He’s approaching nine months on the job, and his moves are raising eyebrows across the country.
There’s no denying Lincoln Riley’s name ring bells throughout the College football landscape. After all, he coached two Heisman Trophy winners, won four Big 12 Titles and made three Playoff appearances at Oklahoma over the past five seasons. Not to mention Riley is a quarterback whisperer, who has one of the brightest offensive minds in today’s game.
The preseason AP Poll was released Monday morning and had USC ranked No. 14, which is its’ highest since 2017. The Trojans were also one of three Pac-12 schools in the legendary poll. That’s saying a lot for a team that has lost six of their last seven games overall. However, Riley’s presence on campus has been that impactful. The 38-year old is the second-youngest coach in the Pac-12, but he’s brought national credibility back to the league. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon because they’re anticipating fireworks from the Trojans’ offense.
Riley’s first monumental move was getting quarterback Caleb Williams to follow him to Los Angeles. Not only did the former five-star prospect finish fifth in the FBS in passing efficiency, but he also earned second-team, All-Big 12 honors as a true freshman. Williams looked sharp in USC’s spring game also, and completed 10 of his 12 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
The coach also lured in the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison. The wideout caught a jaw-dropping, 17 touchdowns at Pittsburgh last season. Addison’s amazing feat tied for first in the FBS and he also led the ACC in receiving yards. The Trojans already had an arsenal of talented pass catchers, like Gary Bryant Jr. and Tahj Washington. Now with Riley orchestrating the offense, the unit is shaping up to be one of the nation’s best this fall.
The backfield also appears to be in good hands with Oregon transfer Travis Dye leading the way. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder stockpiled a jaw-dropping, 3,125 yards on the ground and 21 rushing scores during his career with the Ducks. Darwin Barlow and Stanford transfer Austin Jones will also be in the rotation. Barlow was the Trojans’ No. 3 rusher in 2021, and Jones led the Cardinal in carries.
The cherry on top for Riley’s offense is inheriting Andrew Vorhees, who’s one of the best offensive linemen in the country and earned third-team, AP All-America honors last season. He’ll be anchoring the big boys up front again, and will be a centerpiece to build the offense around.
On defense Riley will have his work cut out for him though. All of the new faces and inexperience means leaders will have to emerge fast on that side of the ball. Still, defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu is the heart and soul of the front seven, who’s coming off a first-team, All-Pac-12 campaign, and is one of the most feared defenders in the conference. Riley also landed former Alabama linebacker Shane Lee from the transfer portal, who should provide an immediate spark in the tackling department.
Overall, USC fans are expecting leaps and bounds from a year ago. And why not, considering there hasn’t been this much buzz about the program during the preseason since Pete Carroll’s tenure. The fans can all thank Riley for the notoriety, and they can’t wait for him to start reviving their blueblood program less than three weeks from now. The Trojans even received five first place votes in the Pac-12 media members preseason poll last month. So the pressure will be on Riley to deliver immediate results.