USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was removed from his post by the Trojans on Saturday after a fiasco of a defensive performance in the Holiday Bowl.
Coming off of a 49-point demolition by the Iowa Hawkeyes, there wasn’t a question of if USC would make staff changes, but when.
The news officially game down on Saturday as it was announced that defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast would not return to the Trojans in 2020.
Nor is Pendergast the only casualty of the post-bowl decision making. Linebackers coach Joe DeForest left for NC State and special teams coach John Baxter was also let go on Saturday.
Pendergast’s ousting is no surprise. And it wasn’t just because of Iowa’s dominance over the Trojan defense.
The defensive coordinator certainly warranted a hard look when the 2019 regular season season ended. USC ranked 83rd in total defense, 76th in rushing defense, 62nd in team passing efficiency defense and 66th in scoring defense. They were also 76th in turnovers gained and 63rd in third down conversion defense. None of those stats are in the top half of college football.
When it came to Pendergast’s employment, the timing was the only thing uncertain. Even though athletic director Mike Bohn decided not to fire Helton, the prospect of staff changes was made clear.
The coordinator change mirrors last year when Helton parted ways with offensive coordinator Tee Martin after a 5-7 showing. Back then, he opted to give Pendergast another chance as the defense dealt with major injury woes and showed signs of life. There won’t be a third chance this time around.
Pendergast first came to USC as a graduate assistant in 1992, but he landed back with the Trojans in 2013 as the defensive coordinator under Lane Kiffin. That stint didn’t last long, however, as Kiffin was fired and new head coach Steve Sarkisian went in a different direction.
Helton turned to Pendergast in 2016 when he took over the Trojans and he has remained the defensive coordinator since. While USC held opponents to 24.2 points per game in 2016, that scoring average has risen ever season, from 26.1 in 2017 to 27.0 in 2018 and 27.8 in 2019.
Now Helton will have to find a new coach to run his defense in 2020. With any luck, that DC will have the same impact on the Trojans as Graham Harrell did taking over the offense in 2019.