Lincoln Riley is Going For Greatness at USC

Column: Heat is on Lincoln Riley and USC to earn College Football Playoff spot

Bill Plaschke (LA Times)  —  They have a millionaire coach who lives in a mansion.

They have a charismatic quarterback with a huddle full of endorsements.

They are loaded with high-priced free agents who came here for a chance to reap the rewards of Hollywood.

To nobody’s surprise, they have become Los Angeles’ most popular professional football team, rich and rollicking and seemingly headed this winter for SoFi Stadium stardom.

The Rams? Think again. The Chargers? Nice try.

It is, of course, the USC Trojans, college football’s merry band of opportunists who head into this season with stars in their eyes and a target on their back.

Anything less than a spot in the College Football Playoff just won’t do.

Even that might not be enough, just listen to the man who started all this ruckus.

Summer may mean more freedom for teens, but it doesn’t mean parents get a break. As a parent, finding the right level of supervision is tricky. Building autonomy and independence is crucial for adolescent development; teens need to practice…

At Pac-12 media day Friday, I asked new USC coach Lincoln Riley for his expectations for this season.

“To win the championship,” he said.

The championship. This season. Win it. OK!

The CFP title game is at SoFi Stadium on Jan. 9, so, yeah, this is an incredibly high and dramatic bar set by a 38-year-old dude who came here from Oklahoma eight months ago and promptly turned a 4-8 team into the game’s hottest destination.

“We didn’t come here to play for second, we are not wired that way,” Riley said. “We came here competitively to win championships, win them now and to win them for a long time.”

A nation-leading 20 kids have transferred to USC from other schools. At least that many have been forced out of the program. The money is flowing, the promises are soaring, the program has been turned on its helmet, and you know what that means.

The pressure starts now. The honeymoon ends here. Even before the first summer practice sweat, the heat is on.

“The reality is if there’s no pressure, then you probably don’t have the same opportunities as others do,” Riley said, adding, “The opportunity is, if you do it well, anything is possible. This is one of those places. This is one of those programs. Frankly, this is one of those cities that if you do it well here, the sky’s the absolute limit. I believe it’s there for our football team.”

So much, so fast, so unnerving. Has there ever been a team in this town under more deserved preseason scrutiny than this one? Has there ever been a college team anywhere that will enter a season with more unearned swagger?

They should win? No, they better win. All this, and they have yet to take an official snap.

“I would reiterate again, we didn’t come here to play for second,” Riley said.

It’s good that college athletes are finally getting paid. It’s fair that college athletes are finally able to transfer and become immediately eligible. The college athletes have long been the backbone of this billion-dollar industry and deserve to be compensated for it. Whatever they get, they’ve earned it.

Yet it’s a bit unsettling when this confluence of changes occurs in such dramatic fashion at a place where the drama has always been rooted in tradition. Never have USC fans been asked to cheer for so many complete strangers. Never before has it been so abundantly clear that these strangers are only here for the money and the football.

Fittingly, for the first time in memory, the two players USC brought to Pac-12 media day to represent the university probably still have trouble finding their way around campus. They were quarterback Caleb Williams and linebacker Shane Lee, two highly touted transfers from Oklahoma and Alabama, respectively.

Said Lee: “Our focus is on getting the culture right.”

Said Williams: “USC is a blue blood, simple as that. Teams … have rough moments, that’s what USC has had. We’re here to try to turn that around.”

Williams is the centerpiece of the Trojans’ remodel and the best example of the new era. He is a transfer from Oklahoma who already has several endorsement deals despite starting only eight college games.

I asked what he would consider a successful season.

“Win every game,” he said.

His main target will be Jordan Addison, a transfer from Pittsburgh who was voted the country’s best wide receiver last season and now will be its best dressed. When Addison showed up, he asked for Carson Palmer’s retired No. 3 jersey. This put Palmer in an impossible position. He could never say no, even if he wanted to say no. So, with Palmer’s very public blessing, USC regrettably gave the kid the number.

