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USC Defensive Coordinator Candidates: Who Could Lane Kiffin Pick?

The USC Trojans defensive coordinator boards are lighting up with every possible candidate out there, but Lane Kiffin might really try to find someone that best fits his situation based on his up-and-down coaching status.


Lane Kiffin is going to be the head coach of the USC Trojans in 2013. The big question is whether he'll be the head coach in 2014.

Considering USC might be in rebuilding mode after losing Matt Barkley and improvement is probably a prerequisite to returning.

So you can see why Kiffin would take his time to find the best potential defensive coordinator candidate possible. Monte Kiffin's poor defenses are a major part of the reason Lane is under fire right now, and he'll need to figure out what to do from here.

Here are the candidates according to the USC Rivals hot board.

Former head coaches who were defensive coordinators

Here are the names listed.

  • Gene Chizik, ex-Auburn head coach
  • Randy Shannon, ex-Miami head coach, current TCU linebacker coach

I don't see Kiffin going after another head coach (aside from maybe Walker, who has been dreadful in New Mexico State) for his defensive coordinator. If the season goes south quickly, there will be too much temptation for USC to part with Kiffin early and get a coaching search underway as quickly as possible.

Chizik obviously has plenty of red flags from his time at Auburn (and his ending was anything but glorious), but USC would probably not mind testing him on an interim basis if needed. Almost immediately, Shannon would be circulated as a potential head coaching candidate if things didn't work out. That'd cause too much turmoil through the season, I doubt Kiffin will go this route.

Current or former Pac-12 defensive coordinators

  • Justin Wilcox, Washington
  • Mark Banker, Oregon State
  • Derek Mason, Stanford
  • Clancy Pendergast, formerly at Cal
  • DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State head coach, formerly at UCLA

I find it hard to believe Wilcox and Mason will aim for a lateral move, and probably in a less favorable environment. The USC defensive coordinator will be quick to get sacked in a Lane Kiffin offense. Considering how high Wilcox's and Mason's stocks are, they might be happy where they are with solid pay and a potential shot at being a head coach in a year if they play their cards right.

Banker is an interesting name, and one USC should consider. Oregon State's defense have historically played USC's very tough, perhaps the toughest in the conference on a year-to-year basis. Also, with another dreaded USC visit to Corvallis this year, getting Banker away from the Beavers would be a huge coup. The question is whether Banker would be willing to live one of the most comfortable college football coaching spots in America for tougher waters.

Pendergast is a possibility, particularly considering the results he produced with USC's offense. The results he produced were pretty good at Cal, including having one of the top defenses in the conference his first two years. Considering the Bears had a pretty putrid offense for most of those three seasons, Pendergast definitely has the resume to reverse USC's defense quickly.

DeWayne Walker's name continues to be circulated. Walker seems to be interested in the job, and he definitely has a track record of solid defense at UCLA. However, he hasn't coached in the Pac-12 since 2008, and it's safe to say the conference has VASTLY changed since his time with the Bruins--nine teams have changed coaches and philosophies. His lack of familiarity with the new offenses could move him down the list.


  • Joe Barry, USC linebackers coach
  • Pete Kwiatkowski, Boise State defensive coordinator
  • Bob Shoop, Vanderbilt defensive coordinator

Barry might just happen because Kiffin might just want someone he's familiar with. Obviously Barry hasn't impressed with the Chargers, but he did pretty good things with the Trojan linebacker corps last year and provides a familiar face. At times like this, familiarity could be important for a besieged head coach.

Kwiatkowski is an interesting name. Could he be the next Justin Wilcox? It'd definitely be an out-of-the-box hire for Kiffin.

I'd be hard-pressed to think Shoop will leave Vanderbilt, since the Commodores will probably match to keep the coaching staff intact.