The staff changes are officially underway at USC. Following their blowout loss to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl the Trojans announced that they’ve parted ways with defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and special teams coordinator John Baxter Saturday afternoon.
USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and special teams coordinator/tight ends coach John Baxter will not return to the Trojan coaching staff.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) December 28, 2019
The move seemed like a foregone conclusion after USC’s defense and special teams under performed through out the season. Their performance in the team’s 49-24 loss to Iowa Friday night seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for the both of them. The Trojans defense were bullied all night by the Hawkeyes offense while giving up 35 points and failing to force a punt until the late 3rd quarter. Special teams on the other hand played a huge hand in the loss, giving up a 98 yard kick return for a touchdown to Ihmir Smith-Marsette as well as falling asleep and failing to recover a muffed punt that would've gave the Trojans the ball back.
Pendergast has been defensive coordinator for the Trojans under Clay Helton since the 2016 season. Helton opted to bring him back after letting Justin Wilcox go following the 2015 Pac-12 Championship game. Pendergast had a pervious stint with USC back in 2013 under Lane Kiffin. This season Pendergast’s unit ranked No. 83 in the nation in total defense and No. 78 points allowed. They also were No. 77 in yards allowed. USC also failed to force turnovers through the season, ranking No. 76 in turnovers gained. Going beyond that the last two seasons Pendergast failed to make adjustments or stick to the game plan to help them win games.
Baxter on the other hand was also on his second tenure with USC. He served as special teams coordinator from 2010 to 2013. He returned to the Trojans in 2016 following a brief stint with Michigan. However, the special teams unit faced a steep decline during the 2017 season.
USC will also be in the market for a new linebackers coach. Joe DeForest, who served on coaching staff as a defensive analyst in 2018 before being promoted during the off-season, will depart for NC State to become their new safeties coach. Recently there’s been speculation USC could target former Trojans great Chris Claiborne for their next linebackers coach. Claiborne resigned from his head coaching position at Calabasas high school to pursue college coaching opportunities.
Excited to welcome Coach DeForest and Coach Mitchell to our family! https://t.co/aCrAD0pyDW— NC State Athletics (@PackAthletics) December 28, 2019
Both Pendergast and Baxter were retained and given a second chance following the 2018 season where Helton make a few staff changes. In hopes of turning it around, things never materialized through the 2019 season. Now Helton will be on the market for a brand new defensive coordinator. He’ll be hoping that he can find another coordinator to have another Graham Harrell like turnaround.