No, this is not the same thing as former athletic director Mike Garrett giving Darnell Bing his No. 20 in 2005. It was Bing’s senior season, and Garrett considered it a reward for dedicated service.

In Addison’s case, it feels more like a recruiting tool. He’ll play one year here and go to the NFL. The jersey giveaway feels like a direct hit on Trojan tradition.

Imagine the increased pressure on Addison. He drops a ball wearing a Heisman Trophy jersey? The crowd won’t be thrilled.

USC has another great transfer wide receiver in Oklahoma’s Mario Williams, and a great transfer running back in Oregon’s Travis Dye. They should score 50 points a game. Problem is, they could give up 60.

Riley doesn’t really do defense. The numbers 54, 45, and 63 represent the points scored by opponents in three of his four bowl games at Oklahoma.

He hopes transfers like Lee, Arizona State’s Eric Gentry, Colorado’s Mekhi Blackmon and Auburn’s Romello Height will help change that narrative.

But nobody knows. Nobody has seen this remodeled-down-to-the-studs team in action. In reality, they’re one of college football’s most unknown quantities.

They must win anyway. Win big. Win often. Win that championship.

“My expectations are extremely high,” said Riley. “I mean, again, this is a go-for-it kind of place.”

This is also a boo-at-it kind of place. Kudos to the Trojans for going for it, but understand one thing.

It will get real ugly, real quick, if they don’t get there.

latimes.com

________

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Chris
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August 2, 2022 8:42 pm

I still hear Vin in my mind. Like everyone, I grew up with him calling games. I learned to love baseball through my dad and Vin. He will be missed.

San Diego Trojan
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August 2, 2022 9:27 pm
Reply to  Chris

Same here Chris, so many memories of my dad and I going to the games, and dad wanting to be one of those typical fans who wanted to leave after the 7th inning to beat the traffic home. No worries because we knew we had Vin to take us the rest of the way. Growing up in LA with Vin, Chick, and Dick Enberg on the transistor was better than being there. No one more respected coast to coast than Vin. RIP and thanks for the memories Vin

Chris
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August 2, 2022 9:46 pm

i feel like Keith Jackson was ours as well.

San Diego Trojan
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August 2, 2022 9:54 pm
Reply to  Chris

Definitely!

HOF19
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August 2, 2022 8:30 pm

Proper ! >>>>> NY Media giving MAJOR tribute to Vin Scully R.I.P. Vin !

Chris
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August 2, 2022 12:56 pm

Off topic, but the Padres just got a lot better. They still will finish 20 games behind the Dodgers and won’t beat them in the playoffs, but they are going for it. I wish them no luck whatsoever. Go Dodgers!

Golden Trojan
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August 2, 2022 7:27 pm
Reply to  Chris

To bad for the Padres to be in the same division as the best team in baseball. #2 best team in baseball will still get you bounced early in the play offs.

volunteerTrojan
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August 3, 2022 9:28 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I had a chance in 2019 during a biz conference to spend an evening in a private luxury box out in left field. Was able to walk to the park from my hotel. Truly a great area for a ball park, and great way to spend an evening.

San Diego Trojan
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August 3, 2022 8:52 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

He carried himself with so much class, humility, and grace. When you can go through your life without anyone having a bad thing to say about your character, then you know you’ve left a legacy.

San Diego Trojan
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August 2, 2022 9:40 pm
Reply to  Chris

I’m a Dodger fan for life, living in San Diego. People here are very excited that the Padres have been so aggressive the last few years acting like a big market team with unlimited funds. They made some great trades. We’ll see if it translates to a World Series

Steveg
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August 2, 2022 12:45 pm

There will be those that are not happy unless USC runs the table and wins it all. Then there are those that have learned and exercised patience awaiting a new HC and program. Now that we have the ingredients, that lesson in patience will prevail, giving LR significant grace if the top rungs of the ladder are not reached in one season. Give him the grace and I am convinced USC will attain top ranked status. Lets just enjoy the ride, this bandwagon is going places.

