Source: Pendergast returning to USC to lead Trojans’ defense

Clancy Pendergast was not retained when Steve Sarkisian was hired as USC's head coach.

Kirby Lee/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Clancy Pendergast is returning to USC to again run the Trojans’ defense, a source told FOX Sports on Thursday.

Pendergast spent 2015 as an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers after sitting out the 2014 season.

In 2013, he turned the Trojans from a unit that ranked No. 7 in the Pac-12 to No. 1. A few years earlier, he sparked as dramatic a turnaround when he took over Cal’s defense and made it the conference’s top-rated D. Pendergast gained a rep in coaching circles for having a handle on containing the spread after his 2010 Bears slowed down Chip Kelly’s prolific offense, holding them to 40 points below their average. However, when Steve Sarkisian was hired as USC’s new coach, he opted to not retain Pendergast.

At USC in 2013, he took a unit that ran a 4-3 and changed it to a 5-2 with some 3-4 principles, and despite having almost no depth, the Trojans put a fierce D on the field. They won 10 games despite having all sorts of off-field drama with three different head coaches.

Since Pendergast left USC, the Trojans defense, which returned eight starters, dropped to No. 78 nationally in 2014, down from No. 13 in 2013. This fall, under Justin Wilcox, the Trojans were slightly better but not much, ranking No. 65.

"Clancy was fantastic," said Ed Orgeron, who went 6-2 as the Trojans’ interim head coach last season, told FOX in 2014. "His strength is game-day calling. He knows how to attack the no-huddle and really can adjust to what the other team’s trying to do. He doesn’t panic on the sidelines, and the guy really has no ego.

"Look at what he’s done as a defensive coordinator at ‘SC, at Cal and in the NFL. He gets results, and he gets them quick."

Before his time in the Pac-12, Pendergast also helped the Arizona Cardinals get to a Super Bowl.