USC assistant John David Baker leaving for job at Mississippi

A USC helmet sits on the bench in the second half, during a game against BYU.
John David Baker is leaving the Trojans to go work under former USC coach Lane Kiffin.
(Associated Press)

Two years after Graham Harrell convinced him to leave North Texas for USC, John David Baker is striking out on his own.

The Trojans tight ends and inside receivers coach will leave USC for Mississippi, a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly said Friday.

Baker will continue to coach tight ends under former USC coach Lane Kiffin and will add the title of passing game coordinator, a role at USC that’s largely handled by Harrell, the Trojans’ offensive coordinator.

Baker’s close relationship with Harrell that led him to Los Angeles, after the two spent three years together on the staff at North Texas. While Harrell worked as offensive coordinator, the coaches grew close as Baker, a former quarterback at Abilene Christian, served as a quality control assistant.

K.D. Nixon is transferring from Colorado to USC for his final year of eligibility. He adds depth to a group that includes Drake London, Bru McCoy and Gary Bryant Jr.

He held the same job at USC during his first season in 2019 before being elevated to tight ends and inside receivers coach ahead of this season. It was a strange first year as a full-time assistant for Baker, with USC playing just six games during a pandemic-altered season. USC tight ends played only a minor role in the offense, catching 15 passes.

USC saw far more success from Baker’s inside receivers, as sophomore Drake London had a stellar season, leading the Trojans in yards receiving (503).

USC safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, a team captain in 2020, announced Friday he will play for the Trojans again next season.


At Mississippi, Baker will inherit a position group that just lost one of the best tight ends in the Southeastern Conference. Only Florida’s Kyle Pitts, selected as the John Mackey Award winner, was better than the Rebels’ Kenny Yeboah among SEC tight ends in 2020. Yeboah is off to the NFL, leaving Baker with a blank slate at the position.