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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
USC is starting to realize the difficulty that comes with the uncertainty from a head coaching change.
Quarterback recruit Devin Brown announced on Wednesday that he decommitted from USC.
Brown is a 6-foot-3 quarterback for Corner Canyon in Utah. He is a four-star recruit and a member of the 2022 class.
He was solidly committed to USC when Clay Helton was still the head coach.
Helton was fired after two games this season. The Trojans have since gone downhill and got pummeled by rival UCLA to fall to 4-6 on the season. Brown’s decommitment comes days after the UCLA loss and days after he visited Ohio State.
In addition to the Buckeyes, Brown has recently visited Ole Miss and Texas.
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the vacant USC job, but the Trojans may have to look elsewhere.
John Brice of FootballScoop.com reported on Sunday that Fickell is expected to be “prominently featured” in USC’s coaching search. However, the Bearcats coach has no connections to the West Coast and has not expressed much interest in the Trojans job.
Many have viewed Fickell as a natural candidate for USC. While Cincinnati is having an outstanding season and should receive College Football Playoff consideration, there is also the athletic director connection. USC AD Mike Bohn was the AD at Cincinnati when Fickell was hired as head coach there in 2017. USC boosters might be hoping Bohn can convince Fickell to take the job, but it doesn’t sound likely.
Fickell is currently focused on stating the case for Cincinnati to be considered one of the four-best teams in the country. The Bearcats are 11-0, though they barely rank inside the top 50 in strength of schedule and have struggled against some mediocre competition. Fickell had a strong reaction earlier this month when Cincinnati was ranked lower in the CFP rankings than the national rankings.
Photo: Sep 4, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats coach Luke Fickell stands with his team prior to the game against the Miami (Oh) Redhawks at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
One player is quickly shooting up the ranks of beloved UCLA athletes.
The Bruins dismantled the USC Trojans in their rivalry game on Saturday, winning by the final of 62-33. It was their first time beating USC since 2018.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was particularly sharp, throwing for 349 yards and four touchdowns. He also added another 46 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
After the game, Thompson-Robinson trolled USC in a tweet.
“Love this team,” he wrote. “#FightOff”
The hashtag was a mocking play on USC’s famous battle cry of “Fight On.”
Thompson-Robinson was a freshman behind starter Wilton Speight when UCLA last beat USC. Thus, leading the Bruins to an emphatic win over the crosstown rivals this time around had to be especially sweet for Thompson-Robinson, who also had a memorable viral moment during the game.
Photo: Jul 27, 2021; Hollywood, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson speaks with the media during the Pac-12 football Media Day at the W Hollywood. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Tomlin has suddenly found his name tied to the USC head coaching vacancy, but the Pittsburgh Steelers coach made it clear on Tuesday that he has no interest in the job. Very clear.
Tomlin became extremely annoyed when asked if he would consider leaving the Steelers for USC or any other college job. He called the speculation a “joke” and said there isn’t an offer in the world that would make him give it a thought.
“Hey guys, I don’t have time for that speculation. That’s a joke to me,” Tomlin said. “I’ve got one of the best jobs in all of professional sports. Why would I have any interest in coaching college football? That’ll be the last time I address it, not only today but moving forward. Never say never, but never. Anybody else got any questions about any college jobs? There’s not a booster with a big enough blank check.”
Tomlin then ended his press conference by asking if any reporters have asked Sean Payton or Andy Reid about college jobs. Of course, Tomlin wasn’t asked about USC out of nowhere. He can thank former Trojans star Carson Palmer for that.
Palmer was a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show” Monday. He said he has given input to USC about the head coaching vacancy and discussed potential candidates. Palmer mentioned Tomlin and then seemed surprised that he was the first one to publicly link the Steelers coach to the job. You can see the funny video here.
If USC thought they had a chance to land Tomlin, they can probably forget about it now. Coaches have lied about their interest in other jobs plenty of times, but Tomlin was quite convincing.