Everything You Need To Know About The New 2024 USC Trojans Defensive Coaching Staff

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The USC Trojans had one of the worst defenses in college football from 2022-’23. With defensive coordinator Alex Grinch finally shown the door, head coach Lincoln Riley has built a new defensive staff that could turn things around in 2024.

USC spared no expense when it came time to overhaul this staff. It takes a lot of money to land one of the best defensive coordinators in college football, a top NFL assistant coach, and an FCS champion head coach. While the only results that matter will come on the field, this new staff offers a promising future for the Trojans’ defense.

  • USC Trojans pass defense (2023): 62.8 percent completion rate (95th in FBS), 7.9 yards per attempt (89th), 10.8 passing first downs per game (96th), 255.2 pass ypg allowed (255.2)

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Here are the newest defensive members of the 2024 USC Trojans coaching staff.

D’Anton Lynn, USC Trojans defensive coordinator

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The moment that Grinch was fired, D’Anton Lynn and Jim Leonhard became two of the most popular candidates to take over as Trojans’ defensive coordinator. Once it became clear Leonhard wasn’t an option, USC wasted little time bringing Lynn aboard.

The 34-year-old hasn’t been coaching for that long. Once a top cornerback for the Penn State Nittany Lions (2008-’11), Lynn joined the New York Jets in 2014 as a seasonal intern. After a year with the Jets, head coach Rex Ryan brought Lynn with him as a defensive assistant for the Buffalo Bills (2015-’16).

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Lynn spent the majority of his time in the NFL, serving as a defensive assistant for the Los Angeles Chargers under his father Anthony Lynn then joining the Houston Texans (2018-’19) as an assistant secondary coach then he coached the secondary himself in 2020. After that, Lynn was mentored by John Harbaugh, Don “Wink” Martindale, and Mike Macdonald with the Baltimore Ravens.

  • UCLA Bruins defense stats 2023: 296.3 total yards per game allowed (11th-fewest in FBS), 34.6% third-down conversion rate (30th), 2.8 red-zone scoring attempts allowed per game (22nd), 120.1 average opponents QB rating (21st), 7.9 points per second half allowed (11th)

UCLA took a chance on Lynn as its defensive coordinator in 2023 and Chip Kelly was rewarded. The Bruins’ defense was the biggest reason for the team’s success this past season, with Lynn’s scheme and coaching producing multiple top-75 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. Considering the success Michigan’s defense had with an NFL-caliber play-caller Jesse Minter, Riley’s decision to hire a defensive coordinator with NFL-caliber schemes and habits could dramatically improve USC’s defense.

Eric Henderson, USC Trojans defensive line coach and Co-DC

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Eric Henderson was one of the top members of the Los Angeles Rams coaching staff, even earning a promotion from Sean McVay. From 2019-’20, the Georgia Tech alum served as the Rams’ defensive line coach. During that tenure, the Rams had one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.

Pressure RateHurry RateSack RateYards per Carry
LA Rams defense (2019)27.9% (4th)14.5% (2nd)8.2% (5th)4.1 (9th)
LA Rams defense (2020)23.4% (7.2%8.8%3.8

Henderson’s success with Aaron Donald, Dante Fowwer Jr. Sebastian Joseph-Day, Michael Brockers, and Samson Ebukam earned him the added title of Rams’ run game coordinator.

“A Super Bowl Champion coach who has been recognized nationally for being the top in his field, Eric will bring immeasurable knowledge and experience to our program. We have put together a defensive staff that is second to none. We’re ready to get to work.”

USC Trojans coach Lincoln Riley on co-defensive coordinator Eric Henderson

Related: NFL defense rankings

In 2023, the Rams ranked 12th in run defense (106.8 ypg allowed), 14th in ESPN’s pass-rush win rate (14 percent) and 13th in run-stop win rate (31 percent). They were consistently one of the 10 best defensive lines at both creating pressure and defending the run. Henderson should do great work with the Trojans’ defensive line and he could become USC’s defensive coordinator in 2025 if Lynn becomes a head coach.

Matt Entz, USC Trojans linebackers coach and assistant head coach

NCAA Football: FCS Championship Game-North Dakota State vs James Madison
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Every coach dreams of having their own team. That’s why it’s so rare to see a head coach leave to become an assistant, especially when they are leaving a powerhouse program. Matt Entz had it made as the head coach of the North Dakota State Bison. In five seasons, he posted a combined 60-11 record, with two FCS national titles and one other championship appearance. Yet, he decided to leave that job behind and coach USC’s linebackers in 2024.

“Having a championship-caliber staff is instrumental to the success of our team. By welcoming Matt Entz, a championship-winning head coach and outstanding defensive mind, we are bolstering our defensive staff. He is going to be an excellent addition to the USC football program.” 

Lincoln Riley on new linebackers coach Matt Entz

Prior to 2024, Entz hasn’t coached at the Power 5 level. The 51-year-old Wartburg alum began his coaching career as a defensive coordinator at Illinois College (1998). After that, he joined Wayne State as assistant head coach and worked with linebackers, followed by a nine-year run as Winona State’s assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, and linebackers coach (2002-’09).

He later became Northern Iowa’s defensive line coach (2010-’11) before earning a promotion to defensive coordinator. It was followed by a one-year stint at Western Illinois in 2023 until North Dakota State brought him on as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (2014-’18).

  • North Dakota State defense 2023: 19.9 PPG allowed (18th in FCS), 33.1% opponents’ third-down success rate (20th), 302.6 total yards per game allowed (9th)

A two-time FCS Coach of the Year, Ertz oversaw one of the best defenses at that level throughout his tenure as defensive coordinator and then head coach. While North Dakota State isn’t a pipeline for NFL talent, he has also coached 8 NFL Draft picks and 20 FCS All-Americans.

Doug Belk, USC Trojans defensive backs coach

NCAA Football: Sam Houston State at Houston
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One of the first hires Riley made this offseason was nabbing Houston Cougars defensive coordinator Doug Belk. The 36-year-old began his coaching career immediately after his playing days at Carson-Newman, becoming a defensive assistant at Valdosta State (Georgia). After a three-year stint with the Blazers, Belk worked as a graduate assistant with the Alabama Crimson Tide (2014-’16), learning from both Kirby Smart and Nick Saban.

“His impressive body of work and reputation as a high-level coach and recruiter speak for themselves. I’m excited to welcome him to USC.” 

Lincoln Riley on Trojans’ defensive backs coach Doug Belk

Belk then served as the West Virginia Mountaineers cornerbacks coach (2017-’18), which landed him a job with the Cougars as he followed Dana Holgorsen. Starting as a co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach in 2019, Belk quickly climbed the coaching ladder to become the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach (2021-’23). In five seasons coaching up the Cougars’ defense, Belk worked with 13 All-AAC selections and his defense has produced multiple top-35 NFL Draft picks (Payton Turner, Logan Hall).