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Three defensive coaches fired as USC shakes up football staff

Three defensive coaches fired as USC shakes up football staff
USC defensive backs coach Keith Heyward talks to his players during a game against Idaho earlier this season. (Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

A day after losing to Stanford in the Pac-12 Conference title game to Stanford, USC Coach Clay Helton is shaking up his staff.

Keith Heyward, defensive backs coach for the last two seasons, said Helton told him Sunday that he would not return.

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Asked if other coaches had also been informed they would not be back, Heyward said he did not want to comment on the situation of others.

But other people close to the situation said defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach Chris Wilson were let go and receivers coach Tee Martin and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon were retained. USC plays Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30.

Heyward, who worked under former coach Steve Sarkisian at Washington before coming with him to USC, said Helton met with him to deliver the news. He said he was surprised.

"I was told it was nothing other than they wanted to go in another direction," Heyward said. "This is the business.

"Coach Helton has a vision and I respect that. I wish him well and USC well."

Heyward said he thought he coached well, especially with a group that suffered numerous injuries. Heyward said he would not coach in the Holiday Bowl, but was confident he would find a job and continue on a career path to become a defensive coordinator and head coach.

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