Clancy Pendergast returns to USC as defensive coordinator

USC has hired Clancy Pendergast as its new defensive coordinator, sources told ESPN, returning him to a role he had with the Trojans for the 2013 season.

Multiple media outlets also reported Pendergast's hiring.

Pendergast replaces Justin Wilcox, who was not retained by USC coach Clay Helton.

Pendergast returns to USC after he was not retained by then-coach Steve Sarkisian in advance of the 2014 season. Before taking a job with the San Francisco 49ers, he interviewed with Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, who opted to stay in-house and promote linebackers coach Don Pellum.

This week, Pellum was demoted back to linebackers coach, and Pendergast reportedly talked to Helfrich about the coordinator vacancy again before opting to join Helton's staff.

Pendergast led A-list defenses at California and USC, becoming one of the early leaders on the odd-front, 3-4 look that has become the most popular scheme in the Pac-12 and nationwide as teams try to get more speed on the field to combat spread, uptempo offenses.

A longtime NFL assistant when he joined Jeff Tedford at Cal in 2010, Pendergast had an immediate impact. In the his first year, the Bears ranked third in scoring defense, second in yards per play, third in pass-efficiency defense and third in third-down conversion rate. In his second year, Cal was fourth in scoring, first in yards per play, second in pass-efficiency defense and third in third-down conversion rate.

In 2012, the numbers fell dramatically, and Tedford was fired, but Pendergast had a successful landing at USC for one season under Lane Kiffin. Amid more than a few off-field distractions and team turmoil in Kiffin's final season, the Trojans yielded just 21.2 points per game, which ranked third in the conference and is four points fewer than the last two defenses under Wilcox.

USC will be rebuilding its defense next fall, particularly its front seven, but the Trojans' secondary should be strong, led by young cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and Iman Marshall.