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Practice Report: Lincoln Riley Says Versatility Is Key To USC Football's Success On Offense

Apr 9, 2022

As Lincoln Riley has grown throughout his coaching career, so too has his offense. 

"I don't know that 'Air Raid' really fits it anymore, to be honest," USC's head coach said following the team's ninth practice of spring.

Riley's background at Texas Tech laid a foundation for Air Raid concepts, but his scheme doesn't neglect running the ball. The head coach noted Saturday (April 9) that any successful offense needs a strong run game. 

"Over the last seven years, we've had the highest yards per carry of any college football team in the country," Riley explained. "We've run the ball at a high level for a long time."

Riley further described that the coaching staff's strategy each year is to determine the best personnel on the roster and attack with those strengths. Once that is decided, the ultimate goal is to build an offense that can win no matter what an opponent throws at you.

"Do you have answers [of] what your guys do well to be able to attack people knowing that the game is going to be so different each week," Riley explained. "So hopefully, we build the versatility to attack people in different ways and win in different ways. That's been something that we've taken a lot of pride in in the past, and that's what we're trying to build here."

Things to note from USC's ninth practice of spring

  • Colorado defensive back transfer Mekhi Blackmon received praise from Riley for being one of USC's "biggest play makers" so far this spring.
    • "I think he's done an outstanding job at corner for us," Riley said. "He's a very instinctive, very talented player."
       
  • Riley described inside linebacker and Alabama transfer Shane Lee as "critically important" to the Trojans' culture-building process this spring.
    • "He's been very aggressive about his leadership … but we needed him to be," Riley explained. "He's obviously one of the few guys that we brought in here that came out of winning, successful programs, and has an idea of what it looks like. His aggressiveness and passion as a leader, and his consistency has been very, very positive for us. He's got a critical role for us right now."
       
  • Quarterback Caleb Williams is known for his mobility as a passer. Riley expanded on what makes the sophomore's talent unique.
    • "Caleb's got a little bit of size and mass to him, so he's fairly durable," Riley explained. "For a quarterback, he's got pretty decent top end speed … He's a guy that, defensively, it's tough to account for because having a guy on him is one thing, but getting him to the ground sometimes can be a little bit tougher."
       
  • Riley noted that a lot of cross-training has occurred in USC's secondary due to depth issues.
    • "We're pretty thin in terms of just numbers this spring, so some of [the cross-training] has been out of a necessity," Riley said. "But it's a great thing. We're not setting out to try to win a ballgame in April. We're setting up to try to be as good as we possibly can be this fall and all of that dual training and all of those reps will certainly pay off for these guys that are really grinding through right now."
       
  • Redshirt senior Solomon Tuliaupupu moved to the rush edge/outside linebacker position this offseason due to his "tweener" size in Alex Grinch's defense. Riley highlighted Tuliaupupu's drive so far this spring.
    • "He's a great kid," Riley said. "He's very driven. He's worked really hard. You know what you're gonna get out of him every day, so it's been fun to see him there. And he certainly made some plays and has been very active."

Saturday's press conference

Save the Date

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

New numbers to know:

Offense

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

Defense

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