With the annual signing and initial counter limits waived for next year, USC’s freshman recruiting class is filling up in ways it was just never going to during the 2022 cycle. The Trojans signed seven high school recruits in Riley’s first (albeit abbreviated) recruiting class at USC.

For the 2023 cycle, his first (sort of) full cycle to recruit while wearing a Trojans hat, USC has 20 known pledges a month before the Early Signing Period. He expects the class, which currently ranks 13th nationally, to continue growing.

“I think we signed seven high school players last year. We’re gonna sign in the mid-20s this year. So that alone is a big, big difference,” Riley said this week. “Now we’ll have some attrition on this roster, like everybody does and we will be active in the portal again. I don’t imagine we’ll be quite as active as we chose to be last year. You’ll probably see something somewhere in between a normal year and what we did last year. But we feel like we’re thrilled about the high school class. We really are.”

The 2022 class had 20 transfers. The nature of the roster Riley felt he inherited and the “win now” mindset USC’s leadership approached the new year with necessitated a crop of newcomers heavy on experienced players. Riley says the Trojans aren’t done with overhauling the roster, even if the levers pulled in the coming months are different from the ones they used a year ago.

“This was not a one-year fix in terms of where we think this can get to,” said Riley. “Now we’ve obviously got a really good football team right now that’s got some great things in front of them. As time goes on, the depth and the roster and the talent are going to get better and better and better. And there’s going to be an evolution.”

When it comes to the elite recruits year in and year out, multi-year relationships win the day. You have to recruit ahead. You wonder if there were prospects Riley couldn’t get to in Norman, Oklahoma that he can now in Los Angeles — they’d be few and far between, Riley recruited exceptionally well at OU, but still.

With a year under his belt at USC, results on the field that back up his vision pitched to recruits and their families in meetings, and the opportunity to work ahead, Riley things the future is bright.

“What I think is exciting now is now I think there’s proof right now. Now there’s some proof of concept. Now people can see the direction. It’s not all just hype, it’s not all just talk in the offseason. They can see some real, tangible results behind it. With what we’re gonna have coming back, I think we’re gonna get a lot of calls and a lot of guys that are interested in coming to USC.

“It’ll obviously be an active time coming up and we’re ready for it.”

Work still to be done this season, though. And that’ll help the efforts on the trail. The ninth-ranked Trojans (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) host Cal (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. PT on ESPN.