Reconstructed USC Football Is Finally “Accountable” Again

Alexander: Lincoln Riley’s Rapid Rebuild has USC Thinking Big

A roster makeover with star power is in keeping with the new coach’s stated goal: A championship, now

Jim Alexander (OC Register —  LOS ANGELES — It is a roster makeover maybe unprecedented in college football history, in not only the numbers and the quickness but the sheer star power involved. The eight months between Lincoln Riley’s hiring at USC – itself speedy and stunning – and this past Friday’s first day of fall camp have been a whirlwind, as defensive coordinator Alex Grinch acknowledged the other day.

“It started on a plane flight (from Oklahoma to L.A.) in late November,” he said. “And you’re rippin’ and runnin’ from there, and trying to in every way, shape and form maximize your roster and your potential for the ’22 season. So that’s everything we’ve done up to this point, through that lens. And what that creates is the importance behind every single workout, every day, every meeting.

“And then it all leads up to this.”

Let’s call the process Riley’s Rapid Rebuild, and it could put some of those home improvement shows on TV to shame. Aided immensely by the transfer portal, the new Trojans staff reloaded quickly with an eye toward the marker the boss laid down shortly after he got here.

“Like I said in my opening press conference, before even one of these players had come in, you don’t come to USC and you don’t come to Los Angeles to do things small. You got to set your sights big,” Riley said at Pac-12 media day two Fridays ago.

“We came here competitively to win championships, win them now and win them for a long time. That will always be our expectation.”

The College Football Playoff championship game is in Inglewood this January. But no pressure.

The stated goal and the talent plucked from the portal to help USC get there – including freshmen All-Americans at quarterback (Caleb Williams), wide receiver (Mario Williams, both from Oklahoma) and linebacker (Eric Gentry from Arizona State), the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s best receiver in Jordan Addison (from Pitt), former Pac-12 opponents in running backs Travis Dye (Oregon) and Austin Jones (Stanford) and SEC archrivals Romello Height (Auburn) and Shane Lee (Alabama) on the defensive side – has to be heartening to the Trojan faithful.

After all, they’d grumbled for years, and the discontent reached critical mass as the Clay Helton era approached its end. The fear, assuredly, was that they’d have voted with their wallets if athletic director Mike Bohn hadn’t moved boldly.

Instead, the alumni are happy, former players are coming around again, and one of the loudest gripes of the fan base is being addressed. Discipline and accountability seemed to be missing in recent seasons, and Riley and his staff made it a priority to change that. “Discipline over default” is the team motto, and the coaches aren’t hesitant to back it up.

He (Riley) has made it a big point to be accountable,” said senior offensive lineman Brett Neilon, one of the holdovers. “If you’re late for anything (or) you miss something, the team’s gotta do up-down pushups. Early on, we were doing 100, 200 pushups or situps after a workout. (By) the end of spring, we were doing like five or six.”

This wasn’t just for foul-ups on the field or in the meeting rooms, either. Academic transgressions such as cutting class and blowing off homework earned up-downs as punishment, too.

“You got guys that are doing their homework, going to every single class because they don’t want to let the team down,” Dye said.

Said Grinch: “It’s one of those moments where it’s, ‘Coach, you mean every workout (at max effort)?’ Yeah, we mean every workout. … I think by and large guys certainly are getting the gist that what we say we mean, and there’s an expectation that it’s daily, not sometimes.”

During spring ball it seemed like there were three Trojans teams – one going, one staying, one coming. The unofficial depth chart posted by the Ourlads scouting service lists nine transfers among the projected starters. Six are on offense, Williams, Williams, Addison, Dye, Brenden Rice (receiver from Colorado) and Bobby Haskins (left tackle from Virginia), along with edge rusher Height, linebacker Lee and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (Colorado) on defense.

In all, the 109-man roster listed on the USC website (including walk-ons) includes 20 NCAA transfers (plus three from community colleges) and 31 holdovers who’d had any sort of playing time in 2021’s 4-8 season.

From last year’s roster, 49 players are no longer Trojans. That includes 18 seniors (and juniors Drake London and Drake Jackson, who along with senior Keontay Ingram were picked in the NFL draft). It also includes 31 underclassmen who either decided or were persuaded they’d be better off elsewhere, including last year’s top two quarterbacks, Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart.

