USC transfers look for ways to contribute during spring football

USC transfer quarterback Jayden Maiava sets up to pass while playing for UNLV last season.
USC transfer quarterback Jayden Maiava sets up to pass while playing for UNLV last season. He’ll battle new Trojans teammate Miller Moss for the starting job this spring.
(Andres Leighton / Associated Press)

Jaden Richardson didn’t need any promises. The only thing the former Tufts receiver wanted when trying to make the jump from Division III was an opportunity.

“Any school that promises you stuff is never where you really want to be,” the USC receiver said Tuesday after his fourth spring practice with the Trojans.

Richardson is part of an exclusive group of transfers on offense expected to boost the competition inside Heritage Hall as the Trojans wade into the next phase of development under Lincoln Riley.


The coach relied on large transfer classes to hasten USC’s turnaround during his first two years but has stated a desire to start building through high school players. With promising prospects from last year’s recruiting class — Riley’s first full group at USC — the Trojans signed only three transfers for spring on offense.

Now with Richardson, running back Woody Marks and quarterback Jayden Maiava, the Trojans will try to mix veteran transfer experience with USC’s homegrown players hoping to take the next step in their careers.

Unlike Richardson and Mississippi State’s Marks, who both hold school records at their previous stops, Maiava is not the oldest guy in a young room. The redshirt sophomore from Nevada Las Vegas is competing with redshirt junior Miller Moss for the right to replace Caleb Williams.

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After throwing for 3,085 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Rebels last year, Maiava entered the portal looking for an opportunity to “compete with the best.” He initially committed to Georgia before flipping the next day.

The Trojans, Riley said, were looking for a young player with playing experience, and the staff knew that a wide-open quarterback situation made the opportunity even more enticing for a potential transfer.

“I love competing,” Maiava said. “I love going out there and not just bringing my best but bringing the best out of my teammates.”


With 11 starts at UNLV, Maiava already has more game-time experience than Moss, whose duty before his Holiday Bowl heroics mostly amounted to fourth-quarter mop-up duty. The transfer’s time on the field is already showing during spring.

“He’s a poised kid,” Riley said. “You can tell he’s not like, some true freshman coming in there, just wide-eyed. He’s played, he’s learned how to prepare, you can see that out of him.”

Richardson had a previous connection with Maiava, having played with his cousins — triplets Michael, Micah and Matthew — at Tufts, where the 6-foot-1 receiver set a program record with 20 career receiving touchdowns.

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With a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Division III school, the Bay Area native earned plenty of interest from FBS programs in the transfer portal. When USC called, it was a “no-brainer.” He and his father, a Southern California native, always rooted for the school.

“I think it took me a good week when I was like, ‘Wow, this is actually real,’” Richardson said. “Now it’s just sitting down and working. Once you kind of get over that part, it’s college football at the end of the day.”

USC’s receiver room appears to have openings with leading pass catchers Brenden Rice and Tahj Washington moving on to the NFL. Yet before Richardson’s arrival, there were plenty of heirs to the throne. Any of USC’s sophomore receivers Zachariah Branch, Duce Robinson, Ja’Kobi Lane and Makai Lemon could be due for a breakout. Redshirt junior Kyron Hudson is the most experienced returning receiver with 28 game appearances.


Richardson is just trying to pick his spots.

“For me, [I’m] not trying to put myself up on a pedestal because I am older,” Richardson said. “At the end of the day, just taking a step back and learning and contributing what I can.”

USC is relying on Marks, Mississippi State’s leader in receiving yards for a running back, to set the pace for an inexperienced running back corps with promising sophomores Quinten Joyner and A’Marion Peterson having only 139 combined rushing yards in their careers. Marks could be the next transfer running back turned star for Riley, who already found success with Travis Dye, MarShawn Lloyd and Austin Jones at USC.

“Just USC, the running back position, just pretty awesome,” Marks said about deciding to join the Trojans. “You got guys in front of you who came through, MarShawn Lloyd, Reggie Bush, guys like that, I think it’s a special place to play running back at.”