DC Clancy Pendergast apparently retained by USC football

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Despite reports to the contrary, USC football’s defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast appears to be staying put with the Trojans in 2019.

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USC football will need to replace offensive coordinator Tee Martin in 2019, but it seems defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will not be let go.

On Tuesday, multiple reports emerged that the defensive coordinator had been fired. However, Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and The Athletic pushed back on those reports claiming the Trojans would not be making a change at defensive coordinator.

Later, a USC spokesperson told Joey Kaufman of the OC Register that Pendergast had not been fired while USC’s director of recruiting and player personnel, Eric Ziskin, called one report, “FAKE NEWS!!!” on Twitter.

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Pendergast was brought in by head coach Clay Helton in 2016 as a trusted defensive mind to anchor the defense at the beginning of his head coaching tenure. The defensive coordinator worked alongside Helton on Lane Kiffin’s staff in 2013 as USC’s defensive coordinator. However, he was not retained by new head coach Steve Sarkisian going into the 2014 season.

Since his return in 2016, Pendergast’s defenses have had highs and lows. Though his aggressive style saw the Trojans lead the nation in sacks in 2017, major breakdowns resulting in big plays crippled the defense with alarming regularity. Though the team survived many of those breakdowns over the course of 2016 and 2017, the 2018 season was a step in the wrong direction for the Trojans, who fell to 5-7.

In Pendergast’s defense, USC’s defense was hit with a rash of devastating injuries, finishing the season with true freshman Chase Williams and freshman walk-on Jordan McMillan at safety against Notre Dame, having lost six different safeties to injury and departure. The loss of outside linebacker Porter Gustin after six games was particularly devastating.

Though athletic director Lynn Swann opted to keep Helton in place, the rumblings were that massive changes to the program would be necessary to justify the move. A staff overhaul was one of those changes.

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USC confirmed the departures of four other assistants on Tuesday. Quarterbacks coach Bryan Ellis is leaving to “pursue another opportunity,” presumably at Western Kentucky with former Trojan assistant Tyson Helton.

Defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze, defensive backs coach Ronnie Bradford and offensive coordinator Tee Martin were also let go by the Trojans.

Obviously, Pendergast was not among them.

That means five assistants from USC’s 2018 staff will not be back for 2019. In addition to the four culled on Tuesday, offensive line coach Neil Callaway was removed during the season.

USC’s only remaining assistants include Pendergast, special teams coordinator John Baxter, outside linebackers coach Johnny Nansen, tight ends coach Keary Colbert and offensive line coach Tim Drevno.

And, for now at least, it doesn’t appear more changes will be coming. In response to a query on staff changes, USC spokesperson told Antonio Morales of The Athletic, “We just announced who is no longer on staff.”