Trojans spring showcase buzz with excitement

LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – There’s a lot of buzz going around on the campus of the University of Southern California. Yes, football has a lot to do with it.

That was evident by the more than 33,000 people who decided to come out and take in the sun at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum just to watch the USC Trojans football program play their annual spring game.

That’s what a successful high-profile head coach like Lincoln Riley and a heralded quarterback in the form of Caleb Williams will do. Last year, Riley was running the Oklahoma Sooners football program.

Last fall, Williams had the collegiate world stirring with his stellar play. What a difference a year makes. Both Riley and Williams decided to trade in their OU pledge to embrace the Trojans’ Fight On anthem.

With the new faces of the program secure, the excitement of what type of football alum and students alike can expect was on display at the spring game.   

April 23, 2022. USC head coach Lincoln Riley on the sidelines of his first spring showcase game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Photo by Astrud Reed/News4usonline

“That was a great day,” Riley said. “Today was a great example of a lot of progress that has been made in a really short time. There were some big plays on both sides of the ball.  We threw and caught the ball pretty well. The offensive line battled well. And the defense tackled well, a lot of open field tackles.” 

Although the spring game was the first official chapter of the era of Trojans football, it was a momentous leap forward for the fan base. 

“Obviously, this is just the beginning, this is just a step,” Riley remarked. “We’re really excited about our progress and the opportunity today to put it on display for our fans.”

The last time the USC football program produced a Heisman Trophy winner was in 2005 when Reggie Bush had one of the most electric seasons in college football history.

Bush infamously had his trophy stripped away from him and was erased from the record books. For a time, the USC trophy shelf had three Heisman Trophy statues in a four-year span, something that no other program has done.

Lincoln Riley knows a thing or two about the Heisman Trophy. Riley, now leading the USC program after serving as head coach for the Oklahoma Sooners, came extremely close to completing the feat in just three years.

Riley was tapped to be the Oklahoma head coach in 2017. In his first two seasons leading the Sooners, quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray took home the coveted award.

April 23, 2022. USC quarterback Caleb Williams (13) getting ready for some scrimmage action during the team’s spring showcase at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Williams is a transfer from the University of Oklahoma. Photo by Astrud Reed/News4usonline

The following season in 2019, another Oklahoma quarterback, Jalen Hurts, finished as the runner-up, just missing out on the most historic Heisman award.

Before the start of this year’s USC’s spring game, Matt Leinart, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2005 as a quarterback for the Trojans, said that there may be something brewing with Riley and his new quarterback.

“The great thing about coach Riley and what makes him so special is the system and the creativity,” Leinart said. “He’s a genius. He brought the best out of each one of those (quarterbacks)… that to me is what I am excited about. He coaches to the strengths of his players. He will bring out the best in them.”

It has been 17 years since the Trojans have had someone recognized as the top player in the country. Look for Williams to make a strong push to be in that conversation. Williams transferred to USC from Oklahoma this spring in wake of his head coach also departing West.

Williams was impressive last year as a freshman, throwing for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns to go along with only four interceptions. His name will be right at the top of the list when it comes to Heisman hopefuls.

It was no surprise Williams followed his coach to Southern California. Williams is a talented young quarterback. What Riley does best is unlock the talent of his quarterback’s potential. Riley’s trio of understudies, all of which are now NFL quarterbacks, were dual-threat options in college.

Williams fits the mold, showing his athleticism last season by rushing for 442 yards and six scores on the ground.  

In his second season in Riley’s system, Williams said there’s a sense of ownership when he’s out on the field.

“There will be a lot more confidence and control over the offense when I am on the field,” Williams said. “Just working throughout the week… making sure that we are in the right place at the right time… being coach Riley No. 2 on the field.”

 Williams went on to say the team is going to “compete, fight, and have a lot of energy.”

Williams impressed early in his first action as the signal-caller for the Trojans. He started the spring game off by finishing his first two drives 9-9 for 90 yards passing, 19 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

He would end his day going 10 of 12 passing for 98 yards and the two touchdowns. Riley liked what he saw from the quarterback position.

“I thought our quarterbacks looked good today,” Riley said following the scrimmage. “They played within themselves. We had a couple of opportunities in the second half that we missed, but they were pretty sharp. Caleb had a really good start. It was fun to watch them today.”