Another vacant spot on the USC coaching staff appears set to be filled, as the Trojans are close to announcing a new special teams coach, who comes with a slight USC connection, and a very recognizable college football connection.
According to multiple media reports, and first reported by The Mercury Sports’ Ryan Black, former Kansas State special teams coach Sean Snyder is expected to be named the Trojans new special teams coach, replacing John Baxter, who was recently fired by Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton. Last season at Kansas State, Snyder served as senior special teams analyst for new coach Chris Klieman, who replaced Snyder’s legendary father, Bill Snyder, who retired following the 2018 season.
Sean Snyder’s special teams have been acknowledged as being among the best in the nation, and there is a USC connection in Snyder’s College Football Hall of Fame father, Bill, who was once a member of John McKay’s USC coaching staff in 1966. For the record, the 1966 Trojans finished the season 7-4 but played in the 1967 Rose Bowl game against Purdue, a game in which the Trojans’ lost dramatically, 14-13, when McKay elected to go for a two-point conversion late in the final quarter. The two-point conversation attempt ended with a pass being intercepted in the end zone.
Sean Snyder, 50, a former consensus Kansas St. All-American punter, was named the 2015 FootballScoop Special Teams Coordinator of the Year as well as the 2015 and 2017 Special Teams Coordinator of the Year by Phil Steele.
According to Snyder’s K-St. bio, “K-State’s special-teams units were one of the most consistent in the nation under his tutelage as the Wildcats set or tied eight team records since 2011, while Wildcats etched their names at the top of 20 individual marks. Snyder coached players to 27 total All-America honors and 21 All-Big 12 honors. K-State also boasted the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year in three consecutive seasons with Tyler Lockett earning the nod in 2013 and 2014, before Morgan Burns did so in 2015. Burns, who led the nation in kickoff-return touchdowns (4) and ranked third nationally in kickoff-return average in 2015, also set a conference record by being named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week each of the final four weeks of the regular season.”
Freshman Joshua Youngblood averaged 35.9 yards per kickoff return and took three back for touchdowns in 2019. As a team, Kansas State finished No. 1 in kickoff returns, with a 29.5-yard average and four touchdowns under Snyder’s coaching. USC averaged 21.1 yards with one touchdown in the season-opener. Kansas State also finished 37th nationally in punt returns last season, with a 10.19-yard average and one returned for a score. The only special teams area where the Wildcats struggled at all in 2019 was defending punts, as Kansas State allowed 10 punts to be returned 126 yards, and the 12.6-yard average was good for just 117th nationally. But punter Devin Antcil was a Ray Guy Award finalist.
At USC, Snyder will have plenty of special teams talent to work with. Punter Ben Griffiths is set to return for his second season. Kickers Chase McGrath and Michael Brown are back, as is long snapper Damon Johnson. Longtime kick returner Velus Jones entered his name onto the transfer portal, but the Trojans should have plenty of options there, including running backs Stephen Carr and Kenan Christon, cornerbacks Olaijah Griffin and Adonis Otey, wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Gary Bryant, as well as other. Tyler Vaughns and St. Brown have operated as USC’s main punt returners the last two seasons and both are back for 2020.
Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton, along with his new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, are still looking to hire a new defensive line and cornerbacks coach to complete the staff. Helton said there is a cornerbacks being targeted that he hopes to name soon, and also that the entire coaching search should be wrapped up within the next two weeks.
As of now, USC’s coaching staff is made up of:
Head coach: Clay Helton
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks: Graham Harrell
Running backs: Mike Jinks
Offensive line: Tim Drevno
Tight ends: John David Baker
Wide receivers: Keary Colbert
Defensive coordinator (and linebackers?): Todd Orlando
Safeties: Craig Naivar
Special teams: Sean Snyder