Lincoln Riley says USC has higher standards in Year 2, expects better defense
Lincoln Riley set the standard on Tuesday when he met with reporters.
Two days into the Trojans’ spring period — marking Riley’s second go-around with USC — Riley said the standards are elevated after an 11-3 campaign in 2022.
“We’ve pushed our guys to understand what was acceptable 12 months ago isn’t acceptable now,” Riley said. “If we’re going to raise the standard of this program, it’s got to happen in everything we do. … We’re way more advanced in every sense of the word than we were at this time last year, but the standards are also higher too.”
The Trojans were wonderful in Riley’s first year. Contextually. They improved from a four-win campaign to an 11-win campaign. They went from afterthought in the title race to literally playing in the title game.
A Trojan quarterback won the Heisman. USC stars made All-American teams. USC dominated the all-conference teams and took both Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards.
But USC didn’t win a Pac-12 title and it was knocked out of the College Football Playoff right before the finish line. A 47-24 loss to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game all but ended the dream first year under Riley.
A month later, USC blew a late lead to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl and lost 46-45.
The needed improvements were painfully clear: USC needed to improve its defense.
Riley chose after the season to retain defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, an assistant on Riley’s staffs since 2019. The Trojans hit the portal for defensive reinforcements, bringing in linebacker Mason Cobb and defensive lineman Anthony Lucas, among others.
The defense will be at the forefront for Trojan coaches and players this spring.
“We expect to be an extremely high-level defense here at USC,” Riley said. “No reason in the world why we can’t and why we won’t be. We expect that will happen and happen soon. … Guys understand the scheme better. Guys get better physically. You bring in some talent you feel like can come in here and make an impact quickly.
“What we’ve seen of those guys up to this point we’ve been very, very pleased with. Then you make the necessary adjustments as coaches that are going to put our guys in position to be our best. Then you move forward.”
Riley held (virtual) court with reporters for nearly a half-hour. You can watch the full session below: