USC hires UCLA defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn in crosstown rivalry poaching

PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 25: UCLA Bruins defensive coordinate D'Anton Lynn during Cal Bears game versus the UCLA Bruins in the last Pac-12 Conference football game played on November 25, 2023, at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

USC has found its new defensive coordinator and a way to weaken their crosstown rival in the process.

The Trojans reached across Los Angeles to hire UCLA defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn as a replacement for the fired the fired Alex Grinch, the school announced Friday.

Lynn saw widespread praise for the job he did in Westwood this season, improving the Bruins' defense into the top unit in the Pac-12 by yards allowed per game. The Bruins own the 16th-ranked defense in allowed points (18.1) nationally and the total defense is 11th with 299 yards per game.

The 34-year-old comes to USC after only one season coaching at UCLA. After beginning his coaching career in 2014, Lynn was an assistant coach for several NFL teams, including the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens.

Lynn, the son of San Francisco 49ers assistant head coach Anthony Lynn, played defensive back for Penn State and was an All-Big Ten standout. He then briefly played for the New York Jets and the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

He will now be tasked with a similar turnaround, for a team that has combined a high-flying offense with an inept defense for two years in a row.

USC's defense has a lot of work to do under D'Anton Lynn

Grinch came to USC with head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma after the 2021 season and the USC defense was abysmal during his tenure. A season ago, USC went 11-3 but lost twice to Utah and missed out on the College Football Playoff. The Trojans scored the third-most points per game of any team but allowed over 29 points a game and the defense gave up 6.5 yards per play.

Grinch returned for 2023 and Riley boasted that the defense had gotten better as the team worked the transfer portal for players who could contribute immediately. The defense actually ended up getting worse as USC stumbled to a 7-5 regular season.

The Trojans allowed 35 points per game (just eight teams allowed more) and gave up 6.2 yards per play. After forcing 2.1 turnovers a game in 2022 — a big reason why USC won 11 games — the Trojans forced just 1.2 a game this season.

Grinch was fired Nov. 5 after a 52-42 loss to Washington that effectively ended USC’s hopes of a Pac-12 title. The Trojans then gave up 36 points in a loss to Oregon and 38 points in a season-ending loss to UCLA.