It’s a tough position USC is in right now. With two seasons left of scholarship reductions stemming from NCAA sanctions, it’s not the best time to make a substantial coaching hire or changes.
However, Monte Kiffin has resigned and will have to be replaced.
Sure, the Trojans could go out and hire a big-name heavy hitter like alumnus Jack Del Rio—and that’s what much of the fanbase (see Twitter, USC message boards, Facebook, etc) is demanding. It is unlikely that Del Rio would leave the Broncos to become a collegiate coordinator, though.
No, I think the only way Del Rio would come is if he is offered the head coach position. And let’s not forget, Del Rio has turned that position down once before—plus he is in a good position with the Broncos to potentially win a Super Bowl in the next few years.
Why would he leave Denver now? Granted, the pull of the Trojan family is great and USC does have a pretty big bank account, but I don’t see Del Rio coming to Troy before sanctions are over (if ever).
What USC is more likely to do is hire someone who is a career defensive coordinator or someone coming off a disastrous head coaching gig. This person is likely to be a band aid until Lane Kiffin leaves USC.
And Tommy Trojan willing, let’s hope that happens in the next 24 months at most.
So let’s take a look at some more viable options to replace Monte Kiffin. By the way, as a fan and writer, I refuse to consider former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik a viable candidate. That man has the NCAA swirling around him like a bunch of vultures after a particularly meaty carcass. No way squeaky clean all-American AD Pat Haden goes after him.
Probably the easiest (but not the best) thing for the Trojans to do is to promote Ed Orgeron. Currently, his title is defensive coordinator/defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator, but make no mistake, he had little to no control over the defense during Monte’s reign.
Orgeron is a longtime USC assistant who is one of the most valuable parts of the USC recruiting machine. While promoting him to the position he actually holds the title for would be easy, it is not the right choice. Orgeron’s convincing personality needs to focus on recruiting.
The 46-year-old University of Miami alumnus currently serves as the linebackers coach at TCU. However, it is Shannon’s prowess with the Hurricanes defense that is particularly of interest here.
This man is a classic example of someone who is a superstar coordinator but not a head coach. As architect of the ‘Canes’ 2002 NCAA title-winning defense, Shannon has shown he has what it takes to turn USC back into the defensive powerhouse it was during the Pete Carroll era.
Shannon’s Hurricanes defenses ranked in the Top Seven in the country during his six-year reign as defensive coordinator for Miami. Shannon is also a formidable recruiter with a track record of focusing on the whole student-athlete, not just the athlete part.
He would be my top choice to replace Monte Kiffin.
Another attractive option for the Trojans is DeWayne Walker. He is the current beleaguered head coach of New Mexico State University. He was the very first coach beloved former USC coach Pete Carroll hired in 2001. Walker was in charge of the secondary while at USC and he had spent the previous three seasons in that role with the New England Patriots, where he met Carroll.
Walker has also spent time with USC’s biggest rival, UCLA, as well as the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Utah State, BYU, Oklahoma State and Cal.
Walker is a solid and impressive defensive mind and it is not wrong to expect that he’d slip back into the defensive coordinator role at USC after his first gig as head coach with ease.
To me, these are the three most likely and best candidates given USC’s current situation. There are a ton more I like—such as Georgia DC Todd Grantham, but I believe he will be up for a head coaching gig very soon, if not this season.