Football | March 07, 2023
Lincoln Riley arrived at USC ready to awaken the sleeping giant. He was the catalyst for the Trojans’ resurgence to the top of the college football landscape. And in his first year, he did just that. Going 11-3, Riley tied John Robinson’s 1976 record for most victories by a first-year head coach, which also ties the Pac-12 Conference record. The 2022 Trojans equaled the biggest one-season victory turnaround (+7 victories) in USC history. USC’s 1962 national champs also won 11 games after winning just 4 in 1961.
Riley also produced another Heisman Trophy winner, 2 Unanimous All-Americans, 5 First Team All-Americans, 6 broken team records and a multitude of other superlatives in his inaugural year.
The 2022 Trojans almost made the College Football Playoff. While finishing the season with a tough loss in the Cotton Bowl, the expectations for 2023 team are at an all-time high.
As Coach Riley said before the 2022 season, “We didn’t come here to play for second place. We came here to win championships.”
Coach Riley and the Trojans are locked in on winning a national championship and bringing more hardware back to Heritage Hall this fall. And the preparation begins this spring. The job’s not finished.
The Trojans return 82 players from the 2022 squad, including 54 who saw action. Six starters are back on the offensive side of the ball and eight on defense.
The returnees will be joined by an impressive recruiting class which includes 11 transfers and 10 early-enrollee freshmen, including the No. 1 high school recruit in the nation, who are on campus and participating in spring ball. Ten more freshmen who will arrive in the summer complete USC’s 2023 signing class.
USC also returns the entire coaching staff for the 2023 season.
The Trojan offense will be feeling the effects of losing three impactful linemen up front. Brett Neilon and Andrew Vorhees, both First Team All-Americans and four and five-year starters, respectively, were instrumental in USC’s offensive success last season. Their outstanding play in the trenches allowed Caleb Williams to lead the offense to have a record-setting season. In addition to being a First-Team All-American, Vorhees was also selected to the All-Pac-12 First Team and was the offensive recipient of the Morris Trophy. Also moving on is fellow offensive lineman Bobby Haskins. Though just at USC for one season, Haksins made an impact on one of the top offensive lines in the nation and helped the unit to become Joe Moore Award semifinalists. The offense also lost All-Pac-12 First Teamer Jordan Addison. Addison, who is expected to be a Top 15 NFL Draft pick, recorded 59 catches for 875 yards and 8 TDs as Caleb Williams’ favorite receiver in 2022. Another departed Trojan is Travis Dye. Although Dye was at Troy for just one season, he immediately became the emotional leader of the team and the heartbeat of the program. An instant fan-favorite, Dye’s season was cut short due to a broken ankle which ended his season prematurely in the 10th game against Colorado. Before his injury, the All-Pac-12 Second Teamer rushed for 844 yards on 145 carries, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, with 9 touchdowns. Receiver Terrell Bynum (16 receptions for 159 yards and 1 TD in 2022) is gone as well as long-time Trojan tight end Josh Falo (22 receptions for 276 yards and 5 TDs in his career).
Defensively, the Trojans lose Tuli Tuipulotu, a team captain and three-year starter on the defensive line. Tuipulotu, was one of the most disruptive defensive players in the nation in 2022. He led the nation in sacks with 13.5 and was second in the nation in tackles for loss with 22.0 In 2022, he was named the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, the defensive Morris Trophy winner and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Rotary Lombardi Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Ted Hendricks Award, and the Lott IMPACT Trophy. Tuipulotu was also a Unanimous First Team All-American being selected to the First Team for AP, Football Coaches, Football Writers, Walter Camp and Sporting News. In his career, he recorded 116 tackles, including 32 for loss of 172 yards with 21 sacks for 148 yards. He tallied 5 pass breakups, 4 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery in the end zone to score a touchdown. In the secondary, USC loses All-Pac-12 First Teamer Mekhi Blackmon. Blackmon recorded 66 tackles (fourth on the team), including 2.0 for loss of 7 yards in 2022. He led the team with 12 pass breakups and decorated his stat sheet with 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery and 1 forced fumble. USC loses Nick Figueroa, a reliable and versatile player who knew the defense so well, he was able to play multiple positions as a lineman and rush end. In his career, he recorded 71 tackles, including 17.5 for loss of 73 yards with 10 sacks for 59 yards, 2 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery and 1 blocked kick while appearing in 42 games with 21 starts. Figueroa, a standout in the classroom, was named a First Team Academic All-American in 2022 and was a Second Team selection in 2021. USC also loses long-time Trojan Brandon Pili from the defensive line. In his 5-year career, Pili tallied 74 tackles, including 10 for loss of 32 yards with 3.5 sacks for 20 yards, 4 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble and 1 blocked kick while appearing in 52 games with 6 starts. USC also loses linebackers Ralen Goforth (148 tackles, including 4 for losses of 8 yards), 2 breakups, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble while appearing in 40 games in his career, with 16 starts) and Tuasivi Nomura (34 tackles, including 1.5 for loss of 5 yards, and 1 pass breakup while appearing in 33 games with 3 starts).
