Lincoln Riley keeps Alex Grinch as USC defensive coordinator with Trojans eyeing big move in 2023

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Alex Grinch will be retained as USC’s defensive coordinator in 2023, Trojans coach Lincoln Riley confirmed Tuesday. Grinch followed Riley to Los Angeles from Oklahoma but has caught fire after several lackluster defensive performances in his four years working with Riley.

“I know what he’s made of. I just do. I know what’s ready to happen defensively. And so, I just have confidence and belief there, no only in Alex, but the other boys in the room,” Riley said.

Grinch joined Riley at Oklahoma after success at Washington State and a mediocre tenure as defensive coordinator at Ohio State. In his first season, Grinch helped transform the Sooners from the No. 114 overall defense in college football to a top-40 unit, headlined by holding Texas to just 310 yards and 2.8 yards per carry. in a 34-27 win. The unit improved to No. 29 in total defense in 2020.

However, the Grinch’s defense has improved over the past two seasons and reached new heights since moving to Los Angeles. The Trojans blew a 15-point lead with just 4:30 left in a 46-45 Cotton Bowl loss to Tulane on Jan. 2 in one of the worst finishes of the season. In three losses in an 11-3 campaign, the Grinch’s defense allowed 136 points and 1,634 yards — pretty much a mile full of total offense.

There were rumors that Riley might consider a move to defensive coordinator on the heels of the Cotton Bowl meltdown, but Riley told reporters that no personnel changes were expected on either side of the ball outside of the coach’s Interim receivers Luke Huard earn full time. position after former receivers coach Dave Nichol tragically died of cancer.

Grinch has now become one of the most scrutinized assistant coaches in college football. USC was a pair of Utah games away from earning their first trip to the College Football Playoff, but the Utes scored a combined 90 points in the two sweeps of the Grinch defense. The Grinch hasn’t held a ranked opponent below 27 points since the 2020 Cotton Bowl against Florida when the Gators were without quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts.

The USC staff has been aggressive in the transfer window, however, adding five defensive players to join the 12 defensive transfers from the previous recruiting class. Complicating matters is the fact that first-team All-American defensive end Tuli Tuipulotu and senior cornerback Mekhi Blackmon have left for the NFL Draft.

Still, another finish outside the top 90 overall and scoring defense, especially with Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams leading the charge on the other side of the ball , Riley looks at a new direction for 2024.

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