(News4usonline) – Lincoln Riley took over the USC football program as a man on a mission. In just his first year as the Trojans’ head coach, Riley won 11 games during the regular season and guided the team to the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game against Utah.
The Trojans will play against Tulane on Jan. 2, 2023, as a result of their super turnaround from a year ago, where USC managed to win just four games and looked like the rest of the college football world had passed them by. What a difference a year makes. This year’s football team is not last season’s Trojans’ squad.
With a building block in Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, Riley and the Trojans are going to have even higher expectations going into the 2023 college football season. That’s okay.
The more success the Trojans have in restoring their football program’s storied history, the more top-flight players Riley will be able to recruit and convince to join by wearing the burgundy and gold, symbolizing the school’s colors.
During the early period of National Signing Day, Riley and his band of coaches and recruiters fared pretty well in getting the players they wanted to add to their loaded roster. The Trojans got 19 recruits to sign on the dotted line in their commitment to the football program.
That’s a pretty hefty haul for Riley. This was not a one-sided affair as Riley was able to get talented players on both sides of the ball. Okay. The biggest name out of the 19 players the Trojans picked up, quarterback Malachi Nelson stands out.
Yes, Williams is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and returns back for another season, Riley went after the future. And that future looks to be in the hands and feet of Nelson, a bonafide can’t-miss prospect. Nelson is a local talent, hailing from nearby Los Alamitos High School in Los Alamitos, California. Nelson more than made a name for himself at the prep level. According to ESPN, Nelson is the No.1 high school football prospect in the nation.
This is a real coup for Riley and the Trojans to nab Nelson. A 2023 Under Armour All-American, Nelson passed for 2,898 yards and 35 touchdowns during his senior season. He was just as spectacular in his junior year when he completed 170 of 275 passes for 2, 690 yards and 39 touchdowns. Nelson is the only quarterback USC locked in during the early period of National Signing Day.
And usually, where a quarterback goes, their wide receivers tend to follow. That would be Makai Lemon. Like his buddy, Nelson, Lemon is a 2023 Under Armour All-American. Lemon produced a sensational senior campaign, hauling 69 passes for 1,044 yards and 12 touchdowns for Los Alamitos. The two-way standout also recorded a dozen tackles.
A year ago, Lemon was tapped as a MaxPreps California All-State First Team member and made the MaxPreps Junior All-American First Team.
Featured Image: USC football coach Lincoln Riley talks about using the NCAA transfer portal to build the Trojans program. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.