On special teams, the Trojans lose long-time kickoff man, Alex Stadthaus. He had touchbacks on 122 of his 253 kickoffs (48.2%) and has made 11 tackles in his career while appearing in 45 games.
The Trojans will play seven home games in 2023, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum’s centennial celebration. 2023 marks 100 years since the first collegiate varsity football game was played in the venue on Oct. 6, 1923 as USC defeated Pomona 23-7. Troy will welcome league opponents Stanford, Arizona, Utah, Washington and UCLA to the Coliseum along with non-conference foes San Jose State and Nevada. The Trojans’ five road games will be at Arizona State, Colorado, Notre Dame, California and Oregon.
USC, which is playing a Week Zero game, has two byes: one on Sept. 16 and one in the final week of the regular season on Nov. 25. The Trojans will face nine league teams in 2023 (all but Oregon State and Washington State). USC hasn’t faced Washington at home and Oregon on the road since 2015.
USC will open the 2023 slate with a Week Zero matchup against San Jose State on Aug. 26. This will be the sixth time USC has faced off against San Jose State, with the most recent encounter occurring in the fall of 2021, where the Trojans defeated the Spartans 30-7 in the Coliseum. USC is 5-0 all-time against San Jose State, with all of the games held at the Coliseum.
The Trojans then welcome Nevada to the Coliseum on Sept. 2 of Labor Day Weekend. The 2023 Trojan-Wolf Pack matchup will mark the 100th anniversary of the teams’ 1923 meeting in the second-ever collegiate varsity football game played in the then-new Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game was played on Oct. 13, 1923, and USC defeated Nevada 33-0.
The Trojans start Pac-12 play the following week with Stanford (with new coach Troy Taylor) on Sept. 9, USC’s third-straight home game. It will be the Pac-12’s first league game of the 2023 campaign.
After a bye on Sept. 16, Troy next begins a nine-week stretch of games. USC visits Arizona State (with new coach Kenny Dillingham) on Sept. 23 for its first road test of the season, and then travels to Colorado (with new coach Deion Sanders) on Sept. 30. USC returns home to face Arizona on Oct. 7.
The Trojans take a break from conference play to travel to South Bend, Ind. to challenge Notre Dame on Oct. 14, and then return back to the Coliseum to take on Utah on Oct. 21.
USC visits California on Oct. 28 and then faces Washington at home on Nov. 4, the two teams’ first match up in Los Angeles since 2015.
The Trojans visit Oregon for the first time since 2015 on Nov. 11, and then wrap up conference play hosting crosstown rival UCLA on Nov. 18. USC will have a bye on Nov. 25 of Thanksgiving weekend. This is the first time since 2017 that USC has concluded the regular season with a bye.
The Pac-12 Football Championship Game will be on Friday, Dec. 1 in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev.
Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams returns to lead the Trojan offense along with 5 other offensive starters: veteran offensive linemen Justin Dedich and Jonah Monheim and receivers Brenden Rice, Tahj Washington and Mario Williams. Others returning with starting experience in Riley’s system are running back Austin Jones, tight ends Malcolm Epps and Lake McRee, receiver Michael Jackson III and offensive linemen Courtland Ford, Mason Murphy and Gino Quinones.
The Trojan offense averaged 506.6 yards ranking No. 3 in the nation, including 335.4 passing yards per game to also rank 3rd nationally. USC protected the ball and only lost 7 turnovers ranking No. 1 in the nation and ranked No. 2 in the nation in passes had intercepted with 5. USC ranked No. 2 in the nation in 3rd Down Conversion Percentage with 0.536 and ranked No. 3 in the nation in First Down Offense (359). Ten players who caught a pass are back from last season.
