Primal defense, your analysis is pretty spot on. As far as Helton, you answered the question in your last sentence. While Helton is a nice guy and has stabilized the program from the kiffen and Sarkisian fiasco, I dont feel that he is that great of a coach. Nice guy doesn't necessarily win games. He does continue to recruit well, with top classes, but that doesn't translate to dominance on the field. He'll win the games he is supposed to win, but when matched against other top programs he hasn't produced. I believe that is the general consensus amongst the fan base... not many were happy with the hire. As you rightly point out, USC notoriously hires a USC guy rather than going after the best available. Again, to the frustration ofvthe fan base. The short answer is the coaching. Not only at the HC level, but perhaps more overwhelmingly with the OC and OLine coach. T Martin, the OC, is proven to be in way over his head. Many want him replaced. Great recruiter but has proven that he can het the job done.
This leads to your question on the OLine. Very soft and the OLine coach, who came from Western Kentucky, is terrible. If your Dline is as good as last year, they should cause a lot of problems. If Helton doesn't upgrade his staff, he may out of a job... but probably not anytime soon. He just got a contract extension and the university is putting a ton of money into Coliseum renovations, another sore subject amongst the fan base, so most likely won't be looking to spend additional money on a buyout.
The DLine is good, and finally deep. Our front 7 is our best group, along with talented receivers that we have.
JT is obviously a talent, but young and will have growing pains like last week versus Stanford. Again do we have the coaching to properly develop him, who knows. As you mentioned about Sam, even with Jets coaching lol he will be great. As good as he was at USC, probably could have been better... probably a big reason why he left. I think he would have stayed otherwise.
With Fink, I think he could fill in as necessary but the coaches will ride JT for the most part. JT did suffer a hand injury last week but should be ok. Fink has been in the system for 3 years now and granted didn't have hardly any game experience, but couldnt be out a kid who is basically a high school senior. I think Fink is serviceable and will probably have some wrinkles put in for him.
I'm surprised to hear that Herman's seat is warming already? I know he hasnt had the impact that many were hoping for but it is only his second year... correct? To an outsider, it seems the progam has improved... save for Maryland I guess. I would think he should have at least one more year before the seat gets hot.
Lengthy post, sorry. Sitting at the airport so I had time. Hope I answered your questions and provided some insights. Plane is ready to board so will be in Austin in a couple hours.