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Articles tagged: USC Football

Ex-USC player arrested on federal charges for alleged COVID scheme

USC Trojans logo

A former USC football player was arrested this week and is facing several charges stemming from an alleged COVID-19-related fraud scheme.

Abdul-Malik McClain, who transferred from USC to Jackson State last November, was arrested on Monday in Los Angeles and charged with 10 counts of mail fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. McClain and other football players are accused of orchestrating a scheme to claim COVID-related unemployment benefits.

McClain was indicted by a federal grand jury on Dec. 16 after prosecutors determined he and his associates filed more than 30 fraudulent applications seeking a total of more than $900,000. Roughly $227,000 of the money was paid out, according to Brian Rokos of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“While a member of his university’s football team, McClain organized and assisted a group of other football players in filing fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits, including under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program established by Congress in response to the pandemic’s economic fallout,” the indictment says. “The indictment … contained false information about the football players’ supposed prior employment, pandemic-related job loss, and job-seeking efforts in California.”

The players were allegedly mailed debit cards from Bank of America that were loaded with hundreds of thousands in unemployment benefits. They used the cards to withdraw cash from ATMs.

McClain was released after posting $20,000 bond. He is due back in court on Feb. 15. No other arrests were announced on Monday.

Abdul-Malik’s brother, Munir McClain, was suspended by USC last year amid a federal probe into unemployment benefit fraud. Munir has since transferred to Utah. The McClains said at the time that they applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and helped other USC players.

McClain, a linebacker, had three total tackles at Jackson State this season.

USC QB Kedon Slovis enters transfer portal

Kedon Slovis delivers a pass

USC has entered a big period of change after hiring Lincoln Riley, and the new head coach may be losing one of the quarterbacks on his roster.

Junior quarterback Kedon Slovis has entered the transfer portal, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reports.

Slovis threw for 2,153 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games for the Trojans this season. He suffered a leg injury against Arizona State on Nov. 6 and did not play again after that. Slovis also injured his neck earlier in the season, and freshman Jaxson Dart played well in relief.

Dart finished the season with 1,353 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. It remains to be seen if Riley will give him a chance to start.

Slovis completed more than 71 percent of his passes and threw for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a freshman in 2019. His production fell off after that. He may have reason to believe Riley is going to bring in another quarterback to start, anyway.

We know of one potential QB transfer that would make sense for USC now that Riley is there.

Photo: Oct 9, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Utah Utes at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Lincoln Riley has interesting explanation for taking USC job

Lincoln Riley does Fight On sign

Lincoln Riley’s decision to leave Oklahoma for USC came as a real shocker. One of the big reasons for the confusion was what Riley had to gain by doing it. He has been successful at Oklahoma and had the full support of the program, so the logical conclusion for many was that it was about the money.

Riley offered a different explanation, and a very interesting one at that. The coach suggested that he thought his ceiling at USC would be higher than it was at Oklahoma.

“One of the things I evaluated in this opportunity is I think we can build one of the best rosters in the country,” Riley told Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks of the “Move The Sticks” podcast. “I don’t think. I know we can. … As college football is changing and a lot of things are shifting, each program, you’ve got to have your niche. You’ve got to have your thing that separates you or makes you different. I think this is one of the most unique settings and unique opportunities in college football, not just for coaches, but for players.

“My confidence level that we can build a roster that will be as good as anybody in the country is very high. It’s because of the people here and the opportunities here and I think that’s something that can happen very quickly.”

Oklahoma fans will be even more peeved by Riley’s comment, as it can be taken as a suggestion that the Sooners can’t compete as capably with college football’s elite. Riley’s calculation might be pretty sound, though. Oklahoma’s coming move to the SEC may be beneficial financially, but winning games will be harder in a much more difficult conference. By comparison, the Pac-12 is much more winnable. Plus, Southern California is a hotbed of talent to recruit, and Riley has already been successful in doing so.

To his credit, Riley has tried to soothe the emotions of Oklahoma fans. Right now, there is almost nothing he can say to do so. Remarks like this will probably just make it worse for the time being, whatever the rationale might be.

