USC faces ‘critical’ stage in Year 2 of Lincoln Riley era

Every aspect of Lincoln Riley’s football program, every plan, every decision, every note from every season he’s spent as head coach is accessible via an iPad he keeps at the ready.

In Oklahoma, a given season’s notes on Riley’s iPad can run anywhere from 150 to 200 pages. His first campaign as a USC coach required, well…a few more.

“Year 1 here,” Riley said this week, “I had over 600.”

Riley has spent some time sifting through those notes since USC’s loss in the Cotton Bowl, judging from every angle how far the team had come in its freshman year. It was the first opportunity he’s had to do a lot of thinking, Riley said, and in the process it became clear just how much he might have missed with all the macro changes.

Sitting down with reporters last week, Riley was blunt in assessing where the program stood when he arrived. The squad was in places worse than expected. Certain aspects of the program, such as B. diet, lagged far behind. There was no way to quantify player accountability. All these systems had to be set up.

“When you take on something new that also requires a complete overhaul, it’s amazing how much it takes to do in the first year,” Riley said. “You’re so into every little part of it, I think you might lose – or not lose, it can be difficult to find something from that overall perspective. Every little thing has to be changed and accounted for.”

The changes made helped create an impressive turnaround as USC went from 4-8 to 11 wins in Riley’s freshman season. But at times, Riley explained, the season felt like “a race where you can never get ahead.”

Year 2 shouldn’t require as much catching up to do. The processes already exist. The same staff, including embattled defense coordinator Alex Grinch, remains intact. And as Riley sees it, the squad’s talent level should improve “dramatically”, whether it’s from a more robust Recruit class or the 11 transfers who have already signed.

“Now,” he said, “there is the proof of concept.”

The next steps in that plan came into clearer focus this week. Here’s what we know as we head into an off-season, Riley says will be “one of the more critical times for the program.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/usc/story/2023-01-14/state-of-usc-football-lincoln-riley-offseason USC faces ‘critical’ stage in Year 2 of Lincoln Riley era

Emma Bowman

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