Chris
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August 2, 2022 2:09 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

it’s really hard to understate how bad CH was. I think he alone was a 10 to 14 point liability. I really do. I think almost every coach we played in the CH era was 10-14 points better, maybe more so than that.

volunteerTrojan
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August 2, 2022 4:40 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

We see where he was “at” at the end of the year. Unemployed, then thrown a lifeline by…wait for it…GA Southern. The guy produced more words with less results than any coach in the history of football.

Golden Trojan
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August 2, 2022 7:25 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Oh CH will have plenty of problems in the Sun Belt. I doubt he will have a winning record judging by the talent he has, last years record and this seasons schedule. Then we will see how excited GSU fans are to hear his platitudes at press conferences. “Just wait till you see this team in November”!

volunteerTrojan
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August 3, 2022 9:49 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

His comments make me both laugh and cringe as they are the exact same words he used while here…every single year. He continues to spout principles of which he is totally incapable of instilling. Just for fun, let’s break them down: Toughness – USC widely became known as “soft” throughout the conference and nation under his watch. Discipline – His teams annually led the league in penalties, often the same ones over and over again. Accountability to each other – I’m not even sure what this means, but, how about accountability to demanding coaches? Hopefully – Hope is neither a… Read more »

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August 2, 2022 1:48 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I just cannot see Utah staying in the Pac. It will always be viewed by the arrogant Pac 10 major research institutions (Cal, Stanford and UW) as an also ran; and it will never be treated with respect. For Oregon (which Utah hammered twice last year) to demand $41 Million and leave $16 Million for the Utes is so insulting that I cannot imagine how the Ducks think that the Pac had hold together (or maybe they do not care, figuring they can always find a home). I expect Utah’s game plan is to attempt to make the Final Four… Read more »

HOF19
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August 2, 2022 12:32 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

This ↑↑↑↑↑……LEADERSHIP !!!!!

TrojanRJJ
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August 2, 2022 1:48 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Notice, LR did not say when, just that he expected it soon.

HOF19
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August 2, 2022 9:57 am

Sometimes the NY Media aggravates me…..Why are they suggesting there is a possible problem with the Jordan Addison transfer …….Lincoln Riley did not seem worried when it came up and if Lincoln Ain’t worried than niether am I …….Fight On !!!!!

HOF19
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August 2, 2022 10:34 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

This article ….Dated today …Got the NY Media talking >>>> (From Fox Sports ) Published August 2, 2022 8:54am EDT

USC’s Lincoln Riley rebukes tampering allegations, takes suggestions ‘personally’

HOF19
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August 2, 2022 10:39 am
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And ……..AND I (just now ) went on Fox Sports Headline website and this comes up on the Front Freakin Page !!!!! Treating it (by appearance ) as a top 5 Sports headline of the day .

TrojanRJJ
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August 2, 2022 7:56 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Perhaps GA State is interested? I wonder how many kids are in the same boat. There must be a significant number. I think Jack Sears transferred out of Boise State and has not landed. I have not followed all of the kids who transferred out after LR took over, I wonder if all of them landed. I read that average number of transfers per team is 16 per year. And, yes, if a kid has not landed by now, he is not going to another team.

TrojanRJJ
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August 2, 2022 1:55 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Thanks. It will be interesting to see what happens with them. Some of them hit big: Lewis to tOSU, Collier to OK St. (another OSU), Campbell to Houston, and Lichenstein to Mia are all first class moves. The remainder are steps down, in some cases major steps down. Looks like Sophster, that huge DL from AL has retired.