Photo: Nov 29, 2021; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Lincoln Riley poses with Fight on sign during a press conference to introduce Riley as Southern California Trojans head coach. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lincoln Riley gets third top recruit to flip from Oklahoma to USC

Lincoln Riley does Fight On sign

One of the reasons the USC Trojans targeted Lincoln Riley as head coach is because he’ll be able to recruit with the heavyweights and attract top talent to the school. So far, Riley is delivering.

Wide receiver Makai Lemon, a five-star recruit in the class of 2023, announced Friday that he would decommit from Oklahoma and follow Riley to USC.

Lemon becomes the third five-star recruit to flip from Oklahoma to USC since Riley’s hiring. 2022 four-star running back Raleek Brown announced Thursday that he would also attend USC, while standout 2023 quarterback prospect Malachi Nelson became the first to make the switch on Tuesday after widespread speculation that he would do so.

Notably, all three players play their high school football in Southern California. Riley had initially succeeded in luring them out of state, then kept them from leaving California after taking the USC job. This is significant, as one of the major criticisms of some of Riley’s predecessors at USC was their inability to keep elite high school players from leaving the state. If Riley can continue to secure commitments from players in the talent-rich region, USC will be nationally relevant again very quickly.

There had been talk that Riley might be able to flip top 2023 wide receiver prospect DeAndre Moore, another Southern California-based recruit who had committed to Oklahoma. Moore has so far made clear, however, that he intends to honor his commitment to the Sooners.

Photo: Nov 29, 2021; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Lincoln Riley poses with Fight on sign during a press conference to introduce Riley as Southern California Trojans head coach. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lincoln Riley shares timeline of his decision to leave Oklahoma for USC

Lincoln Riley at a press conference

Lincoln Riley stunned the college football world this week when he left Oklahoma for USC, and the coach insists the opportunity came together as quickly as it appears.

Riley shed some light on his decision to take the USC job during a Tuesday appearance on “The Herd w/ Colin Cowherd.” He said the move is something that was “very sudden” and that he was genuinely committed to Oklahoma before the Trojans approached him.

“It was very sudden. I was totally committed to our team as we made a championship and playoff run,” Riley said. “I made that very clear to anybody that was interested.

“We got to Norman late Saturday night/early Sunday morning and had a conversation that USC had some serious interest. I slept for a couple of hours and woke up and had a conversation with the USC people, and you could feel their energy. You could feel that the leadership from the very top is willing to do the things that maybe haven’t been done here as of recent to get USC to where it needs to be.”

A lot of people will find Riley’s timeline hard to believe. The USC job has been vacant since Clay Helton was fired in September. It is highly unlikely that the discussions between Riley and USC only began on Saturday night. Even Oklahoma’s president seemed frustrated with Riley over the way he handled his exit.

Of course, that is how things work in college football. Coaches are sometimes in positions where they can’t risk having information leak. That said, Riley may have also misled people by emphatically shooting down another rumor less than 24 hours before his Oklahoma departure.

There are always going to be hard feelings when a coach leaves one top program for another. Riley probably could have done some things differently, but avoiding that altogether is impossible.

Photo: Jul 14, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley speaks to the media during Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

USC takes victory lap in announcing Lincoln Riley hire

Lincoln Riley in a hat and headset

The USC Trojans are taking a well-deserved victory lap in their announcement of the hire of Lincoln Riley as head coach.

USC officially confirmed the Riley hire on Sunday night, shocking the college football world by hiring him away from Oklahoma. The football team’s Twitter account opened the announcement with quite the pronunciation: “We got our guy.”

USC athletic director Mike Bohn released his own statement accompanying the announcement. Bohn dedicated the hire to current and former players and supporters, and made an even more authoritative remark: “Our time is now.”

These aren’t normal statements that accompany a coaching hire, but USC knows it has hit a home run. Riley is one of the game’s hottest coaches. Any school that thought it could get him would have tried. The fact that USC, a program that has struggled in recent years, pulled it off is really remarkable.

One thing is clear: USC does not plan on this being a lengthy rebuild. They have reason to be confident that it won’t be. After all, there is already talk about some stars following Riley to LA.