The 2022 team now holds the USC record for most yards passing in a single season with 4,696 yards in 14 games, most passes attempted in a single season with 515, most touchdown passes in a single season with 43, lowest percentage of passes had intercepted with 0.97%, 5 in 515 attempts, most games scoring 30+ points with 12, most games scoring 40+ points with 10 and now ties the USC single-game record for most touchdowns on interception returns with 3 vs. Rice.
Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, the record-setting Unanimous First Team All-American quarterback, should again be America’s top player as he returns for his second season at USC as a junior in 2023. He will attempt to be just the second player ever to win a second Heisman. In addition to being the 88th recipient of the Heisman Trophy, Williams was named the 2022 Walter Camp Player of the Year, the 2022 AP Player of the Year, the 2022 Maxwell Award winner, presented to the best player in college football, the 2022 Sporting News College Football Player of the Year, the 2022 CBS Sports Player of the Year, the 2022 Action Sports Player of the Year and the 2022 CFPA National Performer of the Year. He was a Unanimous All-American being selected to the First Team for AP, Football Coaches, Football Writers, Walter Camp and Sporting News. He was selected as the 2022 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and was named to the 2022 All-Pac-12 First Team. Overall in 2022, he completed 333-of-500 passes (66.7%) for 4,537 yards and 42 TDs with just 5 INTs, plus he rushed for 382 yards and 10 TDs. He was first nationally in passing TDs (42, first in Pac-12) and points responsible for per game (22.3, first in Pac-12). He was third nationally in passing yards (4.537) and fourth nationally in passing yards per game (324.1). He was fifth nationally in passing efficiency (168.5, first in Pac-12) and total offense (351.4). He was seventh nationally in yards per pass attempt (9.07, first in Pac-12).
Also returning is redshirt sophomore backup quarterback Miller Moss. He saw action in 5 games (Rice, Fresno State, Arizona State, Colorado and the Pac-12 Championship versus Utah) in 2022, and went 12-of-14 (85.71%) for 159 yards and 1 TD.
Joining the Trojans this spring is freshman Malachi Nelson, the No. 1 recruit in the nation per ESPN. The decorated quarterback from Los Alamitos HS (Calif.) was named a 2023 Under Armour All-American and a 2023 Polynesian Bowl All-Star. He also competed at 2022 Elite 11 Finals. Nelson will add to Riley’s quarterback room.
USC lost running back Travis Dye, the heartbeat of the 2022 squad. However, they have members of the backfield returning.
Redshirt senior Austin Jones returns as USC’s most experienced back. Jones stepped in as the feature-back for Dye when he suffered a season-ending injury against Colorado. He contributed in all 14 games with 4 starts in 2022. He racked up 727 rushing yards on 135 attempts (5.2 avg) and scored 6 TDs. He also had 25 receptions for 267 receiving yards (10.7 avg).
In his freshman debut, Raleek Brown, who returns to the Trojan running back room, contributed in all 14 games in 2022. He rushed for 227 yards on 42 carries (5.4 avg) with 3 TDs, caught 16 passes for 175 yards (10.97 avg) with 3 TDs. Brown also returned kickoffs for USC. He had 24 returns for a total of 517 yards (21.54 avg) with a long of 40 yards to finish the season ranked No. 22 in the nation for combined kick returns.
Redshirt senior Darwin Barlow also returns with experience. He saw action in 9 games (all but Arizona State, Washington State, Arizona, Cal and Tulane) as a redshirt junior in 2022. He rushed for a total of 96 yards on 16 carries (avg 6.0) and 3 TDs. He also had 3 receptions for 34 yards (11.33 avg).
Redshirt junior Matt Colombo, who has yet to see action, also returns to the Trojan squad.
From the transfer portal, Riley picked up MarShawn Lloyd from South Carolina. The redshirt junior was South Carolina’s rushing leader as a redshirt sophomore running back in 2022. In his 3-year career at South Carolina (2020-22) while appearing in 21 games (with 8 starts), he ran for 801 yards on 175 carries (4.6 avg) with 10 TDs, caught 21 passes for 220 yards (10.5 avg) with 2 TDs.
