WSU DC SEARCH: Would Pendergast be right fit?

THE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR name being tossed around cyberspace most these days by a pensive Cougar Nation pondering the impending hire? Clancy Pendergast. And it received a substantial bump when Bruce Feldman, a reporter close to Mike Leach who co-authored Swing Your Sword, came out this week with a glowing article on Pendergast. So what's the story on this guy?

The conventional wisdom 24 hours after the Cougs' d-coordinator search began in earnest 12 days ago was that a hire would happen quickly. “I would expect we may have someone in place sooner than later,” AD Bill Moos said on his radio show the day after Mike Breske was fired.

You can debate what "sooner than later" means ... but here we are 12 days later.

In that time, the conventional wisdom has shifted more towards this: Mike Leach must be targeting a DC who either has a bowl game upcoming, or one who wants to play the field and see what other options might surface, or both.

The thinking being, if the guy Leach wanted didn't have a bowl game to prep for and/or was currently unemployed, well then he sure as shootin' would have been hired by now at WSU.

Here's another possible scenario: the guy is currently unemployed, but is nevertheless still in a position given the body of work on his résumé to wait (at least for a little while) and see what his options are without fear of losing an offer.

Indeed, a rabid Cougar fan I know (I'll call him Mulder) takes it a step further. He firmly believes 1) Clancy Pendergast is who WSU is waiting on and 2) Men in Black was more Area 51 documentary than science fiction. To wit, his conspiracy theory is that Feldman's article was deployed to put all other potential suitors on the clock.

He posits that if those other suitors don't move by Monday latest, Leach is going to announce Pendergast as his new DC sometime early next week. (I hope he's right because it would mean he'd stop calling me at 1 a.m. to talk about Pendergast).

THE BIG UNANSWERED question on Pendergast (now that we are fully into in the silly season of coaching hirings, firings and moves) is why he was out of work in 2014.

Pendergast, variously reported as either 45 or 47 years old, spent one season at USC in 2013. The Trojans' defense went from middle of the pack the previous year (60th nationally, No. 7 Pac-12) to No. 13 in the land and tops in the Pac-12 (total defense) under Pendergast. But Steve Sarkisian wanted to bring in his own guy in Justin Wilcox and Pendergast was sent packing.

The three seasons prior, Pendergast was the DC at Cal, where he affected an even bigger turnaround -- Cal defensively went from 70th nationally in 2009 (7th, Pac-12) to a No. 18 national ranking and tops in the Pac-12 in Pendergast's first season as the Bears DC. He followed that up with a No. 25-ranked defense nationally in 2011, again No. 1 in the Pac-12.

In 2012, things went south. Cal ranked No. 93 in total defense and 10th in the Pac-12. Head coach Jeff Tedford, along with Pendergast, got the boot.

I'm not saying he should get a pass on that final season in Berkeley but it is worth noting Cal's defensive problems in '12 might have been more about recruiting and other factors than anything else. And that's because in 2013, while Pendergast was turning around USC's defense, Cal's defense drove off a cliff under the new DC, ranking 122nd out of 123 FBS teams in total defense. (Then-Cal DC Andy Buh, who previously did some good work at Wisconsin, Nevada and Stanford, was demoted after the season and let go entirely a few months later.)

ADD IT ALL up on Pendergast and you have three seasons in the Pac-12 where his defense was No. 1 in the conference and in the top 25 all three years in total defense -- and one bad year.

Prior to that four-year college ball stint, Pendergast was an NFL assistant for 14 seasons from 1996-2009, with six spent as a DC in the NFL.

So why hasn't the NFL come calling since he was let go at USC?

It's the same as the college football question -- nobody seems to know.

Setting that aside for the moment, would Pendergast be a good fit at Washington State? In Feldman's article, Pendergast made clear he desperately wants to get back into coaching after a year away from the game. "Whether it's college or the NFL, I've always enjoyed developing the younger players," Pendergast says in Feldman's article.

How about that.

The Cougs ... young they were on defense this past season.

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