Clancy Pendergast to Return as USC Defensive Coordinator


After a two-year hiatus spent out of work and in the NFL, Clancy Pendergast is reportedly set to return to USC as the school’s defensive coordinator.

UPDATE: Oregon is reportedly attempting to hijack USC’s pursuit of Pendergast, who is meeting with the Ducks today.

The Trojans were tied to names such as Wisconsin’s Dave Aranda, who has since signed lucrative deal with LSU, but only one man was continuously mentioned as a serious candidate.

According to Football Scoop, barring a pitfall in paperwork, USC head coach Clay Helton has reportedly found his man to run the defense and it’s former Trojan defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

Pendergast was at USC for just one season in 2013, but it was long enough for him to make the Trojans the Pac-12’s No. 1 overall defense.

They allowed opposing teams to average just 334.9 yards per game, and were ranked 4th by Football Outsiders in defensive S&P+, despite a 62-point showing at Arizona State that ultimately got head coach Lane Kiffin fired.

Pat Haden replaced Kiffin with Steve Sarkisian, who opted to bring in his sidekick and hot-shot defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox from Washington. After not being retained, Pendergast spent 2014 on sabbatical at his home in Idaho, before being hired to be the inside linebackers coach with San Francisco 49ers just this past season.

Under Pendergast in 2013, USC ranked 4th by Football Outsiders in defensive S&P+.

This time could be better for Pendergast at USC, and ultimately could wind up allowing him to have a longer stay. He inherits a cupboard full of raw talent and loaded with depth.

Considering that he runs a linebacker-heavy 5-2 base defense, he should have no problem getting the Trojans’ huge linebacker class from last Signing Day involved.

In 2013, Pendergast’s resources were handcuffed at times, jointly due to sanctions and inexperience. The Trojans used just 12 defenders against Stanford, which is a stark contrast to the theme going into 2015, which was rooted in how Wilcox planned to platoon on defense.

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USC’s defense had its ups and downs under Wilcox, with pass defense being the major difference in the stat book between the last two defensive regimes.

With Pendergast in 2013, the Trojans were seventh nationally in surrendering 5.8 passing yards per attempt. They were 93rd in 2015, allowing a whopping 7.7 yards.

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Pendergast got his start in coaching in 1991 as a graduate assistant at Mississippi State. He first coached at USC in 1992 was a GA, but a two-year stop at Oklahoma, followed by 15 seasons in NFL from 1995 to 2009.

In 2008, the Arizona Cardinals reached the Super Bowl with Pendergast’s defense. He then left for Kansas City after Cardinals assistant Todd Haley was hired to be the Chiefs’ head coach.

Following his one season in KC, Pendergast was hired by Jeff Tedford in 2010 and spent three seasons as Cal’s defensive coordinator. During that time, the Bears twice had the conference’s No. 1 defense, meaning that in three of four seasons in the Pac-12, Pendergast as coordinated the top unit.