Two freshmen, Quinten Joyner and A’Marion Peterson, enrolled at USC this spring. Joyner was selected to compete at the 2023 All-American Bowl and the 2023 Polynesian Bowl. Joyner was named to the 2022 All District 25-6A First Team after he rushed for 1,794 yards on 196 carries (9.2 avg.) for 25 TDs and caught 5 passes for 73 yards while playing running back for Manor HS (Texas). He tallied 3 kickoffs for 106 yards (35.3 avg.) with a long of 46 yards and recorded 14 punts for 408 yards (29.1 avg) with a long of 46 yards. Joyner had 2 kickoff returns for 44 yards (22.0 avg) with a long of 24.
Peterson was named the 2022 All-District 3-4A Division II MVP as a senior running back on varsity at Hirschi HS (Texas). He rushed for 330 yards on 24 carries (13.8 avg.) with 6 TDs and caught 3 passes for 54 yards, helping Hirschi go 9-3 overall and place first in their district.
Once again, Riley’s wide receiver room is not lacking in depth. Although they lost All-Pac-12 First Teamer Jordan Addison, returning are experienced wide outs redshirt senior Tahj Washington, senior Brenden Rice and junior Mario Williams.
In 2022, while appearing in all 14 games with 11 starts, Washington had 50 receptions for 785 yards (15.7 avg) and scored 6 TDs. He also was a vital member of the Trojan special teams. He was named an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention.
Rice competed in all 14 games with 12 starts in his first season with the Trojans in 2022. He recorded 39 catches (4th for USC) for 611 yards (15.7 avg) with 4 TDs. Rice also handled kick returns. He recorded 3 returns for 49 yards (16.3 avg) with a long of 18 yards.
Williams saw action in 12 games with 9 starts during his first season with the Trojans in 2022. He caught 40 passes (3rd for USC) for 631 yards (15.8 avg) with 5 TDs (3rd for USC). Williams also fielded 2 kickoff returns for a total of 7 yards.
Junior Michael Jackson III (17 receptions racking up 236 yards [13.88 avg] with 4 TDs in 2022) and redshirt sophomore Kyron Hudson (15 receptions racking up 152 yards [10.13 avg] with 3 TDs in 2022) return for the Trojans.
Five receivers who have yet to play at USC—senior Corey Nerhus, redshirt juniors Danny Ryan and Ty Shamblin and redshirt sophomore Josiah Zamora and sophomore Austin Overn—will also be available for the Trojans.
USC picked up Arizona transfer, junior Dorian Singer, at the semester. He appeared in all 12 games with 11 starts in his sophomore season. He had a breakout year in yards and receptions marking his first 1,000-yard-plus season earning AP All-Pac-12 First Team and All-Pac-12 Second Team honors. He finished the season with a career-high 1,105 yards on a career-high 66 receptions, and 6 TDs and recorded four 100-plus yard games. He was named to the 2022 Biletnikoff Award Midseason Watch List.
Branch tallied 753 yards on 45 receptions with 11 TDs and recorded 5 punt returns for 90 yards (18.0 avg.) as a senior wide receiver at Bishop Gorman (Nev.). He competed in the 2023 Under Armour All-American Game where he was the Team Phantom captain. He was also chosen to play in the 2023 Polynesian Bowl. He was named to the 2022 Nevada Preps All-Southern Nevada First Team after helping the Gaels win the Class 5A state title.
Lemon was named a 2023 Under Armour All-American and was selected to compete in the 2023 Polynesian Bowl. Lemon was also a Polynesian High School Player of the Year finalist. He made the 2022 All-CIF Division I Team, the 2022 MaxPreps All-America First Team, the 2022 MaxPreps California All-State First Team and the 2022 Los Angeles Times All-Star Team as a senior wide receiver at Los Alamitos HS (Calif.). He caught 69 passes for 1,044 yards (15.1 avg.) and 12 touchdowns to help Los Alamitos place first in the Sunset League and reach the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals. He also recorded 15 yards on 3 carries (5.0 avg.). On special teams, he recorded 8 kickoff returns for 267 yards (33.4 avg.).
Freshman Ja’Kobi Lane will join the squad in the summer for camp.
Epps saw action in all 14 games as a redshirt senior in 2022. He tallied 3 catches for 18 yards (6.0 avg), 2 touchdowns and 1 INT. He also contributed on USC’s kickoff return unit. McRee saw action in 13 games with 2 starts as a redshirt freshman in 2022. He recorded 10 passes for 106 yards (10.6 avg) and scored 2 TDs. Wolfe appeared in 3 games on special teams after returning from a summer injury as a redshirt junior in 2022.
