Pendergast, Baxter relieved of coaching duties

In the last few weeks of the 2019 USC football season, head coach Clay Helton and athletic director Mike Bohn said they would spend time over the offseason considering potential changes to the coaching staff heading into 2020. 

Those changes began just one day after the season finale. Helton announced Saturday that defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and special teams coordinator/tight ends coach John Baxter will not return for next season. 

“I want to thank Coach Pendergast and Coach Baxter for their dedicated service and efforts,” Helton said. “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 moves come on the heels of a blowout loss to No. 16 Iowa Friday at the SDCCU Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The Trojans were steamrolled by the Hawkeyes for 49 points, including touchdowns on each of Iowa’s first four offensive drives and a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown in the second quarter.

But the changes have been expected since long before Friday’s loss. USC’s defense entered Saturday ranked No. 77 nationally with 408.7 yards allowed per game this season. 

USC surrendered 56 points to No. 6 Oregon on Nov. 2 and even struggled against weaker competition this year. The Trojans allowed 35 points to UCLA, 31 points to Colorado and 30 points to BYU.

“Although we did fight through adversity all season and we showed improvement over the previous year, my coaching staff and I fell short of fielding a championship team,” Helton said. “We are taking immediate steps to improve our competitiveness and meet the winning expectations of our student-athletes and fans.”

Baxter’s special teams unit ranked last in college football this season in kickoff return coverage and allowed two kickoff return touchdowns. He had served as USC’s special teams coordinator since 2016 and also worked as the associate head coach and special teams coordinator from 2010-2013. 

USC also saw another change to the coaching staff Saturday when outside linebackers coach Joe DeForest accepted a safeties coach job at North Carolina State. DeForest spent just one season in the role at USC after being promoted from defensive analyst in December of 2018.

No replacement for any of the three positions has been named.

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