USC Trojans Preview 2022: Offense
Lost in all of the fun and fanfare is that USC had the No. 1 offense in the Pac-12 last season with a passing attack that averaged 300 yards per game. But what it didn’t do enough of was score.
So if you’re a USC fan, who would you want to become the C&J Elerding Head Football Coach to take over a good situation and make it otherworldly?
With Lincoln Riley comes the high-octane Oklahoma attack, the transfers who want to play for him, and the recruits that will line up to be part of the fun. Riley and offensive coordinator Josh Henson – who grew into a top assistant coaching up offensive lines – are about do wonders.
It starts by adding one of the best quarterbacks in college football and one of the nation’s best receivers. Bryce Young – who would’ve probably stayed close to home to be a Trojan, by the way, if Riley was the coach a few years ago – might have won the Heisman, and there were other amazing quarterbacks throughout last year, but Caleb Williams was as good as any player in college football over the second half of last year.
Williams hit 65% of his passes for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns with just four picks, and he ran for 442 yards and six touchdowns. How good is he? Former Trojan starters Jaxson Dart will probably be the main man for Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss, and Kedon Slovis is taking over for Kenny Pickett at Pitt.
However, Slovis won’t have Jordan Addison to throw to. The Biletnikoff Award winner and new Trojan caught 100 passes last season for close to 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns. Former Oklahoma star recruit Mario Williams is coming over, too, and Colorado’s Brenden Rice is a nice, big, physical get.
Those three go with 54-catch Tahj Washington, seven-touchdown grab Gary Bryant, and fourth-leading receiver Kyle Ford to boost up an already amazing receiving corps. Tight end Malcom Epps is a big play target who’ll flourish.
Not to be outdone from the transfer portal is Travis Dye from Oregon – one of the most dynamic backs in the country – to go along with Stanford’s Austin Jones and veteran Darwin Barlow to balance things out a bit.
But can the O line do its part? Getting Virginia’s Bobby Haskins to work at left tackle was a big deal. Center Brett Neilon and guard Andrew Voorhees will be in the NFL soon enough, but this group has to be steadier and more consistent. Henson will help take care of that.
The offense will be great, but …
USC Trojans Preview 2022: Defense
Can the defense hold up its end of the bargain?
As good as all the top transfers might be, none might be bigger than former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who took a miserable situation and made it a whole lot better in a hurry.
This is going to take a little work, though.
USC had the tenth-best defense in the Pac-12 allowing 409 yards and 32 points per game, the pass rush was meh, and this group couldn’t buy a meaningful third down stop.
On the plus side, what would normally be the hardest part to fix might just be one of the team’s bigger strengths. The line starts with Tuli Tuipulotu – one of the nation’s top defensive tackles – and helped by a good rotation of big options on the nose and future NFL defensive end Nick Figueroa on the outside. Along with pass rusher Romeo Height from Auburn, this bunch has to be far more disruptive.
The linebackers are set in the 4-2-5. Ralen Goforth was second on the team with 62 stops, Shane Lee is a ready-made inside presence from Alabama, and Arizona State’s Eric Gentry was a nice get to be a part of the rotation.
The secondary that needs to make more big plays got an infusion of new options at corner. Mekhi Blackmon is a solid all-around defender from Colorado, and Oklahoma’s Latrell McCutchin could step in right away.
Xavion Alford is a strong young safety, and Calen Bullock made 40 stops last year – those two should be stronger after going through the battles as freshmen.