Why Lincoln Riley was a homerun hire for USC
College football’s west coast blue blood hasn’t been the same since Pete Carroll left the building.
USC has had a revolving door of head coaches since then, including Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin and Clay Helton. All of them failed to get the Trojans back to the elite status of the Carroll era and the Pac-12 has suffered mightily in national credibility.
There’s no denying College football is better with a successful USC program. So it was a no-brainer that Athletic Director Mike Bohn had to give Helton his walking papers two games into the season. Donte Williams is 3-6 as the Trojans’ interim this fall, which is a clear sign that he’s not ready for the job full-time.
Several coaches were rumored to be interested in USC, including Penn State’s James Franklin and Baylor’s Dave Aranda. However, once the smoke cleared, Bohn showed the rest of the country that he’s playing chess not checkers and hired Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley.
It shocked the country because the Sooners are a powerhouse program. Not to mention Riley has already won four Big 12 Titles at Oklahoma, plus he coached two Heisman Trophy winners. In hindsight, he’s a perfect fit for USC and the Pac-12 because he brings a winning mentality. Oklahoma fans are feeling salty about the timing of the situation, especially with the early signing period around the corner.
College football fanatics strongly believe Oklahoma’s move to the SEC had a lot to do with Riley’s decision to bolt for USC. Regardless of the matter, it’s a match made in heaven for all parties involved. Riley is one of the best coaches in the country.
The fact that he’s only 38-years old means Riley hasn’t reached his coaching prime yet. That’s also the perfect age to relate to young recruits, and still have the respect from their parents. The Texas native happens to be a quarterback guru. Despite not recruiting Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts, Riley still elevated their game under his watch.
USC is considered ‘Quarterback U’ for many reasons, including the program’s long history of making its’ signal-callers NFL draft picks. Riley gained notoriety over the last five years because the Sooner put up video game numbers on offense. The Pac-12 South doesn’t have a team with much offensive firepower, so Riley could make an immediate impact in the division.
It’s no mystery USC has some talent on offense. With Riley’s arrival, star players like wide receiver Drake London might stick around for another year. Upgrading the Trojans’ offense won’t be the biggest hurdle for Riley. On the other side of the ball is where he’ll have his work cut out for him.
It’s going to be interesting to see the staff Riley assembles also or if any of USC’s current assistants will be retained. Williams will likely be coaching his last game with USC (5-6) if it loses to California Saturday. Offensive Coordinator Graham Harrell’s Air Raid attack may blend in well with Riley’s offensive mind, but fans want to go a different direction.
Riley is going to love it on the west coast though. After all, the job comes with its’ perks, including the Los Angeles sun, beaches, and vegan restaurants. Riley will be an instant celebrity in the city and expectations will be through the roof from day one.
So expect him to hit the transfer portal to upgrade USC’s talent at many positions. It remains to be seen if Oregon’s Mario Cristobal’s days of ruling the Pac-12 are numbered now with the addition of Riley. One thing is for sure, The UCLA-USC rivalry just got more interesting. If Riley doesn’t have the Trojans in contention for a Pac-12 Title in two years, it’ll be a complete shocker.