Lincoln Riley wins Bear Alexander recruiting battle, convincing him to stay at USC

USC defensive lineman Bear Alexander celebrates after tipping a Stanford pass during a game at the Coliseum
USC defensive lineman Bear Alexander celebrates tipping a pass during a game against Stanford at the Coliseum on Sept. 9.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

After seriously considering another trip to the transfer portal, standout defensive tackle Bear Alexander says he’s staying at USC.

“I’m not crystal clear on all of the noise or what any of this portal mess is about,” Alexander said Wednesday on social media. “I’m here to finish what I started and that’s chasing a natty here at USC with my teammates #FightOn.”

That didn’t appear to be the plan Tuesday, as word spread of Alexander’s intention to enter the portal a second time after one season at USC. Schools like Texas already were circling. But by the next morning, Alexander’s plans had changed.


The effort to change his mind, according to a source familiar with the situation not authorized to speak publicly, included an apparently convincing call from coach Lincoln Riley to Alexander and his family. Not long after, Alexander confirmed he was staying.

Bear Alexander overcame an unstable home with the help of mentor Tony Jones. After many stops, Alexander is expected to help improve the USC defense.

Aug. 19, 2023

His return is a major relief for USC, which doesn’t have many proven disruptors behind him on its defensive front. As the anchor of USC’s defensive line during his sophomore season, Alexander faced regular double teams but still managed to rack up 48 tackles, including 6½ for loss.

Alexander transferred to USC last April, fresh off winning a national title at Georgia to cap the 2022 season. That spring, when he wasn’t guaranteed a major role on Georgia’s defense as a sophomore, Alexander opted to enter the portal. Tony Jones, Alexander’s guardian, told The Times last fall that they felt betrayed by Georgia’s staff.

“If I can’t trust you with what you say, I’m out,” Jones said. “That’s what it got to [at Georgia].”

Now, with Alexander publicly committed to staying put, USC seems to have avoided a similar fate.