Lincoln Riley and the USC Trojans have a new Heisman Trophy to add to the trophy case inside their facilities, and they have an 11-2 record from last season to build upon. But the work that went into making last year’s run to the Pac-12 title game a reality is continuing all the same in Year 2.

The attention that was paid to fixing the USC offense last season, that’s now shifted to the other side of the ball. Riley and Co. are hard at work trying to figure out how to improve a defense that markedly broke down as the 2022 season wound down.

One player who could be key in that turnaround? Former No. 2 overall recruit Korey Foreman.

Now entering his third year with USC, Foreman has moved from the rush end position in Alex Grinch’s defense to the defensive line. It feels like a shift to more of a natural position for the former 5-star prospect. Going by USC’s public roster, Foreman has actually dropped weight from last season, when he was listed at 245 pounds. He’s 235 on the spring roster, but Riley seems incredibly pleased with what he’s seen so far.

“He has improved and is such a better player right now than he was 12 months ago,” Riley said on Saturday. “It’s not even close. It is not even close.

“He’s working hard, he’s taking some steps. He’s been a more consistent playmaker six practices in. His good plays have been better and there’s not been nearly… You know, before he’d have some ‘wow’ plays but then there would be a bust or a mental lapse or a missed assignment or whatever the case may be. He’s learning to be able to sustain that.”

There’s a sizeable hole on the USC defensive line heading into the new year. Tuli Tuipulotu led the nation in sacks with 13.5 in 2022. That’s not easily replaceable. A big step from Foreman would go a long way in that regard.

Foreman had 13 tackles last season, one of which went for a loss. The coaching staff has wanted more consistency from him since they got to Los Angeles, and he’s starting to deliver.

“We’re playing him right now at end this spring, which has been a little different,” Riley said. “The way we’re structured right now defensively, it’s moved his position room and so he’s been in there with Coach (Shaun) Nua and some of the other guys. Korey’s had a good camp so far. He really has. He’s been impactful.

“What’s starting to add up for Korey … is he’s been able to stay on the field. He’s been able to stay in workouts. He hasn’t had a lot of times where he’s in and out of stuff. And so what happens is you’re starting to see him stack good days on top of each other and the improvements and the consistency that he’s been fighting for and we as a staff have been pushing him for, those things are starting to happen.”

And if that continues through the spring and summer months and then into fall camp, Riley says there’s no doubt Foreman will be a “disruptive” player for the Trojans in 2023.

“Excited about his progress. Really,” Riley said. “As excited as I’ve been in all the time we’ve been with Korey.”