Clancy Pendergast: Returning to Troy?

So who exactly is Clancy Pendergast should he become USC defensive coordinator returning from the NFL to take over the Trojans defense for a second time.

It's long been rumored, at least for the past month or so, that USC will name Clancy Pendergast as its defensive coordinator some day soon. If so, it would be the second stint for Pendergast as USC defensive coordinator.

But now that it hasn't happened yet for the San Francisco 49ers inside linebackers coach after head coach Jim Tomsula was fired Sunday and Clancy met with USC head coach Clay Helton earlier in the week, Pendergast's name has been linked to the open coordinators' jobs at both Oregon and his alma mater Arizona in the Pac-12. Just as it had earlier to the DC job at LSU that went to Wisconsin's Dave Aranda.

The irony here is that at Oregon, two of the other names mentioned are those of dismissed USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and current linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, both former Oregon players. At LSU, Pendergast would have been getting back together with defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, his colleague and then boss at USC in 2013.

But from everything sources at USC say, Clancy has made it clear that USC is where he wanted to be. And where he wished he hadn't had to leave after the 2013 season. They say it's simply a matter of getting all the contractual details worked out, which would also include those of his NFL contract from the Forty-Niners, who have yet to dismiss their assistant coaches.

But there is this report today from "Yesterday we reported that barring contractual issues Clancy Pendergast was expected to become the new defensive coordinator at USC. Overnight, we heard from a source in California who relays that USC, as of last night, was no longer convinced that it was just contractual issues that was the holdup. There is belief that Oregon continues to make their pitch; and one source said USC 'won’t ultimately be convinced he’s ready to leave the NFL until he signs' with a college team." So there it is. Still up in the air -- at least a bit.

But here's a quick refresher on Pendergast and USC, where in his only season as a full-time USC assistant in 2013, the 24-year coaching veteran served as both secondary coach and defensive coordinator while leading a Trojans pass defense that was second in the Pac-12, allowing just 214.6 yards a game.

In the highlight of that season, at the height of personnel limitations thanks to the NCAA scholarship reductions, and after the firing of head coach Lane Kiffin, USC managed to shut down a No. 4 Stanford team, 20-17, playing just 12 defenders for all but one play and causing the sold-out Coliseum crowd to rush the field in a spectacle seldom seen here.

Other defensive highlights that season had USC opening by holding Hawai'i to 13 points on the road, then Washington State to 10 points in one of the most inexplicable losses in USC history that paved the way for Kiffin's sacking. USC then held a good Boston College team to seven points, Utah State to 14, Notre Dame to 14 on the road in a loss, Utah to three points and Oregon State to 14.

"Smartest defensive coach I've ever worked with," says Orgeron, who took over as interim coach that season, after working as D-line coach with Clancy and his aggressive 5-2 defense that often was lined up in whatever numerical and technique match-up he felt was most likely to work.

The pair made a great team with Ed the emotional leader and dynamic recruiter and Clancy the cerebral designer of defenses that fit the USC personnel.

That Clancy doubled as DC and secondary coach made it all the more impressive. It wasn't all good news that season for the USC defense. The Trojans, in the game that got Kiffin fired, allowed a school-record-tying 62 points in a 21-point loss at Tempe.

That 2013 season marked the first All-American selection of Leonard Williams at defensive end as a 10-4 USC team finished No. 19 in both polls after a 45-20 win over No. 21 Fresno State at the Las Vegas Bowl.

But while Helton and Tee Martin were held over by new coach Steve Sarkisian, Clancy was one of the USC assistants let go. Justin Wilcox, brought in from Washington, succeeded him before being let go last month as defensive coordinator by Helton.

That 2013 season actually was Clancy's second at USC. The 1990 Arizona graduate spent the 1992 season as a grad assistant at USC under head coach Larry Smith after a year as a Mississippi State GA.

The three years before coming to USC in 2013, Clancy turned Cal's Golden Bears around on defense. The first two seasons at Berkeley in 2010 and 2011, Cal led the Pac-12 in total defense, pass defense and fewest first downs allowed. His Cal teams produced nine NFL players, including first-round selection at defensive end Cameron Jordan and the 2011 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Mychal Kendricks.

For the 16 years before his return to the college ranks at Cal, Clancy coached in the NFL with his five years at the Arizona Cardinals as defensive coordinator finishing up with an appearance in Super Bowl XLIII after a season in which his defense registered 28 takeaways and 22 sacks.

Among the Pro Bowl selections from his Cardinals team were safety Adrian Wilson, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and defensive end Bertrand Berry.

Pendergast also coached linebackers with the Cleveland Browns in 2003. Before that, he spent seven seasons from 1996 to 2002 with the Dallas Cowboys as they won won two NFC East titles (1996 and 1998) and made three playoff appearances (1996, 1998-99). The first four years he was a defensive assistant and quality control coach moving on to overseeing Dallas’ nickel defense packages before coaching defensive backs the last two years there.

Those were good times for Clancy as the Cowboys finished second in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game in 2000 (180.1) and first in 2001 (188.7) with secondaries that featured safety Roy Williams and All-Pro safety Darren Woodson.

His first NFL coaching job saw Clancy as defensive assistant/quality control coach in 1995 with the Houston Oilers. That came after four years as a college GA at Mississippi State, then USC and two more years as a grad assistant/tight ends coach at Oklahoma in 1993-94.

And while Clancy, who earned his bachelor's degree in agriculture from Arizona, will say it really doesn't matter, of interest is the fact that his family owned and farmed the land on which the University of Phoenix Stadium, home of this year's College Football Championship Game, was built.

Clancy's first football coaching experience came in Tucson high schools while still a college student at Arizona.

After firing four USC assistants the day after the Pac-12 championship game, Helton has hired two replacements. His brother, Tyson Helton, was named running backs coach/passing game coordinator and Tyson's Western Kentucky colleague, Neil Callaway, the offensive line coach Monday.

USC still must also find a defensive line coach and a secondary coach and decide on how the special teams and recruiting coordinator's duties will be parceled out with the three holdovers -- to this point -- QB coach Marques Tuiasosopo, who is clearly being mentioned for openings at Oregon and UCLA, as well as linebackers coach/recruiting coordinator Sirmon and special teams coach Johnny Nansen.

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