USC sideline at the Coliseum against the Washington Huskies
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

Alex Grinch, the USC defensive coordinator who came with head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, received his walking papers after less than two years. USC lost to the Washington Huskies after giving up 572 yards and 52 points on Saturday. Calls for the firing of Grinch flooded social media after the loss, including calls for his dismissal from former Trojan players.

USC began the season as a top-ranked program, hovering around a top-ten ranking until they suffered two regular season losses. USC is now unranked in Sunday’s AP Poll despite having one of the best collegiate quarterbacks and reigning Heisman winner.

The defense under Grinch allowed 265 points over the last six games and lost the last three regular season games, a no-no for Trojans fans. Grinch became defensive coordinator under Riley in 2019 at Oklahoma. He followed Riley to USC in 2021. Under his guidance, the USC defense struggled and is at the bottom statistically in all categories; the defense ranks in the bottom 15 in the nation, 120th in rushing defense, and 107th against the pass, to name a few. In addition, last season, fans called for the firing of Grinch after the team allowed 47 points to Utah in the Pac-12 title game and 46 points in the Cotton Bowl loss to Tulane.

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Grinch took responsibility for the team’s poor defensive play this season, saying:

“As a coach, you don’t deflect. I couldn’t be more disappointed in myself and the inability to get the guys to be more sound,” Grinch said.

USC Quarterback and reigning Heisman Winner Caleb Williams
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

USC released a statement today, naming defensive line coach Shaun Nua and linebackers coach Brian Odom as co-defensive coordinators for the remainder of the season. The Trojans will face Oregon and UCLA before what they hope will be a bowl game. Taylor Mays, the former USC safety and defensive analyst for the team, will assume an on-field role working with the safeties.

Many Trojan fans will say the firing of Grinch is too little, too late. After all, there are only two games left in the season. And the impact on Caleb Williams is immense. The masterly quarterback is no longer in this season’s Heisman race. For all that Williams has accomplished at USC and Oklahoma, he will leave collegiate play without a national championship or a conference title, barring a miracle.

The defensive play of the Trojans in the next two weeks will determine if they can secure postseason play. The firing of Grinch continues to raise questions for the upcoming season, one that will probably not have Caleb Williams in a Trojan uniform. Who will lead the team as their quarterback, difficult shoes to fill after having Williams, and who will coordinate the defense? Finally, the rumor mill says Riley may head to the NFL, and if that turns out to be accurate, then who will spearhead the Trojan revival? There are interesting days ahead in the land of Troy, and more questions than answers remain even without the presence of Alex Grinch.