The stories, of course, are legendary of coaches in previous generations running off players who were no longer useful. But the particular method in which this turnstile spun was so 2022, right down to Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi’s grousing about tampering after losing Addison.

(Or you could look at it another way: Addison as the player to be named later after Slovis went to Pitt.)

Players have the freedom to transfer and play right away, and the potential of NIL money doesn’t need to be an overt inducement to be a powerful lure. Smart coaches make sure to note the possibilities in their markets, and Riley is a smart coach operating in not only the country’s No. 2 media market but its largest with major college football.

Money has always influenced college football on the institutional level, even more so with the latest move in the conference realignment derby – you know, the one that USC and UCLA made a little over a month ago. But the guys in uniform are now getting paid, too, as they should.

And yet …

“I’m all for the players, there’s no doubt about it,” USC running backs coach Kiel McDonald said, before adding: “I think there needs to be some sort of common ground among the conferences and the teams, you know what I mean? … I just think it’s going to be hard for maybe smaller market teams to be able to continue to survive if they’re not going to be able to extend NIL opportunities like the bigger schools would.”

Yet that’s where we are in 21st-century college football, a sport where the strongest and richest always have established their dominance. Riley’s Rapid Rebuild is just another indication that USC, with its 11 won or shared national championships, is determined to flex again.

ocregister.com

________

TrojanDailyBlog members  —  Always feel free to add information or new topics to the TDB which don’t necessarily pertain to any particular moderator post or member comment.

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usc50
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August 9, 2022 11:48 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Raleek reminds me of Reggie Bush.
From little have seen, has the same cutting ability and ability to change direction.
And good speed also.

TrojanRJJ
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August 9, 2022 12:22 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

It is amazing that this kid is getting all this hype on this team this year – the SC O is loaded lead by a superstar QB, a superstar WR, and a really solid RB room. I am really excited to see him play. My guess is he gets time against Rice.

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August 9, 2022 1:14 pm
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

If the hype is accurate, we will see it before our own eyes. If so I can see him getting a lot of PT. But even Reggie needed a workhorse to take the pressure off of him. The stable is going to run wild in 2022.

alfa1
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August 10, 2022 7:28 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I would imagine when Coach Wylie’ strength and conditioning regimen is underway,
Raleek will be 5’8” 200 pound ‘Bulldozer’

alfa1
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August 11, 2022 8:35 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Let’s hope…

TrojanRJJ
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August 9, 2022 12:28 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen, I think that is about to change. If I were a coach who had a program with strong NIL (“pay for play” (ala A&M), “earn it” (ala SC), or a combination of both), I would use the portal heavily, if I could get the Jordan Addison level player. I think every transfer LR took was well known – Gentry and the LB from AL were both Frosh AA, Haskins (the LT) was a starter at UVA, and so on. So, the Portal is not the issue; the way you use it is. And, I expect the top talent will… Read more »

Steveg
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August 9, 2022 7:46 am

Bowl games to begin the season? This is a unique idea put forth by espn writers:
https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/34263468/bowl-games-start-season-reimagining-college-football-calendar

TrojanRJJ
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August 9, 2022 7:34 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

This story does not make sense. If it is true, one would think all that was needed was a simple explanation that the coach was not being racist, but simply seeking to correct a player and did so poorly. If he was respected by the receivers, that should have done it. Something else must be going on – I have no idea what, but something else must be going on and it cannot be good.

Steveg
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August 8, 2022 7:27 pm

Questions from my wife on the preseason poll; why the big changes from end of last season.
Clemson from 14 to 4 now
TAM from 25 to 7 now
Baylor from 5 to 10 now
tOSU from 6 to 2
OK St from 7 to 11 (behind OK)
ORegon from 22 to 12 (with a new unproven coach)
Miami from unranked to 17
Texas from unranked to 18
Cincinnati from 4 to 22
Ole Miss from 11 to 24

As always I will say again, polls until week 5 are worthless.

Steveg
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August 9, 2022 7:09 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Self flagellation I guess. I am as susceptible to clicks as anyone I guess. I only get disturbed when I get done. Perhaps I will work to refrain from reading them, but I doubt it will work. I will probably just continue to carry on and complain.

