Weiner: Lincoln Riley will have Trojans Back on Top

Posted on November 29, 2021

  By Matt Weiner, SportsPac12

It isn’t clear when the search for a new Trojan head coach began, or which false turns it may have taken along the way, but the final outcome is as clear as day: Lincoln Riley is USC’s man.

The surprising news, first reported by Matt Zenitz of On3 Sports, broke Sunday afternoon, a day after Riley informed reporters that he was not going to be the next head coach at LSU.

Technically, his answer was correct. Oklahoma fans just didn’t realize he had another trick up his sleeve. Personally, I consider him completely innocent of all subterfuge charges.

usc logoAll of 2021 has been a continuous cycle of waiting for rain to stop and clouds to disappear for USC fans. This treacherous storm has vanquished now that USC got the big kahuna in the college football coaching world.

Besides Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney few coaches can claim to have a resume more consistent than Riley’s.

As head coach at Oklahoma from 2017 to 2021, Lincoln went 55-10, won four BIG 12 Championships, and landed three College Football Playoff berths.

On top of his team success, Riley also helped Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray win the Heisman and become first overall picks in the NFL draft in back-to-back years.

Lincoln Riley produced two Heisman winners, including Kyler Murray. | Craig Ruttle/AP

Comparing Riley’s resume to Clay Helton’s is like comparing a perfectly marbled Wagyu steak to a McChicken.

Some of the questions I have as a Trojan columnist is when was this all decided? If Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State, would he have stayed in Norman? And most importantly, how did USC AD Mike Bohn pull this one off?

Depending on what the future holds, Bohn may have earned himself a statue outside the Coliseum. Nothing too grandeur, but enough to remind fans how low this current era of USC football has been, and how it’s now set to climb.

USC athletic director Mike Bohn | Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A move like this screams loud and clear that the Trojans can compete not only in the Pac-12, but with the rest of the perennial blue bloods as well.

Now it will be interesting to see what the 2022 USC recruiting class would look like. All hope seemed lost last week when 4-star QB Devin Brown decommitted, and the current class dropped to 59th in the nation.

Being ranked that low is a catastrophe, considering how much talent is lurking in USC’s backyard. I’d be willing to bet my pinky that this is the lowest it will be for the next half decade, barring some unforeseen, earth-shattering scandals.

In fact, we may now be on the verge of witnessing a surge of top talent, starting with some of these…

If Riley gets half of these guys to flip from Oklahoma to USC it would be the happiest surprise of the season for USC and its fans.

But the pipeline was never an issue, it was the coaches. That was and will always be my Number One complaint about the Helton hire—and one that I fully believe Riley will fix.

The days of watching big stars like Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux and Ohio State WR Chris Olave become stars for out-of-state schools should be over.

It’s also reasonable to expect that Riley could poach big recruits from his well-established pipelines in the southwest. Five of his top nine recruits in the 2022 Sooner class are from either Oklahoma or Texas.

Former OU coach Lincoln Riley and players raise the trophy after winning the Cotton Bowl in 2020 | George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One could only imagine how quick the Trojan turnaround could be if USC becomes a feeder for those states.

Of course, all of this could be premature. There’s still so much to learn about this situation. But USC fans haven’t had this much to be excited about since Sam Darnold rallied past Penn State to win the Rose Bowl.

There hasn’t been much to look forward to since then that didn’t prove to be based on wishful thinking or delusion. Now that Lincoln Riley has the keys, however, I have little doubt that he will drive USC back to the top of the mountain.

—Recent Matt Weiner Stories—

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