USC eyes return to glory under Lincoln Riley with superstar transfers tasked to lead quick turnaround CBS Sports

No college football team in the country has more intrigue surrounding its program during the spring practice schedule than USC as new coach Lincoln Riley begins the on-field effort of restoring glory to a program where the expectations include championships. The results in that department have fallen well short throughout the last decade. 

Riley’s plan for achieving success immediately, at whatever level that may be, appears to be simple: use the transfer portal to bring in plug-and-play options at every level. If everyone gels together, this is a talented team of transients capable of winning the Pac-12 sooner rather than later. USC has the No. 1 transfer class in the country with all 13 players partaking in spring practice. That group includes former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams and former Sooners wide receiver Mario Williams, who along with a handful of assistant coaches joined Riley on the move from Oklahoma to USC. There are also contributors from around the Pac-12 with Riley plucking talent from Oregon, Washington and Colorado, among others.  

College football has given us plenty of examples where the influx of transfer talent doesn’t fix all of a team’s problems, though. Riley and his staff will set out this spring to get the instant impact transfers and the 51 returnees who saw action last season on the same page. If USC can get what Riley has called “the most unique roster in the history of USC football” aligned, the Trojans could be the biggest turnaround story in all of college football. 

 

Offseason changes

In terms of the coaching staff, Riley has opted to continue working alongside a couple of former Oklahoma assistants, tapping Alex Grinch (defensive coordinator), Dennis Simmons (pass game coordinator), Brian Odom (inside linebackers) and Roy Manning (outside linebackers) to join him in Los Angeles. That familiarity helps establish standards that contributed to four straight Big 12 championships but also the experience of what didn’t work as well during a disappointing third place conference finish in 2021. 

To help this group of former Sooners gets accustomed to life in the Pac-12, Riley has retained former interim coach Donte Williams (defensive backs) and hired Kiel McDonald (running backs) from Utah. And while the line of scrimmage has been a source of concern for the Trojans in recent years, fans should be encouraged with the additions of Josh Henson (offensive line, offensive coordinator) from Texas A&M and Shaun Nua (defensive line) from Michigan.    

“It’s been a fun staff,” Riley said this week on his coaches’ show, “Trojans Live”. “The guys, I think, have really come together quickly. I’ve been impressed with just kind of the synergy already. As you’re sitting back and trying to build the best staff that you can, that’s something that you try to predict as much as you can, but I don’t know that you ever know exactly what’s going to happen until you put people in a meeting room together and in different situations together.”

Author: Lucy Green