USC opens camp, eager to build off of last year’s success

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
After hitting rock bottom at 4-8 in 2021, the Trojans improved to 11-3 in 2022. They hope to be even better in 2023.

LOS ANGELES — “The longer we go, the better we get.”

That, according to junior linebacker Raesjon Davis, has been USC’s motto all offseason. And as the Trojans get set to open Fall Camp early Friday morning ahead of year two of the Lincoln Riley era, the mantra will likely be prevalent in the team’s locker room throughout the fall.

Last season, USC was able to accomplish a lot. After hitting rock bottom at 4-8 in 2021, the Trojans improved markably to 11-3 in 2022. They defeated rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, played for the Pac-12 championship, and earned a bid to the Cotton Bowl. And quarterback Caleb Williams became the eighth USC player to take home the Heisman Trophy.

However, it is no secret the way that the season ended left a bad taste in the mouths of USC players and fans alike. The Trojans ended their 2022 campaign with a frustrating loss to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, followed by an embarrassing late collapse against Tulane in the Cotton Bowl.

To put it bluntly, as the season went longer, USC did not get better. Nor did they get better within individual games either—the Trojans led by double digits at one point in all three of their losses last season.

According to Davis, it was shortly after the Cotton Bowl defeat that the coaches started using the mantra, “the longer we go, the better we get.” Plain and simple, they wanted to emphasize that USC’s late-game struggles of last season would not be acceptable in 2023.

“The loss to Tulane, that was like a deep thrust to us,” Davis said. “All of our losses [came down to] just finishing in the fourth quarter.”

“The offseason, the first day when we got a team meeting, it was, ‘the longer we go, the better we get.'”

Several other players reiterated Davis’s sentiment, including a couple of veterans who chose to come back for their final years of eligibility when they could have instead chose to move on and pursue professional careers.

“We just gotta finish the deal,” redshirt senior running back Austin Jones said. “Winning [eleven games] and having nothing to show for it, that’s just kind of where we are right now.”

“We’re a good team. We have all the pieces to be a great team, we just need to show it.”

Redshirt senior linebacker Shane Lee who, like Jones, came to USC as a transfer last offseason, added that he is, “eager to continue what we’ve started here.”

“One of the things that I came here for was to help build a championship culture and a winning culture,” Lee said. “I just had another opportunity to do that, and I wanted to take advantage of it.”

USC’s emphasis right now might be on finishing strong. But for every finish, there must be a start. And for the Trojans, that comes at 6:30 AM Friday morning, when they open up Fall Camp ahead of year two of the Lincoln Riley era.

“The longer we go, the better we get.”

Well, the going is about to get started.

At long last, football season is officially upon us.