The USC offensive line unit was a Joe Moore Award Semifinalist in 2022 and will return 5 Trojans who started at various points of the season. All-American First Teamers Brett Neilon and Andrew Vorhees, as well as impact player Bobby Haskins will be missing from the Trojans trenches on the offense this fall.
Justin Dedich, USC’s most experienced lineman who has seen action at a multitude of positions, returns for his final season as a redshirt senior at center. In 2022, he started 10 games at right guard, 2 games at left guard and 1 game at center, filling in for the starter, Brett Neilon, after he suffered a season ending injury. He was named to the Pro Football Focus All-American Third Team and was an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention.
Redshirt junior Courtland Ford saw action in 10 games and made 3 starts at left tackle during the 2022 season. Redshirt junior Jonah Monheim started in all 14 games on the offensive line in 2022. He started 11 times at right tackle and 3 times at right guard. He was named an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. Redshirt sophomore Mason Murphy saw action in all 14 games, starting in 5 in 2022. Redshirt senior Gino Quinones saw action in all 14 games, with 2 starts in 2022. He started once at right guard and once at left guard.
In his 5-year career at Washington State (2018-22), Kingston appeared in 37 games on the offensive line in his career with 26 starts (16 starts at left guard and 10 starts at left tackle). Last season, he was named to the 2022 All-Pac-12 Conference Honorable Mention.
In his 4-year career at Florida (2019-22), Tarquin appeared in 34 games on the offensive line in his career with 20 starts (10 starts at left guard and 10 starts at left tackle).
Also joining the group is freshman Elijah Paige. He made the 2022 Arizona 6A Northeast Valley All-Region list as a senior offensive lineman at Pinnacle HS (Ariz.). He was one of four player-elected captains for the 2022-23 Pinnacle squad.
Although the Trojans defense is losing its leader in Unanimous All-American Tuli Tuipulotu, there are many familiar faces returning. First Team All-American defensive back Calen Bullock returns among seven other starters including inside linebackers Shane Lee and Eric Gentry, defensive linemen Stanley Ta’ufo’ou and Tyrone Taleni and defensive backs Jaylin Smith, Max Williams and Ceyair Wright. Others returning with starting experience in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch‘s system are defensive backs Bryson Shaw, Jacobe Covington and Latrell McCutchin and rush ends Solomon Byrd and Romello Height.
In 2022, USC led the nation in turnover margin (1.57). This was quite an improvement from 2021 when the Trojans were ranked No. 74 in the nation in the same category (-0.08). The turnover battle was a major focus for the Trojans as they ranked No. 3 in the nation with 19 passes intercepted by 11 different players. USC ranked No. 5 in the nation in turnovers gained with 29.
The Trojan defensive line will be feeling the loss of Tuipulotu, but will have veteran leadership as well as a mix of new faces.
USC’s most experienced returning members of the defensive line are Tyrone Taleni (30 tackles, including 7.5 for loss and 7 sacks, 3 QB hurries and 1 forced fumble while appearing in 22 games with 9 starts) and Stanley Ta’ufo’ou (46 tackles, including 7.0 for a loss (with 1 sack), 2 fumble recoveries and 2 QB hurries in his career while appearing in 31 games with 25 starts).
Junior Korey Foreman (24 tackles, including 4.5 for loss with 2.5 sacks and 1 INT while appearing in 23 games) returns looking to make an impact as an upperclassman.
Redshirt senior Solomon Tuliaupupu, who has been plagued by foot and knee injuries throughout his entire career, saw his first action in 2022 recording 10 tackles, including 3 for loss (with 2.5 sacks) and 1 QB hurry while appearing in all 14 games.
Other returning members who hope to compete for time in the trenches are redshirt seniors Sinjun Astani (4 tackles), Earl Barquet Jr. (21 tackles, including 3.5 for losses with 2.5 sacks), De’jon Benton (20 tackles, including 1.5 for losses) and redshirt junior Jamar Sekona (11 tackles, including 1 for loss with 1 sack and 2 QB hurries).
Five more defense linemen return who have yet to decorate their stat sheet: redshirt senior Jordan Russell, redshirt junior Kobe Pepe (3 game appearances), redshirt sophomore Colin Mobley (2 game appearances) and Devan Thompkins (1 game appearance).
