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USC's Lane Kiffin reportedly chooses Clancy Pendergast as assistant

Pendergast would succeed Lane Kiffin's father, Monte, as defensive coordinator. He has been California's defensive coordinator for three seasons after working for NFL's Cardinals and Chiefs.

January 18, 2013|By Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times
  • USC Coach Lane Kiffin has reportedly chosen Clancy Pendergast as his new defensive coordinator.
USC Coach Lane Kiffin has reportedly chosen Clancy Pendergast as his new… (William Mancebo / Getty…)

USC Coach Lane Kiffin has selected Clancy Pendergast to become the Trojans' defensive coordinator, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday.

Pendergast's hiring could be formalized in the next few days after the school completes a background check, said the individual, who requested anonymity because the hiring is not yet official.

Pendergast, California's defensive coordinator the last three seasons, would succeed Monte Kiffin as the Trojans' top defensive assistant. Monte Kiffin resigned after the Trojans' disappointing 7-6 season and was recently hired by the Dallas Cowboys.

Pendergast, 45, is a former USC graduate assistant who was defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs before joining Jeff Tedford's staff at Cal.

Tedford was fired after the Golden Bears finished 3-9 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-12 Conference last season.

Lane Kiffin had been searching for a coordinator with experience in the Pac-12, especially one familiar with a 3-4 defensive scheme that could better neutralize Oregon's spread-option and other varied offenses.

"Excited to see what coach Pendergast has planned with our talent!" USC end Devon Kennard posted on his Twitter feed. Kennard said later in a phone interview that players had not officially been informed of Pendergast's hiring but had seen and heard reports. "I heard he's a great coach," he said.

USCfootball.com reported Wednesday that Kiffin was close to hiring Pendergast. But after Chip Kelly left Oregon to become coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Kiffin was expected to make another run at Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. The Oregonian, citing a source close to Aliotti, reported Thursday that Aliotti turned down a chance to join the Trojans.

Pendergast was the Cardinals' defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2008; the team reached the Super Bowl in his final season. He joined the Chiefs staff in 2009.

At Cal, Pendergast oversaw aggressive defenses that performed well his first two seasons before faltering in 2012.

In 2010, the Golden Bears ranked first in the conference and 18th nationally among 120 major-college teams in total defense. They were 13th in sacks. Pendergast received national attention after Cal held Oregon 39 points below its season average in a 15-13 Cal defeat.

In 2011, Cal once again led the Pac-12, and ranked 25th nationally, in total defense.

But last season, the Golden Bears were 93rd in total defense and 96th in scoring defense.

Pendergast takes over a unit that ranked 60th in total defense and tied for 40th in scoring defense but gave up a record 730 yards in a 62-51 loss to Oregon.

Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, the titled defensive coordinator the last three seasons, was promoted to assistant head coach after Monte Kiffin resigned. It remains to be seen whether Pendergast will retain linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton and secondary coach Marvin Sanders.

The Trojans return all but one of their starting defensive linemen but will add Kennard, who was a redshirt last season while recovering from surgery.

All of the starting linebackers return, though Dion Bailey is hoping to move to safety, the position he projects to as a pro.

With cornerback Nickell Robey's early departure to the NFL, the Trojans return no frontline starters from the secondary.

Pendergast also coached in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers and in college at Mississippi State and Oklahoma.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesKlein

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