Photo: Photo: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Did Caleb Williams hint he will transfer to follow Lincoln Riley to USC?

Caleb Williams in uniform

Lincoln Riley is leaving Oklahoma for USC. Now the question is: which players are going to follow him?

One prominent player who would make a huge difference if he left the Sooners for the Trojans is quarterback Caleb Williams. The freshman quarterback on Sunday shared his first message regarding the Riley news.

Williams said he was happy for Riley. He also indicated he might have some other news coming when he said “that’s all I plan to say right now!”

Williams saying “right now” implies he will have more news later. Perhaps that news will be that he is going to transfer to follow his coach.

One ESPN analyst certainly expects Williams to transfer to USC.

Williams took over for the struggling Spencer Rattler midway through the season at Oklahoma. He has passed for 1,670 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Even if Williams doesn’t transfer, Riley still would have current junior Kedon Slovis and current freshman Jaxson Dart on USC’s roster to work with. Either player should excel under Riley.

Photo: Oklahoma’s Caleb Williams (13) before a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Iowa State Cyclones at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Will Oklahoma QB recruit Malachi Nelson follow Lincoln Riley to USC?

Malachi Nelson poses

USC’s impending hiring of Lincoln Riley will make a huge difference for the program. Riley had legitimate success at Oklahoma, going 12-2 in three straight seasons, while coaching an explosive offense. Not only should he be able to bring his successful offense/passing game to the Pac-12, but there is another big benefit to hiring him.

Even though he was at Oklahoma, Riley was already recruiting the talent-rich Southern California area well. As Inside USC’s Scott Wolf noted, Riley had the No. 1 recruiting class for 2023 at Oklahoma. Much of that was centered around three top players from Los Alamitos, a successful high school located about 30 miles south of USC.

Wolf wondered how long it would be before Los Alamitos quarterback Malachi Nelson follows Riley to USC.

If Nelson switches, it stands to reason that his high school wide receiver teammates would switch too. Riley might be able to flip the entire package.

Nelson is just behind Arch Manning when it comes to 2023 quarterback rankings. He seemed to enjoy being committed to Oklahoma, but he could still change his mind and follow Riley.

Any player from SoCal who committed to Riley at Oklahoma might find it even more enticing to stay home in Los Angeles.

Lincoln Riley reportedly expected to become next USC head coach

Lincoln Riley in a hat and headset

The USC Trojans are trying to make a splash with their next head coaching hire, and it looks like they might succeed.

The Trojans are targeting Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley to fill their coaching vacancy, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. Negotiations are advanced enough that Thamel expects a formal announcement within the next 24 hours.

The report was confirmed a short time later by Bruce Feldman of The Athletic.

This is an absolute stunner, and it comes out of nowhere. Riley had been linked to LSU over the past week, but he firmly denied those rumors on Saturday. That was taken by most as a signal that Riley had no interest in leaving the Sooners. Apparently, it may have been because he had something else in the works instead.

Riley taking the USC job signifies an enormous shift in the college football landscape. He has established himself as one of the sport’s top coaches, posting a 55-10 record with Oklahoma since taking over in 2017. It will be a huge coup for USC, a program that has been looking to re-establish itself as a title contender for the better part of a decade. This would bring that goal closer to reality, and will undoubtedly provide a huge boost to recruiting as well.

Photo: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

New favorite reportedly emerges for USC head coach job

Matt Campbell

The USC Trojans have had months to come up with a list of candidates for their vacant head coaching position. It appears that they may be ready to land on a favorite.

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell should be considered the current favorite for the USC job, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. Trojans athletic director Mike Bohm is known to covet Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, but getting Fickell to leave the Midwest with the Bearcats in the College Football Playoff race may prove impossible.

Campbell appears to be a leading option, particularly with no clear West Coast candidate available. Campbell has been credited for his work with the Cyclones, and has even drawn NFL interest. USC badly needs stability, a culture reset, and recruiting wins. Campbell looks capable of providing all three.

That said, it certainly sounds like Fickell would have been the No. 1 choice. Unfortunately for the Trojans, he’s been pretty steadfast in his lack of interest.