Lincoln Riley’s hiring at USC already impacting Trojans recruiting, Malachi Nelson

Junior quarterback Malachi Nelson of Los Alamitos stands with a football under his arm.
Junior quarterback Malachi Nelson of Los Alamitos committed to Oklahoma, but with Lincoln Riley coming to USC, he decommitted from the Sooners on Sunday night.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Lincoln Riley knows Southern California high school football recruiting. The former Oklahoma coach has agreed to terms to become USC’s coach and already has made inroads in Southland recruiting. It would be no surprise if high school prospects committed to Oklahoma suddenly become USC recruits.

Most notable is Santa Ana Mater Dei running back Raleek Brown, who considered USC before committing to Oklahoma. He’s having a terrific senior season for the Southern Section Division 1 champions and tweeted, “Staying home?” on Sunday as news broke about Riley’s move to USC.

The Riley-to-USC effect is already impacting Oklahoma’s Southern California recruiting pipeline. Los Alamitos quarterback Malachi Nelson, the best junior signal-caller in the state, decommitted from Oklahoma hours after Riley’s hiring was made official by USC. It seems likely that Los Alamitos wide receivers Makai Lemon and DeAndre Moore, who have committed to Oklahoma, will follow Nelson’s move.

Before Nelson decommitted, Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton said of Riley’s recruiting prowess, “If you can get three Southern California kids to come to Norman, Okla., then you’re a legitimate recruiter.”


He said Riley visited a Los Alamitos practice three weeks ago and left a positive impression.

Standout Birmingham football player Arlis Boardingham will give USC close look now that Lincoln Riley has taken over as the Trojans’ head coach.

Nov. 29, 2021

“He’s down to earth,” Fenton said. “Relatable. He just showed up with no entourage, and you could talk to him about anything. I was extremely impressed.”

Fenton said he has been a USC fan since 1971. “I think it’s great for Southern California football,” he said.

USC has seen a steady group of senior prospects decommit because of its program uncertainty, but Riley’s hiring will certainly reinvigorate the Trojans’ recruiting hopes and Riley can always turn to the transfer portal to bring in more talent.

Patience and a well-timed recruiting pitch helped USC lure Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma, sending shockwaves through the college football world.

Nov. 28, 2021