USC fires defensive coordinator Alex Grinch – The Press-Enterprise

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USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch meets with reporters during the team’s preseason media day on Thursday at the John McKay Center. “We really struggled in the fourth quarter last year,” Grinch said. “Part of that is maturity. Part of that is understanding what it takes to win, learning how to win. And part of that is the mental resilience part.” (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

LOS ANGELES – After months of speculation and criticism tied to poor defensive performance, the shoe finally dropped.

On Sunday afternoon, USC head coach Lincoln Riley announced that defensive coordinator Alex Grinch had been “relieved of his duties” after a 52-42 loss to Washington, following a string of defensive implosions and one of the worst units in USC’s long history. It’s an unsurprising turn of events, with nearly the entire Trojan fanbase largely scapegoating Grinch for two years of inconsistency that seemingly hasn’t improved since the day he was brought from Oklahoma by head coach Lincoln Riley.

It’s a notable bending of the knee from Riley, who has gone out of his way to defend Grinch and assert his program’s defensive improvements despite a wealth of evidence pointing to the contrary. After last season, Riley said his faith in Grinch never wavered. Preseason, he told the Southern California News Group that Grinch was “going to do it again,” in regards to the coordinator’s past record of success in orchestrating defensive turnarounds. And after Colorado’s offense nearly steamrolled to a comeback win over USC in September, when asked postgame if he still had the same level of trust in Grinch, Riley answered, “Yes I do.”

“I’m trying to beat Washington next week,” Riley said after USC-Cal Oct. 28, when asked if he had thoughts on future changes in defensive philosophy or coaches if poor play continued. “Those are my thoughts on it, that’s my job … sitting 5-1 in the best conference in America, to try to go win it. And that’s where my focus is.”

Pressure on Riley increased significantly, though, in recent weeks, with a stretch of rough performances from USC – now ranked 119th in the FBS in total defense – most lately surrendering 52 points to Washington in a game where the Huskies tripled their average rush-yards-per-game output.

Defensive line coach Shaun Nua and inside linebackers coach Brian Odom will serve as interim co-defensive coordinators for the remainder of the season, according to USC. Defensive analyst Taylor Mays has been elevated to an on-field assistant coach and will work with safeties.

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