USC coach Lincoln Riley: Alex Grinch to return as team's DC

USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will remain in his position next season, according to head coach Lincoln Riley, who announced the news in a session with local media on Tuesday.

"I've been through it enough with that guy to know, don't bet against him," Riley said, according to reporters who attended. "I know what he's made of. I just do. I know what's getting ready to happen defensively."

Riley reiterated his confidence in Grinch, who joined Riley at Oklahoma in 2019 and followed him to USC last season. As Riley overhauled the program last year, the Trojans added a handful of defensive transfers to attempt to shore up their deficiencies, but the defense still struggled under Grinch all season long.

Despite forcing 28 turnovers that helped the Trojans win 11 games a year after going 4-8, the unit was eighth in the conference in both rushing and passing defense and allowed an average of over 400 yards of offense per game. The latest blemish -- allowing Tulane to score 46 points in the Cotton Bowl and come back from 14 points down to beat the Trojans -- had left some doubt as to whether Grinch would remain.

Riley, however, is sticking by Grinch, who has reiterated himself the need for improvement. All season long, after wins or losses, Grinch was not hesitant to point out that the defense needed to be better and play up to the standard the offense -- led by Riley and Heisman quarterback Caleb Williams -- was setting.

Part of that improvement will once again come from a mix of transfer additions and internal development. USC added defensive lineman Jack Sullivan from Purdue in the portal recently, as well as both cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace and defensive lineman Kyon Barrs from Arizona. Four-star linebacker Mason Cobb from Oklahoma State is also set to join the Trojans. Edge rusher Braylan Shelby and linebacker Curtis Tackett (both four-stars) headline USC's defensive recruits in the 2023 class.

"Whoever is coordinating at Georgia, I'm sure he's a great coach but look at the guys last night," Riley said referring to Georgia's dominant win over TCU in the national title game. "Do they look like our guys? Not yet. Our guys don't look like that. We will soon."

The 42-year-old Grinch, who has been linked to head-coaching jobs in the past, will get another opportunity to improve upon USC's defense as it heads into a crucial offseason that will set up Williams' last season at USC and the best shot the Trojans might have in the immediate future to get to the College Football Playoff.