Lincoln Riley likes to use Hollywood Brown’s 2017 season as a teaching moment.

The receiver — now in the NFL — was a scout team guy to begin the year. He played sparingly in the season-opener, then didn’t get on the field a week later when Riley led Oklahoma against Ohio State.

“Then all of a sudden he finishes the year with like 1,100 yards receiving” — 1,095 and seven scores, to be exact — “and just goes nuts the second half of the season,” Riley recalled. “A lot of that started with scout team and he got some time when we got up in games early in the year and made a couple plays. (He) went from a WR2 or WR3 to a top two or three receiver in that league within six weeks. That can happen that fast. It’s an underrated part of your roster…We’re trying to build ourselves to win a lot of games (in) different ways (with) different people.”

Consider it a cautionary tale for the Trojans’ receiver room.

It’s hard to argue USC doesn’t have one of the best receiver rooms in the country. It can make a compelling case for having the best.

There’s Jordan Addison, the 2021 Biletnikoff winner and a devastating talent in the slot. There’s Mario Williams, a former blue-chipper and transfer from Oklahoma. There’s Brenden Rice, son of legendary NFL receiver Jerry Rice and a former blue-chipper himself. There’s Kyron Hudson-Ware and Terrell Bynum and CJ Williams and Kyle Ford.

And there’s Tahj Washington and Gary Bryant Jr., a pair of returning receivers who happen to be the first- and second-leading returning wideouts in the Pac-12. Washington had 602 yards last season. Bryant had 579 and seven scores.

It’s easy to forget about them.


“I’ve been excited with them,” Riley said earlier this week. “They both have very unique skillsets that translate well to what we do offensively. Those guys were used primarily outside previously, but we’ll probably end up moving those guys around a little bit, take advantage of their skillset maybe in a little bit different way. Those two are really competing hard. Some of the sets for us, they’re in the same group.

“You’ve got two experienced players, two explosive players who both want to play. The other thing for those guys is they both factor in heavily on our special teams. So I’m pleased with their progress. They both had specific things coming out of spring that they needed to work on. Tahj, his consistency. Gary, his physicality. I think both here this fall camp have taken some good steps in the right direction.”

Outside wideout coach Dennis Simmons said he wasn’t sure how he’d divide up the rotation if forced to right now.

But the fact this group was very nearly built from the ground up over the offseason — and the few returnees are adjusting to life in a new system — means everyone started on level footing.

“I think it’s fair for them because no one has the upper hand coming in the door,” Simmons said. “It gives guys a legitimate chance to position themselves and maneuver themselves on the depth chart. One of the things we talk about in our meeting room is we’ve got to be a team first, we’ve got to be a unit first — whether you’re in the inside room or the outside room.”

Addison has helped there.

“He cares about his teammates,” Simmons said. “He’s been one of those guys that’s not just learned his position, but tried to learn what’s going on with the complementary (receivers) around him. He’s not a very vocal guy at times, but he has been helpful.”

Said Addison: “The receiver room is pretty deep. Everybody is pretty talented. My skillset, I feel like I just bring a different piece to the puzzle.”

Finding out who fits where is probably going to be a moving target a bit at the start of the season. There are so many talented receivers who should get looks.

“Coaching here, and guys coming to play here at USC, we’ve got a legacy to uphold,” Simmons said. “That position (receiver at USC) is something you aspire as a little kid to become and it’s something you want to represent.

“… We don’t want to disappoint or disrespect that.”

Whoever is playing early isn’t guaranteed a permanent spot. Perhaps there’s another Hollywood story to be written in Riley’s first season in Hollywood.