USC shook up the college football world on Sunday with its reported hiring of Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley to be the Trojans’ next head football coach. Riley arrives in Los Angeles with six years of head coaching experience with the Sooners and a College Football Playoff appearance on his resume.
He inherits a USC program that has struggled to reach its historic heights in recent seasons, including a 4-7 mark this year for its second losing record in four seasons. So there is a lot of work for Riley to do upon arriving in Southern California beyond house hunting. Here’s a look at the new head Trojan’s to-do list at USC.
This is the lifeblood of any program, but USC’s 2022 recruiting class has lost its three top commits since Clay Helton was fired in September. With the early signing period looming in December, it’s a short period of time for Riley build the foundation for what his 2022 class will look like. Maybe he retains the eight players currently in the class, maybe he tries to find other prospects to fill those holes.
But Riley has the credibility to walk into any recruit’s house and sell USC, even if that prospect is already committed elsewhere. His Southern California (and national) connections run deep, and could help convince five-star Mater Dei running back Raleek Brown flip from Oklahoma back to USC.
Assemble a coaching staff
Like in recruiting, Riley should be able to attract a strong coaching staff with him to Los Angeles. If he were to take anyone from Norman with him, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch would be a major coup for USC.
Riley will also have to determine who on the current USC coaching staff he wants to retain. Interim head coach and cornerbacks coach Donte Williams is expected to return, but Riley also has connections to other members of USC’s coaching staff from his days at Texas Tech.
He was teammates with USC OL coach Clay McGuire in Lubbock. Then Riley was the Red Raiders’ receivers coach when current USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and tight ends coach Seth Doege were players at Texas Tech.
Evaluate the roster
The Trojans have struggled this season, but the cupboards aren’t bare. True freshmen like QB Jaxson Dart, DE Korey Foreman, S Calen Bullock, CB Jaylin Smith and TE Lake McRee are a solid foundation, not to mention more veteran guys like WR Gary Bryant Jr. and DE Tuli Tuipulotu.
The next step for Riley will be to determine which seniors with an extra season of eligibility he wants to retain and work on convincing them to return to USC for another season. Examples that come to mind are C Brett Neilon, OL Andrew Vorhees and RB Keaontay Ingram.