Transparency in Caleb Williams' USC recruitment gave Miller Moss confidence, now he's ready to compete
Miller Moss is a rare breed in the portal era of college football quarterbacking.
When he committed to USC in June of 2020, he was a significant get for the Trojans. This is a top-100 quarterback we’re talking about here. Moss was a high 4-star and the sixth-best prospect from the state of California in the 2021 class, per the 247 Composite. And at the time of his commitment, Jake Garcia had been in the class for nearly eight months, another high 4-star and a top-50 overall prospect.
No matter. Moss was going to compete.
But when Garcia left the class in early December of 2020, two weeks later the Trojans pulled a signing day coup and signed Jaxson Dart.
Again, Moss stayed in the picture.
When Lincoln Riley signed on to lead the program last December and all indications pointed to Caleb Williams transferring from Riley’s old home to Riley’s new home, Moss was thrust into a precarious spot. To play for a coach who didn’t recruit you and immediately sought out a new guy is to willingly stand in uncertainty. Should Moss hit the portal like Dart and Kedon Slovis did? Should he search out somewhere he could be the guy?
This situation was different, though. There was little uncertainty about what was happening and where Moss stood with his new coach. Riley, the sophomore quarterback told reporters this week, made sure of that.
“He was upfront with me from the very beginning, which I really appreciated,” Moss said after the team’s first practice. “When Caleb ended up visiting, (Riley) called me before, which I didn’t expect. He didn’t have to do (that), so that gave me confidence in how he was going to handle the situation going forward and made me a lot more comfortable with him.
“So, when Caleb obviously ended up committing, it made me a lot more comfortable in the situation.”
The two had a prior relationship as well, Williams and Moss. Both participated in the Elite 11 camp during their recruitment process, and all those guys created a group chat after that kept everyone in touch. Not that they spoke every day, but there was a familiarity there.
“Me and Miller are fine,” Williams said. “We have a great relationship. We collab on things, we talk things through in meetings, on the field, off the field, wherever we need to. Relationship’s great.”
But they’re the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
That can make things a little challenging for the coaching staff.
“Maybe a little tougher on the shoulder,” Williams joked.
Plenty of reps to spread between Williams and Moss throughout spring ball. There might not be a true quarterback competition—Williams is the guy—but a lot of the time you see quarterbacks dip their toe in the transfer market because they don’t know where they stand.
The portal has forced coaches to play games at the quarterback spot—extend competitions right up until the season so they don’t risk losing the guy who lost the battle, create “competitions” in name only to keep everyone happy. Coaches want depth. Quarterbacks want to play. It’s a tough balance.
Riley seems to be striking the right chord with his two.
“The biggest thing with Coach Riley is he has a formula, and he has a formula that we as players can believe in because it has worked,” Moss said. “We’re not just throwing stuff to the wall and hoping it sticks. I think the fact that he has a formula laid out for us gives us a ton of belief in what he’s telling us.”
It helps, too, that Moss has enjoyed the new offense Riley brought over with him.
“I think one of the biggest differences from last year to this year is that everything runs through the quarterback, so I think that’s huge for me,” he said. “It makes you feel more in command as a quarterback, and you have a lot of leeway to play towards your comfort zone. So, yeah, it’s been great so far. I definitely still have a lot to learn, but I’ve been really, really pleased so far.”
Moss could leave the Trojans at some point in his career. With Williams in town and another blue-chip guy on the way in next year’s class, few would blame him if he did look somewhere else. For now, though, nothing has changed from when he first committed to the Trojans.
“I think if you have great players in the same room it only makes each other better,” he said. “… I’m gonna work my butt off to be the best version of myself I can be and let the chips kinda fall where they fall.”