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USC was reportedly set to hire Dave Aranda as defensive coordinator

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 11: Dave Aranda of the LSU Tigers attends media day for the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 11, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 11: Dave Aranda of the LSU Tigers attends media day for the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 11, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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USC made a run at LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and was on the verge of hiring him before he took a head coaching job, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports revealed.

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USC is set to go into Spring Camp with a new defensive coordinator, Todd Orlando, whose track record has both positive and negative spots. But the Trojans were aiming for a much bigger fish.

Former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was on the hook with USC before he landed the head coaching position at Baylor, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports revealed in a feature story on Clay Helton’s 2020 rebuild.

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In that article, Helton praised the hire of Orlando, who would have been difficult to land at USC two years ago when he was a hot commodity at Texas. However, the Trojans settled for the recenty-fired Orlando after swinging for the fences with Aranda, who is widely regarded as one of the top DCs in the country.

“We were all set to have him. We matched LSU’s deal,” Dodd quoted a ‘USC source’ in the piece.

USC has been either unwilling or unable to go after truly elite assistant coaches over the years. The idea that they would even make a run at Aranda could show a serious change in approach.

Pair that with the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury in 2018 and Helton can at least point to some ambition on the hiring front.

Things haven’t gone perfectly though. The Trojans lost Kingsbury to the NFL and they missed out on Aranda.

In replacing Kingsbury, USC found a gem with Graham Harrell, who completed the transition to the Air Raid and boosted the offense to 32.5 points per game, a six-point improvement from 2018. They also managed to keep him in place for the 2020 season despite intense interest from other programs.

Helton and company hope Orlando is a similarly successful “Plan B.” In 2017, Orlando took over a Texas defense which conceded 31.5 points per game the year before. He got the Longhorns down to 21.2 points per game in his first season. A defensive turnaround of that nature is all USC needs to compete for the Pac-12 title.

It’s a minimum of what Helton needs to convince fans of one of his main contentions to Dodd: “We’re so much closer than people think.”

We’ll see.

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