Clay Helton interviewing candidates for USC’s defensive coordinator vacancy

USC coach Clay Helton's next defensive coordinator could come from the NFL.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A week after USC fired its defensive coordinator, the search for Clancy Pendergast’s replacement is in full swing.

USC coach Clay Helton has spoken with several possible candidates about the Trojans’ vacant defensive coordinator job, and “at least one” has been on campus to interview, according to a person familiar with the search.

As Helton searches for the right hire to rebuild a defense that fell to 78th nationally in points allowed last season, many of the candidates he’s reached out to have come from the NFL ranks, the person said.


Hiring a defensive coordinator from the NFL would hardly be a departure for Helton, who plucked Pendergast away from the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. But Pendergast’s defenses declined precipitously over four seasons at USC, finishing with a troubling Holiday Bowl defeat last Friday.

With the offseason in full swing, a coordinator hire is not believed to be imminent. But USC is expected to hire Pendergast’s successor before searching for a special-teams coach to replace John Baxter, who was also fired after the bowl game.