Column: These 10 Southland recruits need to be USC coach Lincoln Riley’s top priorities

Servite receiver Tetairoa McMillan (4) is chased by Sherman Oaks Notre Dame defenders in a 2019 game
Servite receiver Tetairoa McMillan (4) is committed to Oregon, but USC is still in contact.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

It didn’t take long for new USC coach Lincoln Riley to plunge into high school football recruiting. In fact, after his introductory news conference Monday afternoon at the Coliseum, Riley visited Santa Ana Mater Dei running back Raleek Brown.

Can Riley make an immediate impact on USC’s recruiting?

The answer is yes, and here are 10 recruits, both committed and undecided, from the classes of 2022 and 2023 that should command his immediate attention:

Tetairoa McMillan, Servite, receiver, 2022. USC was probably runner-up to Oregon for perhaps the No. 1 senior receiver in California, but the Trojans are renewing their pursuit. Servite coach Troy Thomas said a new USC assistant is already in touch with McMillan, who is also being pursued by Arizona, where Servite quarterback Noah Fifita is headed. “Everybody is going to recruit T-Mac until he signs,” Thomas said.


Earnest Greene, St. John Bosco, offensive tackle, 2022. Riley knows the Trojans need big bodies for the offensive and defensive lines, and the 6-foot-5, 330-pound Greene is a major target. Ohio State and SEC schools have been wooing him intensely.

Raleek Brown, Mater Dei, running back, 2022. After an impressive senior season in which he helped the Monarchs go 11-0, Brown is expected to switch his commitment from Oklahoma to USC. He fits right into the Riley offensive scheme with his speed and versatility.

Arlis Boardingham, Lake Balboa Birmingham, receiver, 2022. At 6 feet 5, 230 pounds, Boardingham is one of the best undecided athletes. The Trojans have been keeping in touch and will need to sell him on the position where he can perform best. He likes playing receiver but could be a linebacker similar to the Minnesota Vikings’ Anthony Barr.

USC won 11 national titles under icons Howard Jones, John McKay, John Robinson and Pete Carroll. But the last 103 years haven’t been all wins and Roses.

Nov. 28, 2021

CJ Williams, Mater Dei, receiver, 2022. With Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame for LSU, Williams’ commitment looks tenuous at best. He has USC and UCLA pursuing him.

David Bailey, Mater Dei, linebacker, 2022. How good is Bailey? So good that he recorded two sacks with a broken right wrist in the Division 1 championship game. Stanford has been considered the leader, with USC also in the running.

Malachi Nelson, Los Alamitos, quarterback, 2023. Nelson was set to join Riley at Oklahoma, then decommitted when news broke that Riley was headed west. This would seem a natural pickup for the Trojans, along with his Los Alamitos teammate, receiver Makai Lemon. And it happened Tuesday afternoon when Nelson announced he was now committed to USC.

Mason Graham, Servite, tackle, 2022. The best lineman in 2021 was Graham, who had 14 sacks and also did double duty at offensive tackle. He’s committed to Michigan and will leave Servite in January. He’s unlikely to change his mind, but he was once committed to Boise State. If Riley is a Superman recruiter, reeling in Graham could prove it.


Rodrick Pleasant, Gardena Serra, defensive back, 2023. Pleasant is one of the fastest players in the state. He also runs track, so we need to know what Riley thinks of allowing athletes to compete in two sports in college. Serra players usually become immediate standouts at USC and UCLA, making Pleasant one to watch in the USC vs. UCLA recruiting rivalry.

Nicholaus Iamaleava, Warren, quarterback, 2023. Iamaleava has as much upside as anyone. UCLA has been trying to fight off the SEC powers. It will be interesting to see if Riley gets involved, because Nelson has been the focus and it’s doubtful they’ll end up at the same college.

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley already has made inroads in Southern California football recruiting, which should help him bolster USC’s talent pool.

Nov. 28, 2021