Lincoln Riley retaining Alex Grinch as USC's defensive coordinator for 2023 season
Lincoln Riley met with a small group of local media Tuesday morning for multiple hours, during which time he revealed he has no plans to part ways with embattled USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
In no uncertain terms, Riley said Grinch will be back coordinating the Trojan defense in 2023. Calls for a change emerged in the aftermath of USC’s season-ending loss to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl. Riley even took things a step further, saying he doesn’t expect to make any staff changes whatsoever.
#USC head coach Lincoln Riley asserted that there will be no change at the defensive coordinator position.
He does not expect any staff changes barring an assistant getting a promotion on another staff.
— Chris Treviño (@ChrisNTrevino) January 10, 2023
USC wrapped Riley’s debut season last Monday with a 46-45 loss to Tulane. That result featured a blown 15-point lead in the game’s final five minutes and brought a promising season to a disappointing close.
Following the game, fans and media and even former players questioned Grinch’s standing as the team’s defensive coordinator heading into next season. USC lost 47-24 to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, then gave up 40 again to Tulane. In all three of the Trojans’ losses, opponents put 40 on the USC defense.
“I know what he’s made of. I just do,” Riley said of Grinch, who has been his defensive coordinator now across four seasons with two programs. “I know what’s getting ready to happen defensively. And so I just have a confidence and a belief there, not just in Alex, but the other guys in the room.”
USC gave up 46 points to a Tulane team that only ran 52 plays in the Cotton Bowl. The bend-don’t-break approach was scrutinized all season long, with USC’s defense largely living and dying by its ability to force turnovers.
The Trojans produced 28 takeaways, the sixth-most in all of college football. That number included 19 interceptions, which ranked third in the country.
But it ended the year ranked 124th out of 131 FBS programs in yards allowed per play, giving up 6.5 a play. Each of USC’s final three opponents topped 7 yards per play, and three of the Trojans’ final four opponents topped 40 points.
USC’s scoring defense saw a slight improvement from the previous season when it gave up 31.8 points a game. Opponents averaged 29.2 points on the 2022 defense. In the immediate aftermath of the season ending, Riley was asked about Grinch and said, in part, he felt they made progress in 2022.
It would seem Riley believes they can make more in 2023 with Grinch still leading the way.