LOS ANGELES – The USC Trojans ended their 2023 season with a record of 7-5, but unfortunately lost five out of their last six games. In November, head coach Lincoln Riley made the decision to fire defensive coordinator Alex Grinch on a Sunday morning. Last Friday, they made a strategic move by hiring D’Anton Lynn, who was previously with their crosstown rivals, UCLA.
Here are three takeaways from practice:
Caleb Williams will not play in the Holiday Bowl
On December 27th at 5 p.m. PT, USC and Louisville (10-3) will face each other in the 44th DIRECTV Holiday Bowl at Petco Park in San Diego. Although USC is not currently ranked in any polls, Louisville is ranked No. 15 in the CFP Poll. Despite losing to Florida State in the ACC Championship game on December 2nd, Louisville remains a strong opponent.
On Monday morning, Riley held a media conference via zoom to discuss the upcoming bowl game. He announced that Williams would not be playing and that Miller Moss will likely start the game. The announcement came a day after the bowl game was announced on Sunday.
Williams, who threw for 3,633 passing yards and 41 touchdowns, won’t be playing in the upcoming games as he is expected to enter the NFL draft. However, he has not yet made a final decision, so there is still hope for Trojan fans. He is predicted to be the top pick in the 2024 NFL draft.
USC is set to participate in the Holiday Bowl for the fourth time in the last decade. In 2014, they defeated Nebraska, 45-42. However, the following year, they lost to Wisconsin 21-23. In 2019, they faced Iowa and lost 24-49. Louisville, on the other hand, has never played in the Holiday Bowl before. It will be interesting to see how USC performs in this game, given their break to reflect on their regular season.
D’Anton Lynn shares his thoughts on becoming the DC
As a newcomer in town, Lynn took the opportunity to engage with the USC media while on the road recruiting during his first week on the job. Riley expressed his thoughts about the hiring and is excited to have Lynn at USC.
“We are thrilled to welcome D’Anton and his family to USC,” said Riley. “We simply couldn’t ask for a better addition to our staff. His successful experiences in both college and the NFL make him the perfect fit for our program. I hope you will join me in welcoming him to the Trojan Family.”
Both coaches, including Riley, are currently on the road recruiting. However, we got a chance to catch up with them as they prepare for the Holiday Bowl in a couple of weeks. During the conversation, Lynn talked about his coaching style and his schemes while he was at UCLA.
“At UCLA, we had a very flexible scheme that not only fit our personnel, but allowed us to be a little bit different each week depending on the offense that we were playing.”
Lynn spoke to The Sporting Tribune about his coaching objectives as he embarks on a new journey at the University of Southern California.
“I just want to play the best defense possible.”
His new mission at USC will be similar to the one he had when he joined UCLA, which was to dramatically improve the defense. Even though it’s the same task and city, it’s a different team for Lynn, and his much-needed experience is expected to benefit the USC defense. Lynn revealed some additional information about his conversation with Riley and Athletic Director Jennifer Cohen, explaining what motivated him to accept the job with USC.
“My conversation with coach Riley and Jen Cohen that their passionate about playing elite defense here at USC by any means necessary.”
Riley shared his thoughts on Monday about the recent hiring. He mentioned that he’s been trying to change the way he’s run the program ever since he arrived two seasons ago. He appeared very pleased to have hired the candidate he wanted, who was the only one offered the job, according to Coach Riley.
“We’re going to do everything that we can in this program to accelerate the process of us playing great defense at USC,” Riley said on Monday. “And whatever it takes to get that done from a development standpoint, from a staffing standpoint, from the way that we practice, everything here is going to be done with a defensive mind first.”
It’s Miller time at the Holiday Bowl
The upcoming game between USC and Louisville in San Diego will be a momentous occasion for the Trojans’ new quarterback, Moss. As a kid, he always dreamt of playing for USC and now, after being a backup for three years, he finally has the opportunity to take center stage and showcase his skills. Moss aims to perform at a high level and compete for the starting spot as the team’s quarterback.
Moss has been presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, it’s his chance to prove to Riley that he is worthy of the starting job. Earlier this week, Riley expressed his willingness to bring in another quarterback through the portal, which definitely caught Moss’ attention. Being a competitor, he knows the challenges of the spotlight and is determined to show his worth.
“I’ve been competing my whole life, so let’s go.”
The leadership that Moss provided to the team this week was contagious. There was certainly a different feeling on the practice field, as Moss’s confidence brought his teammates together. While Moss was speaking to the media, multiple teammates could be heard shouting “It’s Miller time” in the background, which made him smile and laugh throughout the interview.
“My biggest focus isn’t worrying about who’s saying what on Twitter or whatever it is. My biggest focus is handling my business within these walls, leading my team and going to get a win.”
When Moss committed to USC a few years ago, it was expected that he would have the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback position once Kedon Slovis left. Now, Moss will have his first real chance to compete for the starting job. He will be up against Malachi Nelson, a five-star recruit for the 2023 season. Moss will use everything he has learned from Riley and Williams.
“I’ve worked my whole life for this,” Moss said Friday. “Whatever comes after that, I’ll work my whole life for that. So I’m just excited. I’m excited to step into this role and very confident in our team.
As the Trojans gear up for the 2024 season, Coach Riley is facing a challenging dilemma. With the quarterback position being a crucial one for any football team, he has to make a decision on who will lead the team to victory. He has three options to choose from – Moss, Nelson, or a transfer quarterback.
Moss has been with the team for three seasons now and has shown impressive skills both on and off the field. He has a deep understanding of the Trojans’ playbook and has a great rapport with his teammates. On the other hand, Nelson is a young talent who has been showing remarkable progress in practice and has the potential to take the team to new heights.
However, Coach Riley is also considering bringing in a transfer quarterback who has experience playing at the college level. While this option could bring in some much-needed experience to the team, it could also disrupt the team’s overall chemistry and morale.
The decision on who to choose will ultimately come down to a multitude of factors, including the quarterback’s skill, leadership ability, and overall fit with the team’s strategy and culture. Coach Riley will have to weigh all these factors carefully before making a final decision.