Riley gets first look at USC as Trojans try to stay focused

LOS ANGELES – Southern California is playing for two coaches this week.

There’s Lincoln Riley, splashy new tenant tasked with restoring the Trojan At the height of their history at the pinnacle of West Coast college football, and Donte Williams, the interim coach was asked to lead this year’s team through a failed season following the September shootings of Clay Helton. Williams’ time will end on the road against California on Saturday night.

While the USC players insist they are focused on the game and ending a disastrous campaign with a win and good vibes, it’s hard to wonder if a spirited Tuesday training session was the end. results of Riley and members of his 2022 coaching staff in attendance.

“I think the guys know what’s at stake,” said second wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr. speak. “Obviously going into this week, I think they know there’s going to be a change in the future, but people are locked in for now. Like I said earlier everyone is focused on Cal, what can we do now. ”


USC (4-7) failed to qualify after a last-minute loss to BYU on Saturday, but Riley will still get a chance to evaluate the roster he’s inherited in meetings, practice and games. live because of the COVID-19 outbreak among the Golden Bears forced that game to be postponed from November 13 to this week, a day after the Pac-12 champion was decided in Las Vegas.

Riley watches training with upcoming defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, coach Dennis Simmons and strength coach Bennie Wylie. They’ve looked at everyone from freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart to redshirt senior defensive midfielder Nick Figueroa, who is eligible to play next season and have said he has plans in place. return.

The next few days could give Riley a better understanding of which players he can build around and which position groups will need to be upgraded on contract day and through the transfer portal.

“Like I say, every day is a job interview,” Williams said.


That’s especially true for Williams, who has been central to USC’s effort to bring in the best high school players after the program struggled to recruit at the end of Helton’s term. Even with the support of committed rookies to the Trojans and admirers in the sports department, there is no guarantee Williams will remain on the payroll.

Williams said he has yet to discuss his future with Riley, Grinch, sporting director Mike Bohn or anyone else.

“USC only knows from here,” Williams said. “I know they’re going to recruit the right way, I know they’re going to play the game the right way, and we’ll see what’s going on. But for now, our main focus is on Cal. ”

Figueroa said it’s easy to get caught up in the speculations of the past few months about who will be the next Trojan coach, with everyone from Matt Campbell of Iowa State to Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers getting caught up in when it’s not. got specifics from a search by Bohn and his chief human resources officer, Brandon Sosna.


When it became a possibility and then a reality, on Sunday that Riley will join USC After five seasons at Oklahoma, Figueroa is trying to process the news like everyone else.

“I think everyone is beautiful, liked, shocked and excited,” he said. “The whole, like the Twitter world, we saw that explode before our eyes. And there is a lot of positive optimism surrounding our program. And I think we just want to continue to maintain that in the next game and use that to fuel the next season, whether it’s recruiting or on our team. ”

Riley spends time on her phone while practicing. Perhaps not coincidentally, Malachi Nelson offers potential customers for the midfielder in 2023 announced its commitment to USC later afternoon. Nelson, who attended Los Alamitos High School in Orange County, was committed to Oklahoma before Riley left.


“I think there is a lot of potential here,” said Figueroa. “And it was a match that started to burn.”


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Huynh Nguyen

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