Bolstering the defensive line unit are two transfer linemen: redshirt seniors Kyon Barrs and Jack Sullivan and sophomore Anthony Lucas. Transferring from Arizona, Barrs recorded 102 tackles, including 12.5 for losses (with 5 sacks) while appearing in 38 games with 23 starts during his 4-year career as a Wildcat. In 2021, he made the All-Pac-12 Second Team. Sullivan arrives at Troy from Purdue, where he tallied 85 tackles, including 13.5 for losses (with 9.0 sacks), 7 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble while appearing in 46 games with 19 starts during his 5-year career. Lucas saw action in 7 games during his freshman season at Texas A&M collecting 7 tackles with 1 for loss.
After losing the steady presence of Nick Figueroa, a utility man who could play both as a lineman and a rush end, USC will look to fill this position.
Redshirt senior Solomon Byrd, who moved to rush end midseason in 2022 (115 tackles, including 20 for losses with 14 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 pass breakups and 1 QB hurry while appearing in 37 games with 11 starts), returns for his final season.
Redshirt junior Romello Height (18 tackles, including 3 for losses, while appearing in 12 games with 2 starts) returns from an injury that cut his 2022 season short.
Untested sophomore Garrett Pomerantz will also be available.
A transfer rush end joined the squad this spring in redshirt senior Jamil Muhammad from Georgia Southern.
In his 3-year career at Georgia Southern (2020-22), Muhammad had 70 tackles, including 11.0 for losses (with 7.5 sacks) and 1 INT, 4 pass deflections, 3 forced fumbles and 1 forced fumble while appearing in 34 games with 10 starts.
Also joining the Trojans this spring is early enrollee, freshman Sam Greene. He helped the St. Frances Academy (Md.) Panthers earn the No. 1 ranking in the final state MaxPreps Top 25 as a senior.
The inside linebackers return some of the Trojans’ most productive defenders, while adding some fresh talent to the room.
USC captain, redshirt senior Shane Lee returns to lead the defense. In his 4-year career (3 years at Alabama and 1 year at USC), he’s made 174 tackles, including 15.5 for losses (with 9.5 sacks), plus 3 INTs (1 of which he ran back for a TD), 3 forced fumbles, 2 pass deflections, a fumble recovery and a QB hurry while appearing in 42 games (with 25 starts). He was selected as an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2022.
Junior Eric Gentry, another 2022 standout, is back ready to contribute for USC. He’s recorded 116 tackles, including 9 for loss (with 3 sacks), 5 pass breakups, 3 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles and 1 INT while appearing in 23 games with 12 starts.
The highly recruited Tackett Curtis enrolled at USC this spring. He was the 2022 MaxPreps Louisiana High School Player of the Year and won the State Championship game MVP as a senior linebacker. He led Many HS (La.) to win the Louisiana 2A state championship. Curtis recorded 112 total tackles, 16 for loss, 6 sacks and 3 interceptions in his final season at Many. He was a finalist for the high school Butkus Award which recognizes the top linebacker in the nation. He was named the 2022 2a-3 Defensive MVP and earned placement on the 2022 2a-3 All-District Team. He also earned placement on the 2022 MaxPreps All-America First Team.
Junior Calen Bullock, a First Team All-American will lead the Trojan secondary in 2023. He started in all 14 games and led the team in INTs with 5 (ranked 11th in the nation). He also tallied 48 tackles (6th on the team) and 5 pass breakups (T-2nd on the team). He was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team. In his 3-year career, he has 87 tackles, 7 INTs (running 1 back for a TD) and 8 pass breakups while appearing in 26 games with 14 starts.
Redshirt senior Bryson Shaw was a standout for the Trojans in 2022 recording 50 tackles (5th on the team), including 1 for loss, plus 4 pass breakups, 1 INT and 1 fumble recovery while appearing in all 14 games and starting 5 times. In his 4-year collegiate career (3 years at Ohio State, 1 year at USC), he has 112 tackles (including 1.5 for loss), 8 pass breakups, 2 INTs, 2 fumble recoveries while appearing in 35 games (with 17 starts).
Redshirt senior Max Williams, who returned to the field in 2022 after recovering from an injury, led the Trojans in tackles with 79 and in forced fumbles with 2. He was named an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. In his career, has 107 tackles, including 5.5 for losses of 9 yards (with 1.5 sacks for minus 6 yards), plus 7 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, 2 INTs and in his career. He has appeared in 24 games, starting 18 times.
