USC names Todd Orlando its new defensive coordinator

USC hired Todd Orlando as its defensive coordinator on Friday.
As expected, USC hired Todd Orlando as its defensive coordinator on Friday.
(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

USC has officially found the new face of its defense.

Todd Orlando was announced as USC’s defensive coordinator Friday, ending a lengthy search for Clancy Pendergast’s replacement that had dragged into its fourth week.

“We are excited to have Todd join our Trojan football program,” USC coach Clay Helton said in a release. “He is an experienced and successful defensive coordinator who has made an impact everywhere he has coached.”

Orlando, 48, spent the last three seasons as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Texas, where he was one of the highest paid assistants in college football. But after successfully rebuilding the Texas defense in his first season, the Longhorns experienced a sharp defensive downturn in 2019. Texas finished 7-5 and Orlando was fired as part of a staff overhaul.

Orlando took a job as the linebackers coach and assistant head coach at Texas Tech soon after. He spent just two weeks as an assistant in Lubbock, before Helton and USC came calling.

The Trojans considered other candidates before settling on Orlando, even getting as far as discussing the parameters of a potential contract with Rams linebackers coach Joe Barry. But Barry and USC opted not to continue their discussions, and Orlando became the leading candidate. The Times first reported his hiring Monday.

“He brings a passion, energy, toughness and discipline to his coaching,” Helton said, “and those characteristics were evident in our discussions. His defensive system poses an extreme challenge to offenses.”

Orlando will take over a talented Trojans defense that progressively declined over Pendergast’s four seasons. In an interview posted on the school’s Twitter account, Orlando promised that his USC defenses would “be aggressive” and “attack people.”

“I really believe that in today’s game, creating negative yardage plays, attacking the quarterback, turnovers, all those things go into creating explosive plays on defense,” Orlando said. “It’s going to be exciting.”


While the scheme is expected to adjust, the possibility of changes to USC’s defensive staff is still up in the air. Orlando has previously doubled as linebackers coach, a position that USC split last season between Johnny Nansen, who coached inside linebackers, and Joe DeForest, who coached outside linebackers. DeForest left last month to coach at North Carolina State.

Before joining Tom Herman’s staff at Texas, Orlando was viewed as a rising defensive mind in college football. As defensive coordinator at Houston in 2015 and 2016, he oversaw a defense that finished 20th and 13th in the nation in yards allowed. At Utah State, where he worked in 2013 and 2014, Orlando’s defenses also finished in the nation’s top 20 in fewest points allowed.

Orlando has 15 years of experience as a collegiate defensive coordinator in total, with previous stops at Florida International and Connecticut.