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USC and Lincoln Riley’s long, strange road in football finally arrives on the field

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LOS ANGELES, CA - AUG.  September 5, 2022: USC head coach Lincoln Riley heads to practice on the first day of USC's fall training camp.  (Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)
USC coach Lincoln Riley takes to the field on Friday on the Trojans’ first day of training with a revamped roster and coaching staff. (Michael Owen Baker/For The Times)

After eight months of analysis, tweaking, and nimble maneuvering in the first off-season of American football, something of a leeway, what will it be like for a new look early Friday morning? USK Trojans to finally be together at Brian Kennedy Field?

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“I didn’t sleep very well last night,” said Lincoln Riley, USC’s first-year head coach.

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He smiled but seemed genuine in his concern.

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“This band has come a long way to this point,” Riley said. “This group faced various challenges and they kept responding to them. Obviously we’ve talked a lot about how this roster has come together and I think they’re excited to see all their guys. Now let’s get to work and start building this.”

Riley’s longtime ally, USC receivers coach Dennis Simmons, called the 2022 trojans created on the transfer portal “a bit of a marriage of convenience.”

“A lot of these kids, we didn’t sit in their parents’ living room and discuss how we can help their child grow,” Simmons said, “and on the other hand, a lot of these kids that we worked with in the spring, we don’t connected.”

Hasty Trojan Alliance – From Riley and his band of Oklahoma believers who joined his USC staff to ex-Sooners defender Caleb Williams the current winner of the Biletnikoff Award Jordan Addisonmoving from Pittsburgh to the revitalized linebacker corps — Friday seems to be the start of a happy honeymoon.

The disappointment of the Trojans’ 4-8 record last season and the lingering turmoil that characterized the later years of the Clay Helton era are gone.

“Along with a lot of new players, there are some of the best players in college football,” said center Brett Nylon, who is in his sixth year with the Trojans. “You have Caleb, Jordan won Biletnikoff, you have Travis. [Dye], you have Austin Jones, you have Brenden Rice. In that regard, it’s great that we’ve got a lot of players, but they’re also extremely talented.”

Friday was Addison’s first practice at Cardinal and Gold – and Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer. former pensioner No. 3 jersey – and the young man definitely looked the part.

“He’s a good player,” Riley said with a hint of understatement. “He is very attentive. You practice the details and see how they show up pretty quickly on the field. He made some good games for us today. Obviously, he is a proven player in the past. He must come and prove it here. But for the first time on the field, when he coaches him, he impresses.”

Of course, getting USC back to being USC quickly will take more than a flash in skill positions.

“We’re still in the ‘to prove’ stage,” Simmons said. “Do I think we have a lot of talent? Yes. Do I think we have all the size, strength and speed we need? Yes. But who we are as a whole and who we want to become as a whole remains to be seen. This is what autumn camp is all about. I think the strength of our team will be in our resilience.”

USC head coach Lincoln Riley takes up the defensive stance while working with receivers in practice.
USC head coach Lincoln Riley works with receivers during the first day of training on Friday. (Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

On that note, Riley said that the Trojans won’t have a let-down period in the coming days as they complete some training at the Colosseum to get used to the old iconic building that really is their new home.

“For us right now, Year 1, there is so much new on this list,” Riley said. “We are going to attack him, and then at the right time we will break away from them a bit and try to return their bodies and start preparing for the opponents.

“But right now we need to get USC right. We must win our internal battle, and this is our daily battle. As opposed to thinking of it as a marathon where you run a little every day, our deal is that it’s a fistfight every day and you wake up ready to fight again.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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