boermeester, who made the winning field goal as time expired in the Rose Bowl, had one season of eligibility remaining.
His departure leaves two options — with less experience.
The more tenured of the two candidates is Michael Brown, who redshirted as a freshman last fall. The other is Chase McGrath, a freshman walk-on from Mater Dei High.
Through almost two weeks of training camp, neither Brown nor McGrath has shown consistency on their field-goal attempts.
“It’s been off and on,” Helton said of the competition. “One day it’s been really good, then there’s some balls going everywhere.”
Special teams coach John Baxter appeared less troubled.
Asked Friday if he shared Helton’s concerns, Baxter said, “nope.”
“Here’s the deal,” he added. “Concerned? I’m concerned about every player on the team, you know what I mean? But it is what it is. They’re doing a good job, and we’ll just keep coaching ’em every day.”
Brown and McGrath each arrived on campus with some prior pedigree. USC recruited and signed Brown as a scholarship player out of Linfield Christian High in Temecula. Chris Sailer’s rankings of high school kickers for the class of 2016 had Brown 27th on its list. As a senior, Brown made a field goal from as long as 57 yards.
McGrath, though not on scholarship, was also offered preferred walk-on spots by Texas Tech and Utah State. Sailer’s rankings had McGrath lower among 2017 prospects, ranked 79th.
Baxter called them “very similar players.”
In training camp last year, Brown competed with Boermeester to win the starting job, before he ultimately lost out.
As Boermeester made 18 field goals, one shy of the school record, in 2016, it appeared Brown would wait until 2018 before seeing a realistic chance of grabbing the starting job. Then, Boermeester was suspended from school for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Zoe Katz, in January, leading to USC’s Title IX investigation. Both Boermeester and Katz denied this. Boermeester was ultimately dismissed six…