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Lincoln Riley labels Alani Noa as one of USC's top offensive linemen

Grant Grubbsby:Grant Grubbs08/24/23


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Freshmen aren’t expected to make an impact at staple programs. However, USC lineman Alani Noa isn’t waiting to stamp his mark on the program.

“He’s been one of our best offensive linemen,” USC head coach Lincoln Riley said on Thursday. “He’s incredibly gifted, really for a young guy. Plays hard, plays really physical, and has done a good job picking our stuff up. He’s a smart kid. He gets the game.”

It sounds like Riley has stumbled upon a hidden gem. Noa was a mere three-star recruit in high school, per On3’s Industry Ratings. Further, he was the 50th-best inside offensive lineman and the No. 525 prospect in the Class of 2023.

More impressive, Noa did not enroll early at USC. Despite the unpromising odds, the 6-foot-4, 325-pound freshman is turning heads.

“He’s still learning certainly, but he’s playing with some guys in there who have played a lot of ball, and that’s certainly helpful,” Riley said. “He’s been very good mentally. [I’m] just impressed with his consistency, his physicality, effort and mentality that he plays with. For any offensive lineman, that’s where it starts. You have to have that, and he does that consistently like a veteran.”

With veteran linemen such as Jonah Monheim, Emmanuel Pregnon and Justin Dedich on the 2023 roster, Noa has no shortage of mentors. After all, the team protected Caleb Williams enough last season for him to win the Heisman Trophy. Noa could be another brick in USC’s steady front wall.

“He’s improved rapidly and, there’s no question, he’s good,” Riley said. “We’ll see who our rotation ends up being or who ends up starting and all that. We still got competition ongoing… He’s certainly going to play.”

Riley isn’t the first person in the program to praise Noa’s ability. Fellow offensive lineman Cooper Lovelace raved about Noa when asked about young standouts on the team.

“Alani in the O-line room, specifically,” Lovelace said. “We could go down the board at each position, but Alani really, oh my God, there are some flashes. I’m telling you. I know we can’t show you guys film or anything like that, but if there was a moment where you guys could see some of the things he’s doing, he’s going to be an extremely elite player.”

While Noa might not start in USC’s season opener, it seemingly won’t take long before fans catch a glimpse of the first-year IOL. On Saturday, the Trojans will kick off their 2023 campaign against San Jose State.