Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and special teams coach John Baxter will not return for the 2020 season, per a USC Athletics media release.
“I want to thank coach Pendergast and coach Baxter for their dedicated service and efforts,” Helton said in the release. “However, in evaluating our team’s performance this year and after consulting with AD Mike Bohn, it is evident that these changes are necessary.”
The changes come on the tails of a 49-24 Holiday Bowl blowout loss to Iowa on Friday. The Trojans’ defense allowed 21 unanswered points in the second half, and only managed to stop five of 14 Iowa drives — the rest resulted in touchdowns. The special teams broke down in its own way allowing a 98-yard kickoff return to the Hawkeyes’ junior wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
USC is ranked at No. 77 for total defense, while the special teams unit made countless mistakes this year — including a 60-yard kick return that was called back because two players wore No. 7 on the field.
After the loss, Baxter told the media that he believes he can be the coach for USC special teams. Pendergast did not speak to the media.
This was Pendergast’s fifth season as defensive coordinator at USC. He came on in 2013 under Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron, left for two seasons to coach the San Francisco 49ers, then rejoined the Trojans under Helton in 2016.
His coaching style came under question last season when his players began racking up costly penalties and missing easy tackles.
Pendergast has served as a defensive coach for six NFL and two NCAA teams.
Baxter also joined the USC staff under Kiffin and Orgeron, in 2010. FootballScoop named him National Special Teams Coordinator of the Year in 2011, and he coached a season-long stint at Michigan in 2015 before returning to USC.
The Trojans’ 8-5 2019 record marks the first time since 2001 that USC has had back to back five-plus loss seasons. The double-fire leaves linebackers coach Johnny Nansen as the sole remaining member of Clay Helton’s 2016 coaching staff.