John Baxter Returns to Coach USC Special Teams


On a day which focused around USC’s pursuit of a defensive coordinator, the Trojans announced the return of John Baxter as special teams coach.

Baxter previously coached at USC from 2010 through 2013. He was not retained by Steve Sarkisian upon his arrival for the 2014 season and went on to join John Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan for 2015.

“We are very excited to welcome back John Baxter to our Trojan Family,” head coach Clay Helton said of his newest hire.  “He is one of the most respected coaches in our profession at any position.  His units have been near the top of the collegiate special team efficiency rankings almost every year.  Having worked alongside him in the past, I know Coach Baxter as one of the best teachers and skill developers in football today.  We look forward to our special teams rising to greater heights under him.”

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USC special teams were run by running backs coach Johnny Nansen, who is expected to remain on staff, though his new responsibilities have yet to be set. The addition of a special teams coach would suggest that, unless another coach departs, Nansen will likely fill in as defensive line coach, as pointed out by Max Meyer. He once held that position at Idaho and Washington.

Despite a talented kick returner in Adoree’ Jackson, special teams in 2015 left plenty to be desired. USC ranked 65th nationally in FEI’s special teams rankings while ESPN’s rankings put the Trojans 91st. By contrast, Baxter’s Michigan special teams unit was ranked 16th and 12th by those measures.

With Baxter on board, USC continues the trend of restoring the 2013 staff which achieved success under Ed Orgeron after Lane Kiffin’s firing. Though it does not appear that Orgeron will return to Los Angeles, multiple reports have confirmed that defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is on the cusp of joining Helton’s staff for 2016 as well.