Anonymous coaches size up USC, warn of a 'powerhouse' once Trojans put pieces together
In the offseason, coaches are given anonymity by a litany of outlets to speak freely on opponents, coaching peers, hot-button issues, and everything else in between.
It usually yields some wildly entertaining results. That’s the case with Athlon Sports’ preseason preview of the Trojans.
In the outlet’s preseason preview magazine, several opposing coaches sized up the Trojans in Lincoln Riley’s first season at the helm. Several said different variations of the same thing: when USC puts the pieces together, the rest of the league is in trouble.
“They’re going to be a powerhouse,” said one coach. “The question is how long it’s going to take and what they’re going to look like when it happens.”
USC opens the new season against Rice at home on Sept. 3. Over the next five weeks, it’ll face Stanford, Fresno State, Oregon State, Arizona State, and Washington State. All carry questions into the season, but any of those five could give the Trojans a scare if things aren’t firing on all cylinders right away.
The season reaches its crescendo moment on Oct. 15 when the Trojans travel to Salt Lake City to face Utah.
“Lincoln (Riley) is a great coach,” said another. “I would describe him as having elite emotional intelligence. He’s gonna recruit his ass off, and he’ll make the USC brand cool again. Even with the portal, it will take him two years to get the talent they need to be nationally relevant and ahead of Utah in the South, but eventually they’re going to do it.”
Fortunately for the Trojans, the Pac-12 changed its title game structure for the upcoming season and moving forward. USC doesn’t need to win the South to make the game. It needs to finish with a top-two conference record. It could theoretically face Utah twice this season.
“The problem for the rest of us in the league is that it’s a brand-new everything,” another coach told Athlon. “They’re the most unknown program in the league top to bottom. So many guys have left; so many have come in. Last year’s film won’t really give you anything.”
So, another coach says, go watch Oklahoma. USC attracted former Sooner quarterback Caleb Williams via the transfer portal. He gives the Trojans a star at the most important position.
“Caleb (Williams) is a really talented kid. He’s going to thrive when they get everyone on the same page,” said the coach. “How physical are they going to be? The style OU played was a physical Air Raid, moreso than the usual Big 12 teams. If you go back and look through their entire history, when USC plays physical, they win titles. When they’re not, they just put up stats. It’s really that simple.
“The physicality means they’re getting those elite guys on both lines. It means they’re developing NFL dudes, and they’re a mile ahead of the league. At this point, I think it would be good to have them back on top for a while, for just about everyone except for Oregon and UCLA, maybe.”