Lincoln Riley expects lighter rotation for USC against Nevada
Lincoln Riley and the USC coaching staff used a heavy rotation Saturday night against San Jose State in the season opener.
On offense, three quarterbacks saw the field, as did 12 wide receivers. Eight different players logged a rushing attempt. On defense, 26 different players saw a snap. The participation report lists a total of 70 Trojans who saw the field between offense, defense, and special teams.
“We’ll have slightly less in terms of planned rotations against Nevada,” Riley said Monday night during an appearance on USC’s in-house radio show, Trojans Live. “We’re not going to do rotations just because… If you earn reps, we’re going to play you. We’re not going to play you based on what you did last year. We’re not going to play you based on anything else other than what you do right here and right now.
“I think the players saw that we stood by that. We played a lot of different lineups on both sides. We got a lot of looks at people. There’s guys that I think played really well that are gonna have a chance to earn more and more reps as time goes on. There’s just so much competition within this team right now, which I’m really, really excited about.”
Riley thought the team handled the lineup changes well.
Shuffling players on and off the field the way USC did — the broadcast made note on several different occasions of how many different defensive line configurations were out on the field — can hurt a team’s rhythm. Riley acknowledged that.
He said the game may have been cleaner had they not rotated the lineup the way they did.
The Trojans weren’t afraid to throw out young players before the game was in balance.
“You’re also setting up for a long run here. This is a long season. You’re gonna need a lot of these guys,” Riley said.
But in order to develop a rhythm within the first unit, a sense of cohesion, and a bit of an identity — particularly on the offensive side of the football — that kind of shuffling can’t continue for more than a few games.
Riley knows that.
“We’ve got to start transitioning to units that look like a well-oiled machine, that are completely in sync,” Riley said. “Ones where you don’t sit there and notice all of the guys, you notice how well they play together. That’s been the emphasis point for coaches and players this week.”
The Trojans face Nevada on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. PT on the Pac-12 Network.