Targeting Todd Orlando as new defensive coordinator raises questions

John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images /

Former Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is reportedly USC’s pick to lead the Trojan defense in 2020, which comes with positive and negative vibes.

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The universities of Texas and Southern California find themselves in similar positions going into 2020, having fired underperforming defensive coordinators in a bid to jumpstart a head coach on the hot seat.

Now the latter is targeting a new defensive coordinator, and he happens to be the one just let go by former.

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Ex-Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, and recently-hired Texas Tech linebackers coach, is in talks to take the USC DC job, according to Adam Rittenburg of ESPN and Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports.

UPDATE 1/24: Orlando has been officially announced as USC’s defensive coordinator.

Orlando was picked up by Texas Tech earlier in January, not as a defensive coordinator but as an assistant head coach and linebackers coach. He had been fired by embattled Texas coach Tom Herman in December after a couple of seasons of subpar production.

The leap to USC will result in a promotion for Orlando and questions for Trojan head coach Clay Helton.

On the one hand, the move feels like standing still. USC fired Clancy Pendergast after the 2019 season for the same reasons Texas moved on from Orlando. There may have been scapegoating involved in order to give the head coach another chance, but poor performances were at the heart of the matter.

Like Pendergast, Orlando had his defense rolling at the start of his tenure, but the last two seasons have seen them steadily falter. Like Pendergast, Orlando could point to serious injury issues, but those can only excuse so much. USC ranked 60th in SP+ defense in 2019 under Pendergast. Texas ranked 68th under Orlando.

On the other hand, Orlando has been successful in previous seasons. At one point he was viewed as one of the bright young DCs in the nation. In 2017 Texas ranked 14th in S&P+. In 2016, before following Herman from Houston to Austin, his defense ranked 27th. His Utah State defenses in 2014 and 2013 ranked 16th and 18th.

So which will it be for Orlando at USC? Could he be the Texas version of Justin Wilcox, a capable defensive coordinator who just didn’t fit? Or will he be a Clancy Pendergast redux, with serious flaws preventing him from excelling?

Helton is staking his future on a great unknown when it comes to Orlando.

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