It was only a matter of time before this move was made, but now it’s time to look forward. Here are five candidates to take over the Trojans defense.
USC Defensive Coordinator Candidates
Morgan Scalley, Utah
There aren’t too many that have done more with less than Utah’s defensive coordinator, Morgan Scalley. The Utes continue to be plagued with injury in 2023, but that hasn’t stopped them from producing one of the best units in college football.
Scalley and the Utes coaching staff know how to get the most out of the talent on their roster, something that USC hasn’t seen for years, even before Grinch came. Utah’s depth continues to be the most impressive thing about this season because the backups pick up where the starters left off.
Just ask USC how much fun it is to face Scalley. He’s been a thorn in Lincoln Riley’s side the last couple of years, so an easy way to fix it is to bring him over from Salt Lake City. Imagine how good USC could be with an electric offense and a defense that swarms and wreaks havoc.
Dave Aranda, Baylor
Baylor’s coming off another disappointing loss, this time to Houston. It feels like it’s only a matter of time before Aranda gets the boot. Assuming he gets fired, he should be high on the list of coaches to call.
Aranda’s work at LSU and Wisconsin put him on the map nationally as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football, and he won’t be out of a job for long due to that. He’s also worked with some of the best talent in the country, so it would be a huge culture shift for him to come out West and work with future NFL players.
Phil Parker, Iowa
This serves both parties well. A two-sided rescue mission, if you will. USC needs a new defensive coordinator. Parker needs his offense off life support. Like Scalley, Parker’s done more with less during his tenure in Iowa City.
Iowa’s defense allows just over four yards per play this year, and it’s a defense that’s carried the team the entire season. Parker’s produced a number of NFL Draft picks as well, so it’s not like he’s just building good college players.
Manny Diaz, Penn State
Everyone has a number; it’s just whether USC and Diaz can agree on one. The Trojans have proven they’re ready to spend to improve their football team, and the first step was firing Grinch.
Manny Diaz currently coaches the second-best defense in college football, so he might not be the easiest to get. He also may be looking for a head coaching job. So, it might take some convincing to get him, but it’s worth trying.
Joe Rossi, Minnesota
There are a number of up-and-coming defensive coordinators that Riley should consider when making this move. Guys like Tulane’s Shiel Wood and Minnesota’s Joe Rossi stand out the most. Riley needs to identify a coach who’s on the rise and gets the most out of his talent.
The reason why Rossi makes the list is because it’s no guarantee that USC gets one of the high-profile guys. Riley might have to find someone who will come at a cheaper price, too. Rossi has proven to be one of the more underappreciated coordinators in college football, and he’d be a great addition to revive the Trojans’ defense.
Rossi gets his units to play as one, and USC needs that more than ever now. The Gophers front seven continues to be one of the toughest in the country, and we saw this weekend that the Trojans need a boost in that department. If Rossi can get Minnesota’s talent to play the way they have, imagine what he could do with 4 and 5-star talent.
Other to consider: Illinois analyst Jim Leonard, Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English, Tulane defensive coordinator Shiel Wood, Nebraska defensive coordinator Tony White, Florida State defensive coordinator Adam Fuller, Cal head coach Justin Wilcox