Why Lincoln Riley needs to hit the transfer portal again to fill some pressing needs if USC wants to be a true championship contender in 2023

On3 imageby:Jesse Simonton04/19/23


Exactly 13 months ago to the day, All-American wideout Jordan Addison committed to USC, becoming the icing on the cake of Lincoln Riley’s historical transfer portal haul. 

Riley ruined the idea of a rebuild in Year 1 for many future coaches, as he took his team of Trojan mercenaries, led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Caleb Williams, and won 11 games after inheriting a 4-8 squad

USC has hit the portal hard again in 2023, with Riley adding 10 new faces to the roster before spring practice. The Trojans brought in likely starters at defensive end (former Texas A&M 5-star Anthony Lucas), tailback (South Carolina’s Marshawn Lloyd), offensive line (Florida tackle Michael Tarquin and Washington State guard Jarrett Kingston), wideout (Arizona’s Dorian Singer), corner (Arizona’s Christian Roland-Wallace) and linebacker (Oklahoma State’s Mason Cobb). 

The roster is undoubtedly in better shape than it was this time a year ago. And yet, with USC’s spring game now in the rearview mirror, it’s clear the Trojans still need more reinforcements if they want to be true College Football Playoff contenders in 2023. 

It’s time for Lincoln Riley to go shopping down the portal aisle during the second transfer window. 


The Trojans are currently right up against the NCAA’s 85 scholarship limit, so the only way they can add more pieces is if more players leave the program. 

Earlier Wednesday, news broke that Florida transfer offensive lineman Ethan White would no longer enroll at USC. That’s not the type of roster attrition the Trojans want. 

No, they need to add additional offensive line depth, including now replacing White, who many had penciled in as a starter at left guard for USC in 2023. They also saw tackle Courtland Ford, a semi-starter the last few seasons, enter the portal earlier this week, too. 

USC’s offense is loaded at quarterback, receiver and running back, but offensive line depth, particularly at guard where All-American Andrew Vorhees is off to the NFL and White now not coming to Los Angeles is an area of concern. 

The good news is Riley has seemingly already identified one potential replacement, as All-AAC guard Cam’Ron Johnson out of Houston is set to visit Los Angeles this weekend. 

But naturally, the more pressing needs for USC are on defense

No kidding, right?

While the returns were better this spring, Alex Grinch’s unit still has a ways to go before it even resembles a championship-caliber group. Riley was adamant throughout the spring that USC’s defense — one that finished the 2022 season in the 100s nationally in total defense, yards per play allowed, rushing yards per play and passing defense — had improved, but there were strong signs during the spring game that his confidence may be a tad overblown. 

After allowing close to 5.0 yards per carry in 2022, USC’s run defense looked as pitiful as ever last Saturday, with the Trojans’ tailbacks combining for over 220 yards on less than 25 carries. 

That’s almost double the average per rush (9.7) USC allowed last fall. It wasn’t a case of missed tackles, either. No, USC’s smaller defensive line was getting blown off the ball. 

What happens when the same group goes up against the likes of physical offenses versus Notre Dame, Utah and Oregon in the fall?

The Trojans are already having to replace end Tuli Tuipulotu, who led the nation with 13.5 sacks, and while Lucas and Purdue transfer Jack Sullivan reportedly had strong springs, those two additions alone aren’t enough. 

Physicality has never been a hallmark of a Lincoln Riley team, but that needs to start to change. The program needs more beef. 

Again, the good news is Riley seems to know that, as the Trojans are considered the front-runners for former Georgia 5-star tackle Bear Alexander. The 6-3, 305-pound sophomore with interior pass rush capabilities is exactly the type of body USC needs more of. Alexander is just one piece, but he would be a major addition — very similar to adding a guy like Jordan Addison this time last year. Depending on how much attrition happens elsewhere on the roster, adding more than just a Bear would be even better.