A look at the transfers pouring into USC on signing day to play for Lincoln Riley
New USC football coach Lincoln Riley was expected to be a magnet for transfers in this era of the loose rules and extra eligibility triggered by coronavirus issues.
Riley — and USC — met expectations Wednesday, signing 13 transfers and one high school star who flipped his commitment to the Trojans from Notre Dame.
Result: USC is ranked No. 1 in the 2022 Transfer Rankings by 247Sports.com. Here are the Trojans’ February signees alphabetically:
Earl Barquet, DL: The 6-foot-3, 280-pound sophomore transfer from Texas Christian had 2.5 sacks in six games as a redshirt freshman in 2020 but had only 12 tackles and zero sacks in 10 games last season. He’ll add depth to a defensive line that has promise under new assistant coach Shaun Nua.
Mekhi Blackmon, CB: The 6-foot, 175-pound senior transfer from Colorado attended Menlo-Atherton High and San Mateo junior college before heading to Boulder in 2018. He was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection in 2021 after making 50 tackles despite missing three games with injuries. His cousin, KeeSean Johnson, set the Fresno State career receptions and receiving yardage records and now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.
From the time he was introduced as USC’s football coach, Lincoln Riley has made it clear that he has a plan to quickly make the Trojans a power again.
Terrell Bynum, WR: An All-American at Bellflower St. John Bosco High in 2016, the 6-1, 190-pound Bynum will return to Southern California for his fifth college season. He saw his role at Washington increase in 2021, making 26 catches for 436 yards and four touchdowns despite missing four games with injuries. Bynum had only eight catches in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season but had 31 catches for 368 yards in 2019. He played at Anaheim Servite High before transferring to St. John Bosco as a senior.
Travis Dye, RB: The 5-10, 190-pound graduate student played at Norco High before spending four years as an integral part of the Oregon offense. In his career, Dye rushed for 3,111 yards in 521 carries (6.0 avg) with 21 touchdowns, caught 83 passes for 869 yards (10.5-yard average) with eight touchdowns, returned 15 kickoffs for a 20.3-yard average and five punts for a 10.4-yard average. Dye led the Pac-12 with 1,672 all-purpose yards in 2021. As a senior at Norco, Dye rushed for 2,383 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Bobby Haskins, OT: The 6-7, 295-pound senior transfer from Virginia should compete for a starting spot with the Trojans. He started seven games at left tackle in 2021, 13 games at left tackle as a sophomore in 2019, and started 20 of 45 games in four years at Virginia. His father, Bob Haskins, played defensive end at Columbia from 1978-80.
Romello Height, OLB: The 6-3, 230-pound junior transfer from Auburn had 18 tackles, including three for losses, in two seasons as a reserve at Auburn. Height played defensive end in high school and was a 2019 MaxPreps first-team Small Schools All-American and the Georgia Class 2A Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He also played wide receiver in high school.
Austin Jones, RB: The 5-10, 195-pound senior transfer from Stanford should add depth to the Trojans’ running back corps. In three years with the Cardinal, he rushed for 1,155 yards and 12 touchdowns in 278 carries and caught 67 passes for 531 yards and one touchdown.
Shane Lee, ILB: The 6-foot, 245-pound graduate student transfer from Alabama should be a mature, valuable addition to the USC defense if he can return to his 2019 form. Lee made 13 starts in 29 games over three years with the Crimson Tide, making six sacks among 96 tackles while forcing three passes and intercepting a pass. His freshman year in 2019 was by far his most productive and he was named a Freshman All-American. At St. Francis Academy in Maryland, Lee was ranked as the nation’s top inside linebacker by ESPN.com.
Latrell McCutchin, CB: The 6-1, 185-pound sophomore transfer from Oklahoma is one of at least three players to follow coach Riley to USC. McCutchin was a reserve in 2021, appearing in nine games and forcing two fumbles. He attended high school in Austin, Texas.
Brenden Rice, WR: The 6-3, 205-pound sophomore transfer from Colorado is an impactful kick and punt returner in addition to a dangerous wide receiver. Last season, Rice returned 19 kickoffs for 506 yards (26.6-yard average) and added an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. He also had 21 receptions for 299 yards — both second on the team — for the run-first Buffaloes.
Tyrone Taleni, DL: The 6-2, 275-pound senior transfer from Kansas State has an interesting background. He did not play football at Vaiola College High in Savai’i, American Samoa, then went on a two-year Mormon mission before enrolling at Mt. San Antonio Junior College in Walnut in 2018. Within a year he was a Division I prospect, although he was a backup in two seasons at Kansas State. He will be 26 years old when the 2022 season begins.
Caleb Williams, QB: The 6-1, 215-pound sophomore transfer from Oklahoma is the crown jewel of the USC recruiting class, a quarterback expected to step into the starting lineup and make an immediate impact. Williams, of course, was recruited by and played for Riley at Oklahoma. He took over the starting job at midseason in 2021 and completed136 of 211 passes (64.5%) for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Williams also ran for 442 yards and six touchdowns in 79 carries.
Caleb Williams ended weeks of speculation and joined the USC program, giving Lincoln Riley the most coveted quarterback in the transfer portal.
Mario Williams, WR: The 5-9, 185-pound sophomore transfer from Oklahoma was recruited by Riley out of Plant City High in Tampa, Fla., and made an immediate contribution, making 35 receptions for 380 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman in 2021. Williams decided to follow Riley to USC, where he should fit in well with the re-stocked receiving corps.
C.J. Williams, WR: The 6-2, 190-pound freshman wide receiver from Santa Ana Mater Dei High is the only non-transfer to sign with USC on Thursday. Williams, a four-star prospect, received offers from most of the prominent schools in the country and had committed to Notre Dame in August before Riley was hired at USC. While not blessed with sprinter’s speed, Williams projects as a high-volume receiver because of his superior strength and hands.
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