USC makes Craig Naivar, John David Baker hires official

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

USC made the hiring of new safeties coach Craig Naivar and the promotion of new tight ends coach John David Baker official on Monday.

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USC’s task of filling out the 2020 coaching staff took two steps forward on Monday, and three steps back.

The Trojans officially announced the hiring of Craig Naivar and John David Baker as full-time assistants, while simultaneously confirming the firings of three defensive assistants: Greg Burns, Chad Kauha’aha’a and Johnny Nansen.

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Naivar was named safeties coach, which has been his role with various programs going back 26 years. Though he got his start as a defensive line coach, he has worked with safeties in 18 of the past 19 seasons. During that time he coached at Texas, Houston, Kentucky, Texas State  and Rice.

Since he has a wealth of experience as a special teams coach, it’s noteworthy that USC did not name special teams among Naivar’s duties.

Baker followed Graham Harrell from North Texas in 2019 after working for three seasons as a quality control coach. He took a similar position at USC.

Given his close relationship working with Harrell, it’s no surprise the offensive coordinator was willing to take a chance bringing him on for his first full-time assistant position.

Baker will take control of USC’s tight ends group. Since he was a quarterback in high school and his work as an analyst has focused around the same position, it will be a bit of an experiment.

Initial reports suggested Baker would be named inside receivers coach, which gave rise to speculation that USC would truly shift away from tight ends all together, but that isn’t the case.

While adding Naivar and Baker answers two questions for the 2020 staff, three more remain. The Trojans now need a new defensive line coach. They will also have to decide how to allocate the remaining two assistant jobs, whether for a special teams coach, inside or outside linebackers position or cornerbacks.

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