LOS ANGELES — Admittedly, I was all set to express a certain level of disappointment regarding this year’s Lincoln Riley recruiting trail. Looking back at last year’s class, which boasts the best QB/overall prospect ( Malachi Nelson), two of the best WRs, (5-stars Zachariah Branch and Makai Lemon), and the top TE prospect (Duce Robinson), it seemed easy to be underwhelmed by this year’s recruits.
Lincoln Riley was doing what Lincoln Riley does best: recruit the top QB and skill-position players. But once the announcement came out that the Trojans were joining the Big-10, in my eyes at least, the Riley’s recruiting tactics needed to adjust.
Getting the top offensive weapons is always lovely, but it plays better in the offensive slugfests in the PAC-12 and Big-12. Not to say that the other conferences don’t endure their fair share of shootouts, but the Big-10, USC’s next home, and the SEC powerhouses, are ultimately built in the trenches.
My fiery criticism, which I was planning to deliver, was set to address the top three players out of Cali in the 2024 cycle: Brandon Baker (OT), Deandre Carter (OG), and Aydin Breland (DT). ALL THREE PLAYERS are out of the famed Mater Dei High School. In my eyes, Riley has to go, at worst, 2 out of 3 with these players. Not winning in your own backyard is costly. Matters get even worse when rivals, mainly the Oregon Ducks, consistently come into your own ‘home’ and eat your food, drink your liquor, and steal your women.
The Trojans simply cannot miss on those three players from Mater Dei. Not only are they three of the top five out of Cali, they’re all linemen. A strong line on either side of the football will be paramount to their success in the Big-10. As googly-eyed as we get over the Buckeyes WRs and QBs, their lineman have consistently made the most noise on Sundays.
Now all this being said, we must applaud Riley again, for as it stands this morning, Lincoln has once more nabbed a top QB in a recruiting cycle. Julian ‘Ju Ju ’Lewis, the prized player out of the 2026 class, will head to Southern California. Hailing from Carrollton, GA, Ju Ju Lewis is projected to be the nation’s next quarterback prodigy. A truly top-tier get for Coach Riley, who will seemingly ride off into the PAC-12 sunset with Caleb Williams, dive into Big-10 play with Malachi Nelson, and ultimately come of age in his new conference with Ju Ju Lewis.
Break out a scroll, for the Riley-QB lineage rages on.