After USC fired head football coach Clay Helton on Monday it didn't take long for there to be an extensive list of potential candidates to fill the vacancy. One candidate that appears to have emerged as a possible frontrunner is Penn State's James Franklin. 

A source has told sports radio broadcaster Dan Patrick that there is mutual interest between Franklin and USC. The news comes a day after Franklin sidestepped a question about USC’s head coaching job.

Since replacing Bill O’Brien in 2014, Franklin has compiled a 62-28 record at Penn State. Before going 4-5 in 2020, the Nittany Lions never finished below .500 under Franklin. From 2016 to 2019, Penn State went 42-11 with two bowl game victories.

Franklin, 49, does not have strong ties to USC and is not from the West Coast. The Pennsylvania native has had stints with Maryland, Kansas State, the Green Bay Packers, and Vanderbilt. 

In 2017, USC defeated Penn State in the Rose Bowl, 52-49, on a last-second field goal. It was Helton's biggest victory as a head coach. 

Penn State is off to a 2-0 start in the 2021 season. With impressive wins over Wisconsin and Ball State, Penn State is ranked No. 10 in the AP Top 25 Poll.

Penn State hosts No. 22 Auburn on Saturday night with a chance to further improve its College Football Playoff chances.

USC fired Helton two days after being upset by unranked Stanford, 42-28. The Trojans entered the contest ranked No. 14 in the nation but have since fallen out of the Top 25.

USC athletic director Mike Bohn said the team would not reach expectations without a change in leadership. 

Helton’s contract ran through the 2023 season and included a buyout of close to $12 million. Franklin is signed with Penn State through 2025, and his deal includes a $4 million buyout for this season.

Some of the other candidates include Jack Del Rio, Luke Fickell, Chris Petersen and Bob Stoops.

James Franklin Penn State Football Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on before the game against the Ball State Cardinals at Beaver Stadium on September 11, 2021 in State College, Pennsylvania. Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images