USC Football

USC Officially Adds Craig Naivar and John David Baker To Clay Helton's Staff

February 3, 2020

Feb. 3, 2020


LOS ANGELES--Craig Naivar, a 26-year coaching veteran at schools such as Texas, Houston and Kentucky, has been named USC’s safeties coach, while John David Baker, a former quarterback at Abilene Christian who has been on the football staffs at USC and North Texas, has been named USC’s tight ends coach, Trojan head coach Clay Helton announced today (Feb. 3).

Helton also announced that defensive coaches Johnny Nansen (inside linebackers), Greg Burns (secondary) and Chad Kauha’aha’a (defensive line) will not return to the Trojan coaching staff.

Naivar, 48, has served as a defensive or special teams coordinator for 24 of his coaching seasons, with 22 of those years also working with the safeties or defensive line. 

He spent the past 3 years (2017-19) at Texas.  He handled the Longhorn safeties each season and also was the special teams coordinator the first 2 years and the co-defensive coordinator in 2019.  He served as Texas’ interim defensive coordinator in the 2019 Alamo Bowl, a 38-10 victory over No. 12 Utah in which the Longhorns defense limited the Utes to just 254 total yards and 15 first downs.

In 2018, safety Caden Sterns was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.  In 2017, safety DeShon Elliott was a unanimous All-American and Thorpe Award finalist.  Also in 2017, the Longhorns had one of the nation’s top punt units, led by punter Michael Dickson, the 2017 Ray Guy Award winner, Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year and unanimous All-American who averaged a school-record 47.4 yards per punt. UT’s 2017 net punting average of 44.2 was the best in the country.  UT also played in the 2017 Texas Bowl and 2019 Sugar Bowl.

He spent the previous 2 seasons (2015-16) at Houston as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, helping the Cougars to a 22-5 record.  Houston’s 2015 scoring defense was 20th nationally, as 12 of its 14 opponents were held under their scoring average, and UH’s rushing defense was eighth.  Houston topped the nation in takeaways in 2015.  Houston was the 2015 American Athletic Conference champion, won the Peach Bowl, posted 13 wins and finished eighth in the AP poll.  In 2016, Houston defeated a pair of Top 5 teams (No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 3 Louisville) as it was fourth nationally in rushing defense and 13th in total defense, as well as 14th in sacks and tackles for loss.  Defensive back Trevon Stewart made the All-AAC first team in 2016 when the Cougars played in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Naivar was the special teams coordinator and safeties coach at Kentucky in 2014.  The Wildcats ranked 22nd nationally with 15 interceptions in 2014 after recording just eight picks in the two seasons prior to Naivar’s arrival.  He tutored two Freshman All-Americans on special teams in kick returner Stanley Williams and placekicker Austin MacGinnis, who was All-SEC while setting 5 UK season records, including most field goals (21) and points (104).

Naivar arrived at Kentucky after his second stint at Texas State, where he was the defensive coordinator and safeties coach for 3 seasons (2011-13). He produced defensive lineman Michael Ebbitt, the 2011 Independent Defensive Player of the Year, along with two additional All-Independent Team selections in defensive end Jordan Norfleet and defensive back Xavier Daniels. Linebacker Joplo Bartu and cornerback Darryl Morris played several seasons in the NFL.

Prior to that, Naivar spent 4 seasons (2007-10) at Rice, the first 3 years as co-defensive coordinator while coaching the safeties and then in 2010 as the special teams coordinator while coaching the defensive line.  Led by 2010 All-America punter Kyle Martens, the Owls were sixth in the nation in net punting. Rice ranked 26th in the nation in punt returns and had the nation’s 10th-best kickoff returner, Charles Ross. Kicker Chris Boswell also earned All-Conference USA first team honors.  In 2008, Rice played in the Texas Bowl.

Naivar coached at Texas State from 2004-06, where he was defensive coordinator and safeties coach. In 2005, the Bobcats posted an 11-3 record and advanced to the FCS semifinals. Texas State ranked in the nation’s top 25 in scoring defense and total defense while generating 33 turnovers. In 2004 in Naivar’s first season at Texas State, defensive lineman Fred Evans was the Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year before becoming an AFCA All-American, Southland Conference Player of the Year and Southland Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. In 2006, defensive back Walter Musgrove was the Southland Conference Student-Athlete of the Year.  Naivar coached 7 All-Southland Conference first team defenders in his time with the Bobcats.

Naivar was at Sam Houston State for 4 seasons (2000-03), the first 2 as special teams coordinator and defensive line coach and the last 2 as defensive coordinator and safeties coach.  The Bearkats advanced to the FCS quarterfinals in 2001.

In 1998 and 1999, he was the special teams coordinator and defensive line coach at Southern Illinois.

He was a graduate assistant coach at New Mexico in 1996 and 1997.  The Lobos played in the 1997 Bowl.

He began his coaching career as the special teams coordinator at Hardin-Simmons, his alma mater, for 2 years (1994-95).  He helped the Cowboys to the NAIA Division II playoffs both seasons.

Naivar was a 4-year (1990-93) letterman safety and quarterback at Hardin-Simmons.  As a senior, he was team captain, won all-conference honors and played on a conference championship team that advanced to the national semifinals.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1994 and a master’s degree in sports management in 1996, both at Hardin-Simmons.

He attended Taylor (Tex.) High.

He was born on Nov. 29, 1971.  He and his wife, Michelle, have a daughter, Jordan, and son, Gunner.  His last name is pronounced “NI-vur.”

Baker, 29, spent the 2019 season as an offensive quality control analyst at USC.

He was an offensive quality control coach at North Texas for 3 seasons (2016-18), working with current USC offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell.  The Mean Green was 19th nationally in scoring (35.5), 21st in passing (291.9) and 24th in total offense (455.1) in 2017, and quarterback Mason Fine set school season records for passing yards (4,052) and TDs (31).  In 2018, UNT ranked 12th in passing (306.8), 20th in total offense (460.5) and 26th in scoring (34.6), with Fine throwing for 3,793 yards and 27 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions, wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. catching 68 passes for 1,017 yards with 12 TDs and running back DeAndre Torrey scoring 15 TDs on the ground.  UNT qualified for bowl games each year that he was on staff (2016 Heart of Dallas, 2017 New Orleans, 2018 New Mexico).

Before that, he was a graduate assistant at Abilene Christian, his alma mater, in 2014 and 2015, working with the quarterbacks.

Baker played quarterback for the Amarillo Venom indoor football team in 2014 (Lone Star Football League) and 2015 (Champions Indoor Football).

He played quarterback for 4 seasons (2010-13) at Abilene Christian.  He started as a 2013 senior, completing 247-of-369 passes (66.9%) for 3,376 yards and 35 TDs with just 5 interceptions and also rushed for 256 yards on 99 carries (2.6 average) with 5 TDs.  His 40 total TDs was a school record.  In his first career start, he threw for a school-record 7 touchdowns against Concordia College.

He received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 2014 and his master’s degree in higher education in 2016, both from Abilene Christian.

He prepped at Lake View High in San Angelo (Tex.), where he earned All-District honors in football and baseball and also was on the basketball and track and field teams.  He threw for 2,240 yards and 22 touchdowns and ran for 688 yards and 18 TDs as a 2008 senior.

He was born on Sept. 30, 1990.  He is single.

Tags: Football, USC
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