Junior Jaylin Smith and redshirt sophomore Ceyair Wright, both had strong performances in 2022 and will return to contribute in 2023. Smith has 48 tackles in his career, including 3 for loss (with 1 sack), 2 pass breakups, an INT, and a forced fumble while appearing in 21 games with 10 starts. Wright has tallied 30 tackles, 1 INT and 2 pass breakups while appearing in 16 games (with 11 starts).
Also with starting experience are redshirt junior Jacobe Covington (19 tackles with a sack and 4 pass breakups) and Latrell McCutchin (31 tackles, including 1 for loss (with 1 sack), plus a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a QB hurry) who will both look to contribute this season.
Also competing for playing time will be redshirt sophomores Anthony Beavers Jr. (12 tackles, including 1.5 for losses), Prophet Brown (12 tackles) and Xamarion Gordon (10 tackles and 1 INT), sophomores Domani Jackson (2 tackles and 1 pass breakup) and Fabian Ross (2 game appearances).
Redshirt senior transfer Christian Rolland-Wallace joined the Trojans in the secondary this spring. In his 4-year career at Arizona (2019-22), he had 169 tackles, including 3.5 for loss (with 1.5 sacks), 2 INTs, 18 pass deflections and 2 forced fumbles in 41 games with 37 starts.
Also transferring to Troy is senior Mason Cobb from Oklahoma State. Cobb recorded 106 tackles, including 16.0 for losses (with 3 sacks) and 1 INT, 1 pass deflection and 1 forced fumble while appearing in 31 games with 13 starts in his 3-year career at Oklahoma State (2020-22). In 2022, he was named to the All-Big-12 Second Team.
Freshmen Maliki Crawford and Christian Pierce both enrolled early to join the Trojans for spring ball. Crawford was named to the 2022 All-CIF Division 4 Team, the 2022 VC Star All Channel League First Team and the VC Star 1st Team All-County as a cornerback at Pacifica HS (Calif.). Crawford has experience playing in all three facets of the game. He also competed at the 2023 Polynesian Bowl. Pierce was named to the 2022 All-Baseline League and selected as the League Defensive MVP as a safety at Rancho Cucamonga HS (Calif.).
The Trojan special teams unit returning most of its members and adding a transfer kicker/punter to bolster the competition.
USC only punted the ball 32 times last season. Sophomore running back Raleek Brown was a bright spot for the Trojan special teams unit as he was in the Top 25 in the nation in combined kick returns.
Aadyn Sleep-Dalton, who enrolled in USC in the fall of 2022 after arriving in the U.S. from Australia, was USC’s punter as a junior in 2022. He averaged 40.3 yards on his 30 punts in 2022, of which 8 pinned opponents within the 20, 1 traveled 50+ yards and 0 touchbacks. He also had a tackle and appeared in 12 games.
In 2022, USC fans also learned that Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams can punt. He recorded 2 punts against Notre Dame where he averaged 42.0 yards with a long of 58 yards.
In the spring, junior transfer Eddie Czaplicki joined the Trojan squad from Arizona State. In his 2-year career as a Sun Devil (2021-22), he handled punting and kickoffs duties. He’s recorded 95 punts for 4,253 yards (44.8 avg.) with a long of 75 yards and 29 going 50 yards or more. He has touchbacks on 29 of his 56 kickoffs (51.8%).
Redshirt sophomore Denis Lynch, who handled kicking duties for the Trojans in 2022, returns this season. Lynch accumulated 119 total points (ranked 10th in the nation for total points scored) going 74-of-74 on extra points and 15-of-22 (68.1%) on field goals in 2022. His season long came against UCLA when he nailed a 49-yard field goal at the end of the first half, making the score 20-21. Lynch was also perfect on field goals from 40-49 yards going 8-8. He also had 2 kickoffs this season, totaling 101 yards.
Competing with him for the starting job will be both Czaplicki and White.
Will Rose returns to his role as the Trojan holder in 2023.
Michael Jackson III is the only returning Trojan that handled punt return duties. He tallied 70 yards on 11 returns (6.36 avg) with a long of 17 yards.
Four returning Trojans shared kickoff return duties in 2022. Raleek Brown had 24 returns for a total of 517 yards (21.54 avg) with a long of 40 yards to finish the season ranked No. 22 in the nation for combined kick returns.
Brenden Rice also handled kick returns. He recorded 3 returns for 49 yards (16.3 avg) with a long of 18 yards. Tahj Washington had 3 kickoff returns for 75 yards (25.0 avg). Mario Williams also fielded 2 kickoff returns for a total of 7 yards.