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Practice Report: Lincoln Riley says USC Trojan Helmet Logo Is 'Earned, Not Given'

Apr 2, 2022

Something is missing from the Trojans' practice uniform this spring. 

It's not USC's cardinal and white jerseys that hang off the shoulder pads of offensive and defensive players. And it's not the gold pants stained with grass following each practice on Howard Jones Field.

Donning the Trojan logo, which is normally placed on either side of USC's helmets, is now a privilege. 

"It's one of most iconic jersey, helmet, uniform combo that there is and we felt like the decal should be earned, not just given just because you've got a spot on the roster," head coach Lincoln Riley explained Saturday. 

It's a process that Riley and his staff have dubbed "gold plating." Players can nominate teammates they think should earn a decal and the coaches make the final decision. So far, just a handful of Trojans have earned their logo on their helmet. Riley shared the positive traits of those who receive their decal.

"[Good] habits off the field, habits on the field," Riley detailed. "A competitive nature, putting the team first, being accountable, being reliable. Things we spend a lot of time talking about as a staff."

USC's players are informed of their gold-plate status following each practice in the team's final huddle of the day. The process has also included members of the football program's legacy. Three-time All-American safety and current student assistant Taylor Mays presented Saturday's decals, while Lenny Vandermade, a four-year starting offensive lineman (2000-03) and current offensive quality control analyst, presented on Thursday.

"Our guys have to learn the history of this place, the history of this program," Riley said. "How special it is to play here. How special it is to coach here. It's earned, not given."

Things to note from USC's sixth practice of spring:

  • Riley joked that it would take all weekend to share the steps he and the staff have taken to instill accountability in USC's football program.
    • "I think the simplest way to put it is we just believe in championship teams and playing championship-level ball involves being at that level in every single thing that you do," Riley said. "You can't pick and choose … This game is that competitive. The margins are that thin."
  • Wide receivers Tahj Washington and Kyron Ware-Hudson both received praise from Riley on Saturday. He described both as being "particularly fun to work with" this spring:
    • Washington: "Very explosive. He's been fun to work with. An extremely hard worker. He's one of our guys that's been gold plated already. Raw as a player, but rapidly improving. [His] suddenness and playmaking ability are apparent.
    • Ware-Hudson: "Kyron's had a really good spring. I've really been impressed with him. His consistency, making a lot of tough catches. He was a guy recently that had a [minor] injury … Thought it was gonna keep him out for a bunch of days, and he was back on the field the very next day. So he's shown a lot of toughness and reliability."
  • Riley noted the top characteristics he looks for in a quarterback:
    • Toughness: "I don't think you can play this position well without being tough. Mentally, physically, all the above."
    • Natural talent: "Can you do the things that we asked you to do?"
    • High football IQ: "Do you have a mind that can process this game, process it quickly [and] pick up things?"

Saturday's press conference

New numbers to know:


0 - WR Terrell Bynum

2 - WR Brenden Rice

4 - WR Mario Williams

6 - RB Austin Jones

8 - WR CJ Williams

13 - QB Caleb Williams

26 - RB Travis Dye

70 - OL Bobby Haskins


1 - CB Domani Jackson 

2 - EDGE Romello Height

6 - CB Mekhi Blackmon 

21 - CB Latrell McCutchin

31 - DL Tyrone Taleni

53 - ILB Shane Lee 

97 - DT Earl Barquet

Save the Date

Fans' first chance to see the Trojans this spring will be at USC's Spring Game on April 23.