Kliff Kingsbury leaves USC for NFL job

Going pro· Former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury was briefly hired as a USC offensive coordinator. (Photo from Bleacher Report/Twitter)

USC offensive coordinator  and quarterbacks coach Kliff Kingsbury is leaving the team to take the head coach position with the Arizona Cardinals, according to Fox Sports. Kingsbury, who was hired on Dec. 5, will depart without coaching a single game for the Trojans.

Kingsbury replaced Tee Martin as offensive coordinator 10 days after being fired from his position as head coach at Texas Tech, Kingsbury’s alma mater. The 39-year-old coach accepted the position at USC despite reports of significant interest from NFL teams.

However, in the last week, Kingsbury’s future with the program was subjected to serious doubt. Reports that NFL teams wanted to interview Kingsbury for their head coaching positions resurfaced, but Athletic Director Lynn Swann blocked the Cardinals and New York Jets from interviewing Kingsbury, ESPN reported.

NBC’s Pro Football Talk reported Saturday that Kingsbury could use the small buyout in his contract to leave the program and be free to interview with NFL teams. However, Swann then modified his stance and allowed NFL teams to talk to Kingsbury.

Kingsbury interviewed with the Jets on Monday, according to The Athletic. NFL Network subsequently reported that Kingsbury was being interviewed by the Cardinals Tuesday morning — hours later, Kingsbury made the jump to the NFL, leaving USC’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach positions vacant once more.

Although Kingsbury’s Red Raider teams struggled on the defensive end, he was widely pegged as the perfect candidate to improve a Trojan offense that underachieved in 2018. His sudden departure might be hard to fathom in the moment, but Swann and Helton will need to resume their search for a new talented offensive mind.

Utah State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach David Yost is a potential candidate. The Aggies rode a prolific offense to a 10-2 record in 2018, as their 47.5 points per game ranked second in the nation. At USC, Yost would fill the same role as at Utah State while making an upward move to one of the blue-blood football programs in the country.

Fans may question Yost’s accomplishments because they came at the expense of non-Power 5 opponents, but Utah State was competitive in matchups with ranked teams Michigan State and Boise State. In addition, the performance of Aggies sophomore quarterback Jordan Love would be encouraging for USC fans looking for growth from freshman signal-caller JT Daniels.

Fresno State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kalen DeBoer is another possible solution because of his ability to improve struggling offenses. When DeBoer took over at Eastern Michigan in 2014, the Eagles ranked No. 124 in total offense. By DeBoer’s final season in 2016, the Eagles ranked No. 35. Similarly, Fresno State ranked No. 127 in offensive efficiency in 2016, the year before DeBoer arrived, but it finished last season at No. 35.

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