Scioto
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August 8, 2022 7:14 pm

B1G saying bye bye to ESPN? Not sure how I feel about that. The obvious SEC/acc favor (bias?) of the 4 letter of s grating, but still like today’s reach of ESPN and CFP influence/bias.

B1G will dominate 12 EST, 4 EST, 8 EST.

https://www.elevenwarriors.com/the-big-ten/2022/08/132119/cbs-and-nbc-reportedly-in-line-to-replace-espn-as-big-ten-s-secondary-tv-partners

SC Gator
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August 8, 2022 7:58 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Why doesn’t Governor LePetomane give Berkeley some of that huge state surplus he’s always bragging about?

volunteerTrojan
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August 9, 2022 7:12 am
Reply to  SC Gator

Aforementioned governor needs to invest in 2 things with said surplus: nuclear power plants and water pipeline from SE Alaska.

SC Gator
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August 9, 2022 7:32 am

I like your insight into what needs to happen, but we both know that on the Gov’s list of spending priorities those rank far below things like more PSAs against vaping.

By the way, governments don’t invest, they just spend. Hats off to the marketing folks in the Clinton administration for adding investment to the lexicon.

San Diego Trojan
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August 9, 2022 12:47 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Dan Patrick’s source says NBC being part of the package is a precursor to ND coming along if the price is right

Last edited 1 month ago by San Diego Trojan
SC Gator
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August 9, 2022 1:25 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Although I love the move, because I think it’s good for SC, I’m just an SC guy. My affiliation is with my school, period. I never was a Pac-12 guy. Generally speaking I took no pride or pleasure in a Pac-12 school doing well against an outsider; if, in a certain situation, it would directly benefit SC if, say, Oregon beat Texas, I would make an exception and root for the result that would benefit SC. I would even root for a UCLA win in that circumstance. If SC wasn’t playing in the Rose Bowl back in the days when… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by SC Gator
SC Gator
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August 9, 2022 2:07 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Oh, no. If you’re going to violate your own rule you should at least show a little more discretion.

How could you root for the 1965 Bruin team that had knocked SC out of the Rose Bowl with the most crushing defeat of my life? I was still wearing black when the Rose Bowl came around.

And ’76 wasn’t much better, even though SC was out of the Rose Bowl race before fumbling away the ’75 game to UCLA. Props to Dick Vermeil, though. He thoroughly pantsed the Buckeyes and parlayed the win into an NFL HC job.

SC Gator
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August 9, 2022 3:02 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Wow. You’re wandering pretty far away from “Rooting for UCLA ever is something I just don’t do under any circumstance…” Seriously, that’s a great photo, one I’ve never seen. Great story, too. Shall we call this the Little Bobby Stiles Appreciation Thread? I was watching the game — in black and white, but on a Magnavox. There was no way I was going to root for UCLA and it really frosted me when they won. Why? Well, for one thing, I was a freshman at SC and most of my friends from high school were freshmen at UCLA, and some… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by SC Gator
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August 9, 2022 3:45 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Prothro was the only UCLA head coach who scared me (Homer Smith scared me when he was OC). By the time of the ’67 game, I was starting to doubt if McKay could ever beat him. In my neighborhood (Hamilton High) you were either all SC or all UCLA. No one was considering both schools and no one rooted for both. I went out of my way to avoid going to UCLA. I only wanted to go to SC but I needed a scholarship. I didn’t have one until April of my senior year of high school. My backup school,… Read more »

SC Gator
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August 9, 2022 3:55 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Side note. Ducky Drake was one of my father’s PE teachers at Horace Mann Jr. High in South Central.

Jamaica
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August 9, 2022 1:56 pm
Reply to  SC Gator

Pretty much how I feel about it also. USC Trojan football is my team above all. I watch very little NFL. But I will watch a good college match.

Chris
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August 8, 2022 7:57 pm
Reply to  Scioto

I’m all in on the NBC prime time game. That’s going to be the game of the week. I see lots of USC and Ohio St games in that time slot.

Steveg
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August 8, 2022 4:24 pm

USC could use a permanent WR coach and Gundy is now available. Why he resigned kind of shows the state of things at OK.

