Transfer portal has helped Lincoln Riley reshape USC’s wide receiver group
Lincoln Riley promised last month that he would mine the NCAA transfer portal for talent at every position. Recently, those efforts have honed in on one position in particular.
The departure of All-Pac-12 Conference wideout Drake London to the NFL draft left USC drastically short on proven wide receivers when Riley first arrived. But over the last two weeks, USC’s new coach and his staff have completely remade their receiver room through the portal, adding three of the top transfers available at the position: Oklahoma’s Mario Williams, Washington’s Terrell Bynum and Colorado’s Brenden Rice.
Any one of that trio, along with four-star freshman C.J. Williams, could make an immediate impact next season in an otherwise uncertain position group. With London gone, USC returns its next three leading receivers — Tahj Washington, Gary Bryant Jr. and Kyle Ford — all three of whom will have to prove themselves in Riley’s offense starting this spring.
As Georgia won first national title in 41 years, defeating Alabama 33-18, USC fans stoked CFP dreams with the anticipated transfer of Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams.
It was Bryant who stepped up as USC’s top target in the wake of London’s injury last season, reeling in 370 yards and four touchdowns over his final four games. But as the Trojans remake their receiving corps, it’s unclear how prominently their returners will factor in alongside their fleet of transfers.
Rice, a four-star wide receiver in the 2020 class, on Tuesday became the latest to choose the Trojans out of the transfer portal. The son of Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, he had 27 catches for 419 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons at Colorado.
He wasn’t the only wideout Riley poached from within the Pac-12. Bynum, a former Bellflower St. John Bosco product, joins USC after leading a struggling Washington air attack in receiving yards per game (54.5) and touchdowns (four) last season.
But of USC’s new receivers, Williams might be the most electric addition. A top-50 prospect in the 2021 class, Williams immediately established himself in Riley’s offense as a freshman at Oklahoma. He scored touchdowns in each of his first two games — and finished with four total — while tying for second on the team in catches (35).
His debut season was enough to make him one of the most coveted targets in the portal. But he wasn’t there long. Less than two weeks after declaring his intent to transfer, Williams made it official that he would reunite with Riley at USC.
The burning question now is whether their quarterback with the Sooners will join them.
A week after visiting Los Angeles and stirring USC fans into a frenzy, Caleb Williams continues to mull over his next move. USC remains the favorite to secure the top transfer quarterback in college football, but Williams has been in no hurry to make that decision.
In the meantime, the Trojans lost the quarterback who less than two months ago looked like the future of USC football. Jaxson Dart is expected to announce his destination soon, after visiting Oklahoma and Mississippi with fellow former Trojan Michael Trigg.
A decision is expected from both quarterbacks soon. If Williams intends on taking part in spring practice at USC, he has to enroll as a full-time student before Jan. 28, the university’s deadline for the spring semester.
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