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Reports: USC not retaining three defensive assistants

New defensive coordinator Todd Orlando was set to make a major impact on USC’s defense this season. Now, the defense looks set to reflect Orlando even more.

On Sunday, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported that USC is set to part ways with defensive backs coach Greg Burns, linebackers coach Johnny Nansen and defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a.

This means USC won’t bring back a single defensive coach from the 2019 staff, as outside linebackers coach Joe DeForest already departed for North Carolina State and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was dismissed shortly following the Holiday Bowl.

Nansen coached at USC for six seasons, coming over from Washington with former head coach Steve Sarkisian. He coached running backs, linebackers and special teams, while serving as recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach during his tenure with the Trojans.

Greg Burns just finished the first season of his second stint at USC. Burns previously coached the Trojans from 2002-2005 and was with Oregon State in 2018 before coming to USC. Burns connected strongly with his position group and was well respected and liked by those players. Freshman Chris Steele posted his thoughts to twitter following the report.

Chad Kauha’aha’a spent one season at USC. Since 2009, Kauha’aha’a has coached at Utah State, Utah, Wisconsin, Oregon State, Boise State and USC. He’s another coach his players spoke highly of throughout the season.

At this point, Orlando is the only defensive coach officially announced by USC, though it’s only a matter of time before Craig Naivar is announced as the Trojans’ safeties coach. Orlando has extensive experience coaching linebackers, so he could fill that position on that side of the ball.

This coaching overhaul means that Clay Helton is the only coach on the roster holding the same position he did during the 2018 5-7 season. Tim Drevno coached running backs that year but moved to the offensive line last season. Keary Colbert coached tight ends and inside receivers that year before taking over the wide receiver position last season.

This is also unfortunate timing for this news in just about every respect. Orlando will now have the opportunity to fill out his own defensive staff, but this is coming just a few days before Wednesday’s signing day, less than a day after USC held a huge event for juniors, sophomores and freshmen, where they could meet and spend time with the Trojans coaching staff, a few hours before the Super Bowl kicked off, and potentially late enough in the coaching turnover season where it could be difficult for the dismissed coaches to find landing spots. USC certainly isn’t the first school to be on the “bad look” end of coaching upheaval, and ultimately this decision will be judged by whether it leads to success on the field, but in terms of immediate judgement, it’s unfortunate timing.

As of now, USC’s coaching staff is comprised of head coach Clay Helton, offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, offensive line coach Tim Drevno, running backs coach Mike Jinks, wide receivers coach Keary Colbert and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. Like Naivar with the safeties, John David Baker is reportedly, but not yet announced as officially, a new USC assistant and will be responsible for tight ends and inside receivers.

Erik McKinney

Erik McKinney began writing for WeAreSC in 2004, during his junior year at USC, covering the Trojans football team and recruiting. He then moved on to ESPN.com in 2011, where he served as the West Region recruiting reporter and then the Pac-12 recruiting reporter. He took over as publisher of WeAreSC in January, 2019.

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