On Wednesday evening, USC will wrap up its 2023 season when the Trojans take on Louisiville in the Holiday Bowl.
USC’s roster, however, will look vastly different than it did the last time that the Trojans took the field. With four NFL-bound players opting out of the game and more than a dozen having entered the NCAA Transfer Portal, the team that USC fields against Louisiville will not be the same one that the Trojans sent out in their prior 12 games.
With numerous new faces expected to play key roles, let’s take a look at five Trojans to watch in the Holiday Bowl.
Let’s start with the USC player who will have by far the most attention on him Wednesday evening: new starting quarterback Miller Moss.
Having grown up in Southern California, Moss dreamed of playing quarterback at USC since he was a little kid. After arriving on campus in the spring of 2021, he has spent the past three seasons as a backup quarterback, including the past two as the No. 2 option behind Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.
With Williams opting out of the game, Moss will finally get the opportunity to make the first start of his college career. While Lincoln Riley will likely add at least one quarterback from the Transfer Portal this offseason, Moss figures to be squarely in the mix for the starting job come spring.
Against Louisiville, Moss will essentially have a one-game audition to prove to Riley that he should be the guy heading into next season.
As a true freshman wide receiver this season, Robinson impressed, finishing fourth on the team with 307 receiving yards.
With USC down two of its starting receivers in the Holiday Bowl in Brenden Rice (opt-out) and Mario Williams (Transfer Portal), expect the Trojans’ freshmen pass-catchers to play a prominent role in the offense, with Robinson, Zachariah Branch, and Ja’Kobi Lane all likely to see significant action.
With leading rusher Marshawn Lloyd opting out of the Holiday Bowl, expect fifth-year senior Austin Jones to see the majority of the carries in his final college football game.
However, expect the true freshman Joyner to play a key role as well. After finishing fourth on the team with 124 rushing yards as a freshman, Joyner will look to use the Holiday Bowl as a springboard into a breakout sophomore campaign.
Despite playing wide receiver for the majority of the season, the true freshman Lemon will play cornerback in the Holiday Bowl.
With USC’s top cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace playing the final game of his college career Wednesday evening and fellow starter Domani Jackson in the Transfer Portal, the Trojans will have several starting spots up for grabs at the position next season. While USC has already added two transfer cornerbacks, Lemon figures to be in the mix for playing time there next season—that is, if he sticks around.
Lemon’s situation is an interesting one because his longtime best friend and high school teammate, true freshman quarterback Malachi Nelson, recently entered the Transfer Portal. While Riley and his staff would like to keep Lemon around, there is a possibility that he also decides to jump in the portal and reunite with Nelson at his new school.
After transferring to USC from Alabama this offseason, defensive back Tre’Quon Fegans saw limited playing time during the season’s first ten games. However, he was finally able to get on the field against Oregon and UCLA, and impressed in those contests.
Like numerous other players, the Holiday Bowl will serve as a mini-audition for Fegans to show to the coaching staff that he deserves a starting role next season.