What’s new with USC after Day 1 of spring practice

Spring practice is underway as USC prepares for the start of the 2024 season. Caleb Williams will be showcased at USC Pro Day on Wednesday.

LOS ANGELES– It has been nearly three months since the USC Trojans won the Holiday Bowl with the help of Miller Moss. Today is the first day of spring practice, and the team is preparing for the upcoming season as they leave the Pac-12 conference. Tuesday was a beautiful day USC campus while players and coaches were busy with their preparations. There have been many changes to the coaching staff under Coach Riley, and you can sense the difference at Tuesday’s practice.

USC’s Pro Day is set to take place on Wednesday morning. Coach Riley believes that this event will provide an excellent opportunity for his players to showcase their skills in front of all 32 teams. The Chicago Bears’ head coach, Matt Eberflus, and GM, Ryan Poles, attended the first day of spring practice. It appears that Caleb Williams is a strong contender to be chosen as the first pick, as the Bears’ front office are present and observing the players.

Former USC football player Mark Sanchez and his son visited the USC campus to watch the beginning of spring practice. Sanchez spent time talking to coaches and players during the practice. The Trojans’ new quarterback coach, Luke Huard, started with the team as an offensive analyst in February 2022. He then took over as interim inside wide receivers coach while Dave Nichol was away from the program due to his health. Huard was later named the full-time position coach in the spring of 2022. Following the practice, Riley mentioned that while he is not quite ready to leave his position, he is willing to step away from it to be more involved with the defense.

“It obviously gives me a chance to bounce around and do a lot of things. I’ll still be very, very involved with the quarterbacks. I’m certainly not leaving it by any stretch but there are times where I want to be in the defensive meetings. I haven’t missed a defensive install this spring.” said Riley after practice.

Dennis Simmons is in his third season as the assistant head coach at USC. During his media session after practice, he expressed concern about the offensive line this spring. Simmons also mentioned that the team is actively searching for a wide receiver in the transfer portal this spring. Head coach, Riley, also addressed the issue of the offensive line during his own media session on Tuesday.

“The quality is good. The depth is a little of a concern right now. There’s certainly the possibility we may look to add somebody there.” Riley said after practice.

During the offseason, Riley made a bold move by recruiting another quarterback even though Moss had technically earned the starting job after performing well in the Holiday Bowl. The new recruit, Jayden Maiava from UNLV, has transferred to USC and is now ready to compete. After practice, Moss was asked if he was worried about Maiava, but he clearly wasn’t.

“Obviously, people love to speculate about that kind of stuff but as I’ve said before, my job is to help us win as many as games as we can.” said Moss after Day 1 of practice.

Elijah Paige, a redshirt freshman at USC, is slated to compete for playing time on the offensive line in the upcoming season. Last season, he had limited playing time, starting only one game at left tackle during the Holiday Bowl as a true freshman. After practice, Paige spoke about Maiava.

“Amazing, quiet guy, just puts his head down and works. Really like Jayden.” said Paige on the UNLV transfer.

Riley shared his thoughts on the quarterback competition, clarifying that it’s not just a battle between two players, as there’s another contender in the mix. Although Riley didn’t guarantee the starting position to Moss, he did mention that Moss’ experience and knowledge of the system provided him with an advantage.

“I don’t know, I would never peg myself into that. You gotta let these things evolve, so we’re going to rep those two and Jake Jensen.”

The confidence that Moss has been carrying since his victory at the Holiday Bowl is at an all-time high. Every teammate is talking about it on day one of spring practice. Moss is excited to see what his team will look like when he is able to leave his mark on it. When asked what the team with his DNA would look like during his media session, he laughed and said, “I guess we’ll see.” After practice, Zachariah Branch said that Moss “has the right to act confident” following his performance in the Holiday Bowl.

Coach Riley discussed the major changes that have been made to the defensive side of the team. The newest secondary coach, Doug Belk, was seen coaching up guys harder than any other session I experienced during the 2023 season. Let’s not forget about the defensive line coach, Eric Henderson, who came over from the Los Angeles Rams. The defense clearly looks a lot different this time around. One of the most interesting players coming this year is Marquis Gallegos. Gallegos is the newest safety coming over from Sierra Canyon and is already making an impact on the field.

Throughout the practice session on Tuesday, I continued to hear all coaches and players say “Yeah, Quis.” and “Great job Quis.” after every defensive assignment that Gallegos did on day one of spring practice.

Gallegos is 6’1 and weighs 175 pounds. However, he seems to have gained more muscle mass and strength as compared to a few months ago. In his high school days, he was a highly-rated football prospect, with ESPN ranking him as the 20th best player in California. Gallegos graduated early from high school and joined the University of Southern California in the spring. As a true freshman, he will be vying for playing time at the safety position in the upcoming season.