LOS ANGELES– The USC Trojans are taking a step in the right direction as early signings began on Wednesday. Nineteen high school football players have signed with USC so far during the December early signing period, Trojan head coach Lincoln Riley announced during a press conference.
Here are three takeaways from this Trojan Week:
Coach Riley shares thoughts about the signees
The 2024 signees are, DL Jide Abasiri, S Jarvis Boatwright Jr., CB Braylon Conley, DE Lorenzo Cowan, DE Kameryn Fountain, S Marquis Gallegos, RB Bryan Jackson, DL Carlon Jones, WR Xavier Jordan, TE Walter Matthews, LB Elijah Newby, TE Joey Olsen, OL Makai Saina, LB Desman Stephens II, OL Kalolo Ta’aga, OL Justin Tauanuu, OL Hayden Treter, CB Marcelles Williams and OL Jason Zandamela. Additionally, TE Walker Lyons, who signed last winter and is currently serving his Mormon mission in Norway, will join this recruiting class.
The following players will participate in spring practice and will be a part of a new strategy introduced by head coach Lincoln Riley, which focuses on defense and toughness as the core elements of USC’s operations. The past season’s shortcomings and imbalances have prompted Riley to adopt a different approach. It remains to be seen how committed Riley is to implementing this new approach and how proficient he is in executing the plan.
During his press conference on the USC campus, coach Riley expressed his excitement about USC’s latest key player acquisitions, which he believes will elevate the program to the next level. He emphasized the importance of the offensive line and is eager to see these players reach their full potential. Coach Riley also mentioned that the level of commitment displayed by this year’s recruits is crucial, and he stressed the importance of wanting players that want to be at USC.
Abasiri, Boatwright Jr., Cowan, Fountain, Gallegos, Jackson, Jordan, Newby, Olsen, Stephens II, Ta’aga, Tauanuu, Williams and Zandamela will enroll at USC in January and participate in 2024 spring practice. The other five signees in addition to Lyons will join the Trojan program in the fall.
Sierra Canyons’ duo signs with USC
There were several local players who chose not to travel and instead stayed at home. Among them were Xavier Jordan and Marquis Gallegos from Sierra Canyon. Jordan, who is a four-star recruit, is considered one of the top prospects in the country. According to ESPN, he is ranked as the 9th best prospect in the state of California. During his senior year at Sierra Canyon High School in 2023, Jordan caught 30 passes and turned them into 600 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. He was also named the Wide Receiver MVP at Under Armour Next Camp in 2023.
Gallegos is a highly talented football player with a four-star rating. According to ESPN, he is ranked as the No. 20 player in the state of California. Gallegos spent his first three years playing for Chaminade High School before transferring to Sierra Canyon for his senior year in 2023. He was recruited by Alex Grinch and former defensive backs coach Donte Williams, but made a decision to live out the dream he always wanted.
USC has gained a valuable asset in Gallegos, who brings with him a strong sense of cultural identity that resonates with his peers. Gallegos is a proud Mexican-Salvadorian who grew up in Southern California. In his junior year at Chaminade, he made 7 interceptions, showcasing his impressive skills. In the most recent season at Sierra Canyon, Gallegos recorded 46 tackles and 3 interceptions.
At Marquis’ signing ceremony, his father, Samuel, paid tribute to their family’s Mexican roots. Samuel’s family settled in the San Fernando Valley after migrating from Guadalajara, Mexico. As a child, Gallegos was a fan of USC and always wanted to play for the hometown school. However, he also received offers from other prestigious programs like Notre Dame, Michigan and Oregon. Despite the tempting offers, Gallegos made the decision to stay close to home in order to live out his childhood dream of becoming a Trojan.
During all of his recruiting visits, he proudly carried his Mexican flag on his shoulder, as a symbol of his heritage.
“Honestly, it meant a lot to me to take the flag,” said Marquis in Sept 2023. “It’s something I always wanted to do, kind of putting on for the culture not only being Mexican.”
The Transfer Portal is open for business
The quarterback situation is still uncertain for the Trojans due to the departure of Caleb Williams. Although he has not yet announced his decision to enter the draft, it is expected that he will make a decision after New Year’s. There is still a chance that he stays at USC for his senior year under Lincoln Riley, as he has decided to only skip the Holiday Bowl, for now.
The USC Trojans have added a new player to their defensive backfield through the transfer portal. Kamari Ramsey, previously played for UCLA, has announced that he will switch over to USC. Along with Ramsey, John Humphrey has also decided to transfer to USC from UCLA. The Bruins are facing a big loss on defense as they lose two valuable players and their defensive coordinator to their crosstown rivals. Ramsey had an impressive record of 40 tackles, 4 pass defenses, and 1 interception for the Bruins in 2023. Humphrey played in 12 games and recorded 31 tackles, two interceptions, and forced two fumbles for the Bruins in the last season.
The Trojans had a disappointing 2023 season, and they identified that their secondary was a major concern. To address this issue, Riley managed to acquire some talented players. DeCarlos Nicholson and Akili Arnold agreed to transfer to USC via the portal. Nicholson had his best season yet with 42 tackles and was a key player in the Bulldogs’ defense.
MarShawn Lloyd had a great offensive year with the Trojans and a few weeks ago, he declared for the 2024 NFL Draft. USC was on the lookout for another explosive running back and found a gem in Mississippi State’s Jo’quavious “Woody” Marks. He had an impressive season with the Bulldogs, rushing for 1,883 yards and 22 touchdowns, and catching 214 passes for 1,225 yards. Marks will play his final year of eligibility with the Trojans.
Brothers Easton Mascarenas-Arnold and Akili Arnold, who played as linebacker and defensive back respectively for Oregon State, have decided to transfer to USC. They are excited to join the Trojans as Coach Riley has emphasized the importance of having committed players who are passionate about playing for the team.
Despite all the recent turmoil surrounding the USC program, they are still preparing for the upcoming Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Miller Moss is gearing up to make his first start as a Trojan.
Moss has played in 11 games during his three-year USC career, throwing 43 completions out of 59 attempts for 542 yards and 3 touchdowns without any interceptions. His longest pass was a 71-yard touchdown to WR Duce Robinson during the game against Nevada this season. Additionally, he has carried the ball 8 times for 14 yards and scored 2 touchdowns.
Miller will be starting as the quarterback in San Diego, after serving as the backup for the last three years. He explained some of the key differences in his preparation for this new role. This will be his first ever start as the quarterback for USC.
“It’s obviously different,” Moss said. “I think the only real difference is that I have more dialogue and say with Coach Riley over the game-plan. But aside from that, I attack my preparation the same way.”
Having served as the backup for Caleb Williams for two consecutive seasons, Moss has had ample time to learn the ins and outs of the game. It’s now time to put that knowledge to the test and see if he’s ready to take on the coveted position of the team’s starting quarterback for the upcoming season. With this opportunity, Moss has a chance to prove his worth and demonstrate how his hard work, dedication, and determination have paid off. It’s a crucial moment for him, and all eyes will be on him to see how he handles the pressure of being the leader on the field.