'A mastermind at work': USC's Travis Dye soaking up all he can from new coach Lincoln Riley
Travis Dye said he knew right away that USC was the place for him when he came down from Oregon to visit.
The opportunity to work with an offensive mind like Lincoln Riley was too good to pass up. The Trojans’ head coach is viewed as one of the best offensive orchestrators in college football. Fans from his previous school might quibble with that, but Riley’s offensive résumé at this point in his career — he’s not yet 40 — is bulletproof. Dye knew about his reputation.
Meeting and actually talking ball, though, Dye was blown away.
When the running back met with reporters on Tuesday, he was effusive in his praise of his new head coach.
“I had to meet Coach Riley, I had to know how he was. When I came down here, we were just talking ball for about three hours, just going back and forth with it. I knew right away,” he said. “I knew right away I have to come here, I have to be coached by him, I have to know more, I need to know what he’s thinking when we’re out here on the field. I’m just very blessed to be out here with a mastermind like that.”
Dye appeared in 48 games for the Oregon Ducks from 2018 to 2021. He ran for 3,111 yards — a mark that ranks fifth-most in Oregon program history — at 6 yards a carry. He scored 29 career touchdowns and more than 4,000 career all-purpose yards. He was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention last season after leading the league in all-purpose yards.
The 5-foot-10 senior has been part of successful offensive outfits before, and he’s played on teams that played for titles.
USC feels different.
“Every time he opens up his mouth I’m quiet and he’s talking and I’m fully into it and listening because he’s always planning up something that I’m just like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even notice that.’ Like, this is a mastermind at work,” he said. “I’m just super blessed and super honored to be able to be here and witness that, to be able to play with that.
“His RPOs are ridiculous. His GTs are ridiculous. Everything he’s thrown at us, I’m just in awe.”
Dye figures to lead the Trojans’ rushing attack in 2022. As a versatile and shifty tailback, he gives Riley a tailormade weapon to lean on out of the backfield.
Maybe the only negative about the situation is that Riley and Trojan fans only get one year with Dye. A Norco, California, native, Dye said it feels like he’s been with the program for five years rather than just since February. “We glued together so much quicker and so much better than any other group I’ve ever been a part of,” he said.
For an offense that, really, was put together in one offseason — transfers are expected to start at quarterback, running back, wideout, and on the offensive line — the timing has been exceptional so far in camp.
“We’re hitting on all cylinders I feel like,” Dye said. “The tempo is so much better. It’s just boom, boom, boom right down the field. That’s how it should be.”
That should be music to Riley’s ears. Just how quickly Riley can get this group playing at a championship level is one of the biggest questions in all of college football this season. Count Dye among those just itching to see what Riley can do next.