Jordan Addison, college football’s top receiver, is transferring to USC

Pittsburgh wide receiver Jordan Addison gestures during the Atlantic Coast Championship game against Wake Forest in December.
Wide receiver Jordan Addison chose USC over Texas.
(Jacob Kupferman / Associated Press)

The top receiver in college football is on his way to USC in a seismic move that’s sure to send ripples through a sport still grappling with its new free-market reality.

After entering the transfer portal amid a cloud of controversy, Jordan Addison made official Thursday what many suspected since his exit from Pittsburgh last month. The junior receiver is heading to USC to be the top target in a Trojan offense that’s been entirely rebuilt through the transfer portal by new coach Lincoln Riley.

Addison chose USC over Texas after visiting Los Angeles last weekend and Austin before that. His arrival offers Riley a rare, ready-made replacement for top receiver Drake London, whose departure for the NFL was expected to leave a gaping hole in the Trojans’ offense.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Jordan Addison runs after making a catch against Miami in October.
(Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)

Addison, however, should step seamlessly into that role, joining an already crowded class of Trojan transfers that includes the top transfer quarterback (Caleb Williams), one of the top transfer running backs (Travis Dye) and three more of the portal’s top receivers (Mario Williams, Brenden Rice and Terrell Bynum). If Williams was the most coveted transfer in the portal this offseason, Addison is a close second, an extraordinary playmaker capable of stretching the field like few in college football.

No position player was more coveted in the transfer portal this offseason than Addison, who caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns last season on his way to All-American honors and the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding receiver.

The notion that he would consider leaving Pittsburgh at all after such a standout season would leave some across college football reeling.

But Riley has had no issue embracing a new landscape shaped by new rules governing name, image and likeness and the transfer portal. When critics in Oklahoma groused earlier this year about Sooner players following Riley to USC, the coach memorably explained that USC “didn’t take players from Oklahoma, we took players from the transfer portal.”

Similar accusations would follow Addison, who became the 19th transfer to join Riley at USC in less than six months. Few, if any, have arrived in L.A. with such established bona fides.

Riley’s relentless approach to the portal has already ruffled feathers across college football — most notably in Western Pennsylvania, where officials at Pitt last month accused USC of tampering prior to Addison entering the portal on May 3. Those accusations, first reported by ESPN, inspired weeks of hysteria across college football as rumors flew about multi-million-dollar NIL deals Addison could command upon joining USC.

USC never commented on those accusations, and no evidence of tampering has emerged in Addison’s case. In the meantime, the NCAA released new NIL guidelines last week in an attempt to crack down on the outsized influence outside boosters have had so far on the process.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Jordan Addison catches a pass during Pittsburgh's pro day in March.
(Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)

Addison’s arrival at USC is sure to provide kindling for those accusations once again. In announcing his decision on Thursday, Addison reflected on the difficulty he had in making the decision to leave Pittsburgh.

“The last few weeks have been very difficult. I struggled with my decision as to whether I should exercise my right to enter the portal,” Addison wrote. “Student athletes have not always had that opportunity, and I made that choice.”

Had he stayed, Addison would have had a new quarterback, offensive coordinator and receivers coach. At USC, he’ll face more major changes, but reunite with a friend in Williams, who, like him, grew up in the Washington D.C. area.

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“I have now carefully considered the advice of my family and close friends and fully weighed both the risks and benefits associated with my decision. I also respect that others may make a different choice.”

That choice is likely to leave some sour across college football. But at USC, Addison’s star should shine even brighter, while Riley now finds himself with an embarrassment of riches on offense — and a new crown jewel at its center.