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USC's Clay Helton denies rumor he was punched by player

Three weeks into his first full season as USC's coach, Clay Helton is juggling some problems.

Among them is a 1-2 start, including a 0-1 hole in Pac-12 play, and the pressing need to get the Trojans to come off the mat on a short week of practice for Friday's road game at Utah.

Perhaps this is last among them: a rumor that he was punched in the face by freshman offensive lineman E.J. Price, who has decided to transfer.

"I'm a big social media guy, but I got told today about E.J. Price hitting me, which is funny. I wouldn't be here. I'd be dead, one," Helton said during a press conference on Tuesday. "Maybe it'd make my face look better. I know a lot of times when a man doesn't show up on the field, there are questions. I talked to E.J. a couple days ago. E.J. has some personal family issues, a lot of homesickness and missing family really bad. With us sitting down and visiting, really felt mutually it was important to go find a school closer to home where he can deal with his family."

Where to begin with the mess that USC football has found itself in early on this season?

Just days after being thrashed, 52-6, by Alabama, Trojans star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster got involved in a practice scuffle and reportedly sulked in frustration afterward. In Week 2, offensive lineman Chuma Edoga was ejected for getting physical with an official, and this week, starting quarterback Max Browne learned he's being benched in favor of backup Sam Darnold.

In a matter far more serious than football-related issues, two USC players -- Osa Masina and Don Hill -- have been suspended amid a sexual-assault investigation, and as of Tuesday, their names were removed from the team roster.

On top of all that, there's even been PAT madness. Just another season at USC, apparently, no matter who is blowing the head coach's whistle.

Thanks to rumors being just that, however, Helton's face is at least intact.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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