Former USC assistant Johnny Nansen lands job with UCLA

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

Johnny Nansen, USC’s former linebackers coach, has found a new home just up the freeway with the UCLA Bruins as a defensive line coach.

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Johnny Nansen lost his job as USC exactly a week ago, but it didn’t take him long to secure new employment.

The former USC linebackers and running backs coach is set to take a position on Chip Kelly’s UCLA staff, according to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic. Nansen will take over as the Bruins’ defensive line coach.

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That means good news and bad news for Trojan fans.

The good news is Nansen hadn’t done a very good job as an assistant coach over the last couple of years.

In 2019, Nansen was in charge of USC’s inside linebackers, who were one of the poorest performing units on the team. He was also the defensive run game coordinator last season when USC ranked ninth in the Pac-12 while giving up 162.31 yards per game and 4.48 yards per carry.

It was a no-brainer to part ways with Nansen, along with the entirety of the defensive staff.

Moreover, the last two seasons as a recruiting coordinator haven’t gone well for Nansen. USC fell behind in 2019 and barely managed to scrape the No. 20 class in the 247Sports composite team rankings. That was the worst recruiting class for the Trojans on record, at the time.

Things only got worse for the class of 2020, which ranked an unbelievably-low 55th nationally.

Nansen’s adjustment to the Early Signing Period appeared particularly poor, as most of the nation’s top recruits locked in their LOIs in December, making USC’s old strategy of closing strong in January obsolete.

To be fair, USC’s on-field performance and uncertainty around head coach Clay Helton didn’t help make Nansen’s job any easier.

The bad news for the Trojans is simple. Nansen was a stellar connection to the Polynesian community and his recruiting chops for the majority of his career have been great. In 2017 he was named the Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports.

While USC was right to let Nansen go, he could help boost UCLA’s generally poor recruiting greatly. That’s if the last two years don’t mean he’s lost his touch.

Nansen isn’t the first Trojan to make the switch to UCLA. Norm Chow, Kennedy Polamalu, and Marques Tuiasosopo.

Fortunately for USC, those Trojan-to-Bruin journeys didn’t exactly strengthen UCLA. Chow’s tenure produced limited results. Polamalu was a single-season disaster and Tuiasosopo only stayed one year before leaving for Cal.

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