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August 8, 2022 5:38 pm
Reply to  Steveg

I think you’re viewing this too narrowly. If Gundy resigned (or was forced out) solely because he picked up a slacker player’s tablet and read a bad word the player wrote, that shows the state of things in our country, not just at the University of Oklahoma.

Steveg
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August 8, 2022 6:38 pm
Reply to  SC Gator

You are right, the whole country. But right now it is OK.

alfa1
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August 9, 2022 6:22 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

If Venables falls on his face this season, the Sooner fans are going to hate Riley even more.

volunteerTrojan
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August 9, 2022 7:10 am
Reply to  alfa1

OK will fall off a bit. Too hard to follow a good coach in a good place with another. Many examples out there, with SC being one of them.

ATL D.D.S.
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August 9, 2022 8:35 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I can’t imagine a coach in NCAA FB for as long as Cale Gundy has been to be a closet racist. Could Venables not wanting the coach from the old guard to be around, potentially looking over his shoulder?

Venables should have stuck up for his coach!

Star25
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August 9, 2022 9:29 am
Reply to  ATL D.D.S.

Are you really surprised that racists can walk among us unseen and heard from for years? That must be quite an insular bubble in which you exist. As a female POC, every single day I am witness to or a target of racist and sexist micro aggressions; some are seemingly passive and subtle, but believe me, they are not innocuous. Venables did not have the luxury of letting this matter fade away (which is so often the case in situations as this.) The team players heard it and who knows, one or more may have even recorded Gundy during his… Read more »

Steveg
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August 8, 2022 3:00 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen, ucla does not deserve respect. They never know what kind of team they will have, the coach is detached, and they walk away from bowl games. No wonder they have no fan base. What’s more, they have really ugly uniforms.

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August 9, 2022 12:36 pm
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Steveg, if UCLA is EVER going to become relevant nationally, this is the year. They have an outstanding QB (DTR is a 6 year starter!) and an outstanding RB (Charbonnay) and decent OL and WRs. I do not know much about the D, but I think they have some 6 year starters on that side of the ball as well. Given that they will play only three ranked teams (Utah, Oregon and SC), play most of their games at home; given this, UCLA has a better chance on paper of going 10-2 than SC. But, Chip Kelly has always managed… Read more »

volunteerTrojan
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August 9, 2022 2:29 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Another tough dilemma to noodle on. For the earlier portion of my life, I would have said ND without pause. After all, the ’74 game was the one that made me an SC lifer. Growing up in the South, I never really heard much about UCLA, but ND was a huge brand in the South. However, since moving out here in ’87, I have come to appreciate and experience first hand just how obnoxious and irritating UCLA athletics and their fans can be. I’ll still go with savoring a victory over ND a bit more. Just seems to carry more… Read more »

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August 8, 2022 5:41 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Let’s not overlook UCLA’s super soft 8-4 record from last year. Not a single win over a team with even a .500 record, and they bugged out of their bowl game for no apparent reason. Even with that all-Alabama (sort of) OOC schedule, they’ll have trouble going 8-4 this year.

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August 8, 2022 6:37 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

That’s an SEC out of conference schedule

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August 8, 2022 7:35 pm
Reply to  UtahTrojan

With one exception. UCLA won’t draw flies for its non-con games, and they could use the money. I have long believed, and not even my wife can prove me wrong on this, that one reason the SEC teams schedule 4 patsies at home every year is they know they don’t have to schedule dangerous opponents to sell out their stadiums. But South Alabama can’t put any seats in the Rose Bowl. The only time a game against the likes of South Alabama would have been a sellout in Los Angeles was during the Pete Carroll era. The Colorado State game… Read more »

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August 9, 2022 8:37 pm
Reply to  SC Gator

Unfortunately your last paragraph is where it is all at. They will never be punished for their OOC schedule.

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August 8, 2022 7:36 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

And Coach Day will never rhapsodize to the press about how his 2-3 team will look in November.

Steveg
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August 8, 2022 4:13 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Hard to understand Georgia behind Alabama and tOSU. Then Clemson at 4 is simply tradition, nothing more. Why would OK St be lower than OK with a new coach and a group of unknowns? Simply another preseason poll giving us something to gripe about and create clicks. These rankings don’t make sense, but then they never do.