John Weld
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August 2, 2022 9:59 am
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

From Sports Illustrated:

QB Jack Sears
If there is a surprise left among the best available, it has to be Sears at the game’s most important position. A one-time USC signee out of high school, the California native was most recently at Boise State in a crowded QB room. Sears was a top 10 quarterback recruit back in the class of 2017 and he made some starts over the last two seasons. An efficient pro-style passer with experience in multiple systems, he could be a fall camp contender at a college program looking for depth at the position.

Jamaica
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August 2, 2022 11:12 am
Reply to  John Weld

Felt good about most of CH’s recruits “lucking out” in getting a great education opportunity. But felt sorry for them not getting the coaching & development they should have expected under the same roof. The real culprit was Max Nikias who started the direction of the football program to just wither away. With all the personnel issues-results-damage his leadership caused, we could easily be sitting here today looking at a very different picture of Trojan football.

Last edited 8 days ago by Jamaica
TrojanRJJ
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August 2, 2022 1:51 pm
Reply to  John Weld

John, If Sears has not landed by now, I doubt he lands anywhere. Most major teams start fall camp this week. I hope Jack had a great back up plan that did not include football.

TrojanRJJ
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August 1, 2022 11:22 am

I just read a survey of “prep athletes” (I have no idea in what sport – my guess is football- or from what locations). So, I take this as a completely unscientific (meaning mathematical statistical science) survey. SC was #19 and UCLA #20. AL was #1. Probably is accurate – six years of having an incompetent HC will do that to your program for the younger kids. Assuming accurate, Helton took a top 5 brand and in the eyes of the audience of potential recruits destroyed it. Thank God for LR and thank God for leaving the Pac.

Jamaica
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August 2, 2022 10:55 am
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

We all saw it coming, how both the Trojan football program and the PAC12 conference deteriorating into slow ruin. But the Angel of Mercy hovered over us and got it straightened out on both fronts. Hallelujah!

SC Gator
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August 1, 2022 10:35 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Really? Where’s the pushback from every corner of the SC community?

And how do you view the decision to move as one made only for the short-term?

If GK wants to vent, fine. But he should at least make his arguments plausible.

Rock2112
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August 1, 2022 11:14 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Under this new Power 2 model, teams will travel, but for better games. That’s just the reality. Less committed/ambitious schools will play in their own sandboxes more regionally. GK is saying that USC will regret not opting for the smaller, regional sandbox. That shows that GK has absolutely no understanding of who USC is, and what it’s football program historically has been. If he thought we picked up Lincoln Riley so we could get better at the weekender with Cal, he thought wrong.

TrojanRJJ
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August 1, 2022 11:18 am
Reply to  Rock2112

Rock, see my post to SCGator. GK must know that the overwhelming majority of SC alums are overjoyed at SC leaving the Pac for the B10. So, why say the contrary? It is clearly not aimed at SC and its fanbase and alums. IMO, his intended audience is the rest of the Pac and the UC Regents.

fast fred
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August 7, 2022 10:42 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The end of the pac-12, thank you SC

TrojanRJJ
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August 1, 2022 11:13 am
Reply to  SC Gator

SCGator, I think George K is behind the firestorm that UCLA is now facing for leaving without getting permission from the Regents (which was not required at all). It is all about political grandstanding. He simply now pushing a narrative because he needs UCLA to pay Cal (which will stabilize Cal and make it easier to handle in the distribution of the upcoming media deal). He is also seeking to push a narrative to keep the rest of the Pac together. Thus, this statement should not be viewed as factual; it is rather political. As the SC fanbase and alumni… Read more »

Rock2112
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August 1, 2022 11:09 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The functional equivalent of “someday she’ll be sorry she ever left me.”

SC Gator
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August 1, 2022 12:02 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

“AND I WANT MY RECORDS BACK.”

Jamaica
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August 1, 2022 3:37 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Kliavkoff sounds like someone who is about to lose his job in the very near future. The writing is on the wall George.

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August 1, 2022 7:10 am

So Alabama starts fall camp Thursday and Oregon on Friday. I can’t find out when SC starts theirs. Should be this week. What’s the scoop?

