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Five Key Takeaways: Lincoln Riley Era Debuts In Coliseum For USC's 2022 Spring Game

Apr 23, 2022

A record-setting crowd of 33,427 Trojan fans welcomed in a new era of USC football Saturday (April 23) for the Trojans' 2022 spring game in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. While the scenery might have been familiar for most of the cardinal and gold faithful, it was a day of firsts for head coach Lincoln Riley.

"Coming down that tunnel for the first time certainly gives you chills," Lincoln Riley said following the game. "That's one of those iconic walks in our sport that I've never had a chance to do. Kinda glad I got to do it for the first time with a USC visor on."

Riley was pleased with USC's performance Saturday and noted that it mirrored what he saw in camp.

"I thought the day was very representative of the entire spring; pretty physical on both sides and football," Riley said. "It was a great step for us. There are obviously a lot of big steps left to go, but this group is going to be ready."

Here are the top five initial takeaways following the Trojans' spring game:

  1. Offense Reloaded
    • It's an obvious point, but USC's offense looks to be in good hands under the direction of Lincoln Riley & Co. The Trojans were efficient in the red zone Saturday after struggling in that arena in 2021. 
    • Quarterback Caleb Williams was 10 of 12 for 98 yards with two touchdowns. He continued to strengthen his connection with wide receiver Mario Williams, finding him in the end zone twice on two short passes. Quarterback Miller Moss went 15 of 20 for 169 yards and a touchdown. He found wide receiver Kyle Ford deep on a 48-yard touchdown reception that electrified the Coliseum. Running back Austin Jones also added to USC's scoring with a six-yard touchdown run himself.
  2. Defensive development
    • When compared to the last several years, the Trojans' tackling efforts looked much improved on Saturday. Defensive backs Latrell McCutchin, Anthony Beavers and Jaylin Smith each led the team with four tackles Saturday. Edge rusher Romello Height, inside linebacker Julien Simon and defensive lineman Nick Figueroa each had a sack.
    • Depth and health issues, however, were an issue for USC's defense this spring and it showed itself at times on Saturday. Several playmakers in the Trojans' secondary, including cornerback Mekhi Blackmon, who Riley deemed as one of the team's biggest playmakers this spring, did not participate due to injury.
  3. Starting spots beginning to take shape
    • Saturday's game gave us a window into some of the starting roles that are beginning to develop. The Trojans' first-team offensive line consisted of LT Courtland Ford, LG Andrew Vorhees, C Brett Neilon, RG Justin Dedich, RT Jonah Monheim. USC's first-team inside linebacker pairing featured Shane Lee and Ralen Goforth, while Raejson Davis and Tuasivi Numora held down the second team.
  4. Transfer talent is apparent 
    • Riley has often described this iteration of USC's roster as "the most unique in college football" due to its mix of returning players and NCAA Transfer Portal additions. The Trojans' offseason additions proved their value Saturday, contributing to three of the team's four touchdowns. Defensive back Latrell McCutchin tied for a team-high four tackles, while edge rusher Romello Height and inside linebacker Shane Lee each recorded three tackles on the day. Height also recorded a sack.
  5. More transfers to come:
    • It's no secret to anyone who has listened to post-practice press conferences this spring that USC will once again be "active" in the NCAA Transfer Portal this offseason. Riley shared Saturday that they are "thrilled" with the current players on the roster, but "just need a little bit everywhere" to boost overall numbers. 
    • The head coach made it clear, however, that whoever is added this summer will need to contribute to the culture USC has established so far this offseason. "We've worked our ass off in the last four and a half months to build a culture and to build a kind of standard within our program … We're not about to risk that for any person, no matter how good of a football player they are."

USC's Spring Game Press Conference: