Spring football kicks off Tuesday

Lincoln Riley smiles on during his introductory press conference. Riley will hold his first spring practice at USC Tuesday.
Lincoln Riley smiles on during his introductory press conference. Riley will hold his first spring practice at USC Tuesday. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan) 

With the addition of new Head Coach Lincoln Riley, USC has revamped for this upcoming season in terms of both new recruits and significant transfers. These star players include Oklahoma transfer quarterback Caleb Williams and Oregon transfer running back Travis Dye, along with promising recruits such as four-star recruit Raleek Brown. 

With new members on the Trojans squad, USC had the tenth best overall 2022 class in the nation. With a new regime and era underway, here are five things to look out for as the Trojans prep for their 2022 season.

1. Running back developments

The running back room for this USC team is stacked with both experienced and young talent. First, there is the already mentioned new running back recruit Brown out of Santa Ana who is known for his speed and skills all-around the field. A strong mentor for Brown on this team will be Dye. 

Dye racked in 1,271 yards and 16 touchdowns last season and also had 402 yards and two touchdowns from his 46 catches. His versatility will be important to keep an eye on during practice. 

There is also Stanford transfer Austin Jones who was effective last season in spite of the team’s poor offensive line where he attained 378 yards with two touchdowns and caught 32 passes for 267 yards. Dye and Jones offer a one-two punch the Trojans can utilize. 

One remaining Trojan from last season, redshirt junior Darwin Barlow, only rushed for 289 yards and had two touchdowns. Although low in the depth chart, Barlow may prove helpful to the new running backs as they get used to the team. New running back coach Kiel McDonald recruited Barlow when he was at Utah and said he’s looking forward to working with Barlow. 

Overall, there is a diverse set of running backs this season whose development this spring is key.

2. Caleb Williams and his new team

It is safe to say that incoming quarterback Caleb Williams may prove as one of the most integral components of this team. Already on the Heisman Trophy watchlist, Williams is looking to build on his breakout freshman season. 

Ensuring that he is well-adjusted with his new teammates is critical to look for during the spring camp. Thankfully, he has some familiar faces from Oklahoma such as Riley and wide receiver and former Sooner teammate Mario Williams. 

3. Forming the new class of wide receivers 

With Drake London gone for the NFL draft, there are new openings in USC’s wide receiver room. With an interesting combination of incoming players — such as Brenden Rice from Colorado, Terrell Bynum from Washington and four-star Mater Dei recruit C.J. Williams — and returners — Gary Bryant Jr. and Michael Jackson III — the Trojan’s offense will need all the training they can get this spring, particularly as they work for the first time under Riley. 

4. Korey Foreman’s growth

The former 2021 no. 2 recruit in the nation, defensive lineman Korey Foreman has a lot of potential to revitalize the Trojans’ defense. Despite a relatively quiet freshman season playing in 11 games, Foreman had 11 tackles, with 3.5 of them losses for a total of 8 yards. He was also able to get 2.5 sacks in total for the season.

In his first comments as a Trojan, new defensive line coach Shaun Nua said he sees a bright future in Foreman. He also mentioned that Foreman is “going to be pushed if he wants to be pushed.”

Making sure that Foreman properly develops and trains during spring camp will be vital for the Trojans’ success on defense moving forward. 

5. Alex Grinch’s new defense 

In general, a lot of talk has circulated about the Trojans’ upcoming effectiveness on the offensive side. However, improving the defense will be an important part of spring training with new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who Riley brought over from Oklahoma. 

We already discussed the role Foreman will play in this lineup. However, new recruits, such as five-star freshman cornerback Domani Jackson and four-star safety Zion Branch, are also important to look out for during the spring camp, as they will be key parts of the secondary since many players left this season like cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart and safety Isaiah Pola-Mao. 

A USC side that allowed its opposition to score 40-plus points in five of its 12 games last season is due for some work. So, this spring training is crucial for Grinch and his staff to fix any problems and improve their play.