RialtoTrojan
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August 1, 2022 6:24 am

Rooting for complete strangers? I don’t know about the rest of TDB regulars, but each time we gain a new player through the portal I find out who they are and where they’ve been. I don’t mean I’m obsessed with the players, and from my seat they’ll always be strangers, but any fan who wants to know can find out who we’re rooting for. Plaschke went to the Scott Wolf school of journalism. Every bite of his sandwich has to have dung as the spice and horsepucky as a premise.

Rock2112
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August 1, 2022 11:49 am
Reply to  RialtoTrojan

Players become known and liked for what they do on the field. That’s the way it should be. I am looking forward to this new cast of characters introducing themselves through great play, and not words or hype, or what they may have done elsewhere. It will be a fun season of discovery for us Trojan fans!

TrojanRJJ
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July 31, 2022 8:58 pm

I rarely like Plaschke. IMO, this is one of his worst. He is setting up next year for controversy, so he can then slam LR and SC. What a jerk! No one in their right mind thinks the 2022 Trojans are a NC team. I doubt LR does. SC has four very tough games next year (two against superior opponents – both ND and Utah are better teams) and several very difficult ones, with a team that basically is entirely new (how many of last last years two deep (that’s 44 kids) will make the two deep in 2022 (If… Read more »

Chris
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July 31, 2022 6:34 pm

While I don’t realistically think we are going to be a playoff team this year, I cannot totally discount it. For that I am super grateful, thanks LR. At no point in the last decade had I thought we were anywhere near a playoff or BCS team, no hope of that at all. We haven’t played a game under LR a d I know we are significantly better now than at any time since the PC days.

fight on!!

Petero
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July 31, 2022 4:54 pm

Where’s the tackling dummy molded in Mr. Bill’s image?

“Oh No”

Like a shot of expresso my adrenaline is flowing…

Practice can’t start soon enough…(We know it will be held in stealth mode)

Light the torch… Fried Rice coming up

ATL D.D.S.
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July 31, 2022 4:26 pm

Suck it, Plaschke….

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July 31, 2022 4:09 pm

Plaschke’s column are consistent- consistently wrong. To hear him tell it, SC’s team is full of mercenaries, anything less than a playoff appearance is a huge disappointment, and Riley is disconnected from the defense. The guy has always been a tool, desperate to attract attention. No surprise that he is employed by a newspaper that think Biden and Newsome are doing a great job. He truly is a mental ( and moral) midget.

Golden Trojan
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July 31, 2022 2:29 pm

Yet another snarky piece by the LAT. “They have a millionaire coach who lives in a mansion.” Every top 10 team has a millionaire coach that lives in a mansion. HE🏒🏒, The Cat was a millionaire that lived in a mansion! “They have a charismatic quarterback with a huddle full of endorsements.” So does every other top team. Heck Malachi Nelson does and he is still in High School and shopping for a college in his new Mercedes! “They are loaded with high-priced free agents who came here for a chance to reap the rewards of Hollywood.”, “college football’s merry… Read more »

RialtoTrojan
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July 31, 2022 1:34 pm

“Riley doesn’t do defense,” the one drawback to his coaching career. I am pretty sure that will change, because it must.
I am old enough to remember when John McKay had a weekly show on Sunday where he discussed the game. I sure would like to see something like that come back this season.

SChaps
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July 31, 2022 3:39 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I believe Darnell Bing wore #20 during 2003 – 2005. I’m pretty sure the author has his “facts” wrong.

SC Gator
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July 31, 2022 3:56 pm
Reply to  SChaps

You are right; Plaschke doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The number was as much a recruiting tool for Bing as for Addison. Never let the facts get in the way of the narrative.

But I love Riley’s “I didn’t come here to lay up” attitude. Helton always laid up. 4th and 2 at midfield, down by 14 with 5 minutes to play? Easy call. Punt.

Last edited 10 days ago by SC Gator