Jan. 11, 2016 – Clancy Pendergast, who has coordinated some of the top defenses in the NFL and in college since the mid-2000s and is known for his aggressive defenses that use creative schemes to create pressure, has returned to USC as the defensive coordinator after spending a season with the San Francisco 49ers, USC head coach Clay Helton announced today (Jan. 11).
This will be the third stint at USC for Pendergast, who most recently was at Troy in 2013 and molded the Trojan defense into one of the nation’s best that season. He has 24 years of coaching experience, including 16 in the NFL.
“We are very excited to announce the return of Clancy Pendergast as our defensive coordinator,” said Helton. “I have had the good fortune to watch Clancy lead our defense first hand and was blown away by his knowledge of the game as well as his teaching abilities. His success at both the NFL and college level makes it easy to see why he is one of the top defensive coaches in the game today. His aggressive style of defensive play is something I know our players as well as the Trojan Family will enjoy.”
Pendergast, 48, was the 49ers’ linebackers coach in 2015. He tutored Pro Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman, the NFL’s 2015 tackle leader.
Pendergast was USC’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 2013. That year, he helped the Trojan defense rank in the national Top 25 in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks, interceptions, red zone scoring defense, third down conversion defense and fourth down conversion defense. Safety Su’a Cravens was a Freshman All-American first team pick.
He spent the previous 3 years (2010-12) as the defensive coordinator at California. The Golden Bears led the conference in total defense, pass defense and fewest first downs allowed in each of his first 2 seasons while producing 9 NFL players, including first rounder Cameron Jordan, and 3 All-Conference first teamers, including 2011 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks.
In 2010, Cal topped the Pac-10 in sacks and was in the league’s top 5 in scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense and opponent third down conversions while holding 4 opponents to 10 or less points (the most by a Golden Bear defense since 1968) and 3 foes to under 200 total yards.
In 2011, Cal was in the Pac-12’s top 3 in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks and tackles for loss while notching 23 turnovers and 34 sacks and holding 5 teams under 70 rushing yards. The Golden Bears played in the Holiday Bowl.
His young 2012 Cal defense, with only 5 returning starters, held the wide-open offenses of UCLA and Washington State to just 17 points each.
Pendergast went to Cal after 6 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals (2004-08), including when the Cardinals won the 2008 NFC title to earn a berth in Super Bowl XLIII, and Kansas City Chiefs (2009). His squads had 176 takeaways during those 6 years.
In his 5 seasons with Arizona, his defense finished 20th or better in the final NFL rankings 37 times in categories such as points allowed, total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, yards allowed per play, opponents third down percentage, sacks, interceptions and fumbles recovered.
Cardinal linemen Bertrand Berry and Darnell Dockett were Pro Bowlers in his defense. He also worked with Arizona’s secondary, coaching safety Adrian Wilson to a pair of Pro Bowls.
In 2004, Arizona was 12th in the NFL in total defense and scoring defense, as well as in the top 5 in third down defense and fumble recoveries, and it forced 30 turnovers. Linebacker Karlos Dansby was an All-Rookie honoree.
His 2005 unit was in the NFL’s top 10 in total defense, third down efficiency, first downs allowed and fumble recoveries, while his 2006 defense forced 33 turnovers, the most by the Cardinals since 1998 and tied for fifth in the NFL that year.
In 2007, Arizona was ninth in the NFL in run defense and set a modern-day NFL record by holding the Detroit Lions to minus 18 rushing yards. Its 6 scoring interception returns and 551 interception return yards that season were franchise records as the Cardinals tied for 10th in the NFL in interceptions.
In 2008, Arizona tied for fifth in the league with 30 takeaways, including forcing 13 turnovers during its playoff run.
In 2009 with Kansas City, a young Chiefs defense had 28 takeaways and 22 sacks. The unit improved significantly in sacks, rushing touchdowns allowed and third down conversions from the previous year.
Pendergast began his NFL coaching career in 1995 as a defensive assistant/quality control coach with the Houston Oilers.
He then spent 7 seasons (1996-2002) with the Dallas Cowboys as part of staffs that won 2 NFC East titles (1996 and 1998) and made 3 NFC playoff appearances (1996, 1998-99). He was a defensive assistant and quality control coach his first 4 seasons (1996-99), then oversaw Dallas’ nickel defense packages in 2000 before coaching the defensive backs in his final 2 campaigns (2001-02). The Cowboys were third in the NFL in pass defense in 2000 and 2001. He tutored safety Roy Williams, who was an All-Rookie selection in 2002, as well as All-Pro and 3-time Pro Bowl safety Darren Woodson.
He then was the linebackers coach with the Cleveland Browns in 2003.
Pendergast started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Mississippi State in 1991 before becoming a USC defensive assistant in 1992 under head coach Larry Smith. He then was a graduate assistant/tight ends at Oklahoma for 2 seasons (1993-94). Each of those college teams played in a bowl, as Mississippi State qualified for the Liberty Bowl, USC for the Freedom Bowl and Oklahoma for the John Hancock and Copper Bowls.
He prepped at Tolleson (Ariz.) High, then received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Arizona in 1990.