Grading USC Football Coaching Hires: DC Clancy Pendergast


Clancy Pendergast had USC football atop the Pac-12 in defense during his last stint. Can he do it again this time around?

Now that USC’s 2016 coaching staff is complete, it’s time to evaluate each hire from the quality of the coach to the context of the appointment.

This is the sixth in a series diving deeper into the decision-making behind and the consequences of each hire.

Here’s a look at how Pendergast’s hiring grades out:

Clancy Pendergast | Defensive Coordinator

Replacing: Justin WilcoxPros: AggressiveCons: One-year wonder?

Even before Justin Wilcox was removed from his post after the Pac-12 Championship game, the first name on everyone’s mind to replace him was Clancy Pendergast.

After just one season in Troy, Pendergast had built a mountain of goodwill among the USC fanbase. Firstly, his defense was the top unit in the conference in 2013. Secondly, his defense fit the bill in terms of style and philosophy. His 5-2 put the Trojan defenders on the front foot.

When Clay Helton set out to find a new defensive coordinator he focused in on aggression as one of his key desires, which was one of many hints that Pendergast would eventually be the guy.

The question now for Pendergast is whether or not he can recreate the success of 2013, which was by far his best showing as a defensive coordinator.

In 2013, Pendergast led the USC defense to Top 25 rankings in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks, interceptions, red zone scoring defense, third down conversion defense and fourth down conversion defense. That defense generated 17 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles and 34 sacks.

One nice advantage is that the Trojans have the horses to run his system, even with the departure of Su’a Cravens and the entire starting defensive line.

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There are, however, some valid criticisms of the hire.

Pendergast’s defense at Cal dropped off a cliff in year three and he is known to be less-than-enthusiastic about recruiting.

There’s also the Dave Aranda issue. Reports and rumors swirled that Aranda, a southern California native, would be interested in the USC job. As the coach of one of the nation’s top defenses over the past few years at Wisconsin, he stood out as a top-level option. Now at LSU, comparisons between Pendergast’s performance and Aranda’s are inevitable.

There only so many conclusions you can come to comparing “what could have been” though. In the end, Helton got the man he wanted.

Grade: A-. Pendergasts success in 2013 makes this hire look like a smart move, but the passing over of Dave Aranda could cast a shadow over the decision.


What say you Trojan fans? How do you grade USC’s hiring of Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator? Vote in the poll and sound off in the comments below.

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