On December 14th, safety recruit Leon McQuay III came to USC on an official visit along with Kenny Bigelow. While visiting with coaches, McQuay was told that the Trojans were going to hire a ‘big name’ as the defensive coordinator.
Fast forward ten days to Christmas Eve, and Scott Wolf of the Daily News reported that Lane Kiffin was going to look outside of the program, for a coordinator without ties to USC.
Needless to say, the landscape of the coaching search changed once again. Names like DeWayne Walker and Joe Barry are out, while new names enter the fold.
Put it all together and it’s clear that the Trojans are on a quest to find the antidote to the spread offense, which is currently instilled in one form or another at six Pac-12 schools.
Considering that the Trojans have struggled against mobile quarterbacks since 2001 in the form of Kansas State’s Ell Roberson, looking for outside candidates only makes sense as the Trojans don’t have a long history of stopping the spread or any other non-pro-style offense.
Now, who could such a ‘big name’ be?
We’ve amassed five of them, ranked in order of the probability that they’re hired, and will reveal them throughout the week. We start on the plains…
Preferred defensive scheme: 4-3
Current position: Unemployed, fired as Auburn head coach
Resume highlights: Two-time BCS National Champion (2005 and 2010), defensive coordinator at Auburn (2002-2004), Texas (2005-2006), head coach at Iowa State (2007-2008), Auburn (2009-2012)
Since the BCS era began in 1998, there have only been 18 undefeated teams after their respective bowl game. And in that time, there’s only one coach who has done it three times, and that’s Gene Chizik.
Over parts of four different seasons, Chizik won 34 straight games as a defensive coordinator with Auburn Tigers and Texas Longhorns, including a win over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl. When he was hired as Iowa State’s head coach for the 2007 season, he was considered to be the best defensive coordinator college football. Fast forward five years and with the exception of a magical National Championship run in 2010 aided by Cam Newton at Auburn, Chizik’s proved that he’s not cut out to be a successful head coach. But that doesn’t mean he’s lost his ability to be a defensive genius.
Against Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game two years ago, Chizik’s Auburn Tigers held Chip Kelly’s Ducks to 19 points. But more importantly, and rather miraculously, Auburn kept them to just 75 yards rushing, a fraction of what Kenjon Barner dialed up against USC last month.
Considering that the Trojans are desperate to find a way to shut down Oregon, Gene Chizik surely has the résumé, results and sizable name to make Lane Kiffin want him to succeed Monte Kiffin. Plus, Chizik is a tremendous recruiter, as evident with the ability to get and keep the commitments of Carl Lawson and Reuben Foster at Auburn despite a poor season on the field. The Trojans are planning to make a run at Lawson as he opens up his recruitment ahead of Signing Day, and they could be a favorite to land the stud defensive end if Chizik lands at USC.