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Kenechi Udeze hired as USC defensive line coach

Kenechi Udeze hired as USC defensive line coach
Former Trojan Keneche Udeze, center, has been hired to be USC's defensive line coach. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Former USC All-America defensive end Kenechi Udeze has been hired to coach the Trojans' defensive line, Coach Clay Helton announced Tuesday.

Udeze, a former first-round NFL draft pick, had been an assistant strength coach at USC for the last two seasons, but he coached the defensive line in the Holiday Bowl against Wisconsin.

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"There are times in your career when you meet someone and just know that they are going to be a superstar in the profession," Helton said in a statement released by the school. "Kenechi is that person. I was blown away by his attention to detail with technique and fundamentals in our recent bowl game preparation and in the interview process.

"His knowledge of the game is something that is going to be critical to the development of our young defensive line. Kenechi is a Trojan to the core and his passion for USC is felt by all."

Udeze's hiring completes a staff that includes Tee Martin (offensive coordinator and receivers coach), Clancy Pendergast (defensive coordinator), Tyson Helton (quarterbacks), Tommie Robinson (running backs), Neil Callaway (offensive line), Johnny Nansen (linebackers/recruiting coordinator), Ronnie Bradford (secondary) and John Baxter (special teams/tight ends).

Udeze, 32, attended Los Angeles Verbum Dei High. He developed into an outstanding pass rusher at USC and led major college football with 16 1/2 sacks in 2003. Udeze declared for the draft with a season of eligibility remaining and was selected 20th overall by the Minnesota Vikings.

He played four NFL seasons before he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He sat out the 2008 season while receiving treatment, attempted a brief comeback before the 2009 season and then retired.

Udeze worked as an assistant strength coach at the University of Washington and the University of Pittsburgh, as a coaching fellow with the Vikings and as a defensive line intern for the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills.

"You've got to learn the individual to get the most out of him," Udeze said in December, explaining his philosophy. "I'm not going to ask a guy who has limited ability to go jump over three cars and go make a play.

"It's about giving everyone the right techniques and fundamentals to be efficient and effective on a down-to-down basis."

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @LATimesKlein

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