Jordan Addison adds star power, but USC still has work to do up front

By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Writer

We’re all watching USC this year. That’s good. That’s what Lincoln Riley wants.

Now, the fight (is) on.

Former Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison took his time but finished right where he started his transfer portal process — at USC.

It didn’t matter that Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi took umbrage enough to call Riley last month and report his displeasure to what he viewed as tampering with a player who wasn’t yet in the transfer portal and still was very much on scholarship at Pitt.

It didn’t matter that Addison’s wide receiver coach last season at Pitt, Brennan Marion, is now wide receiver coach at Texas. And that the Longhorns wanted him — badly.

It didn’t matter that Nick Saban hosted Addison in Tuscaloosa not long after they both watched one-year transfer Jameson Williams become a first-round selection in this year’s NFL Draft after sitting at No. 3 on the depth chart at Ohio State in 2020.

What apparently mattered to Addison is the opportunity to play in a city that exists to make stars into superstars and the ability to profit off his Name, Image and Likeness as the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner — the trophy awarded to the nation’s best wide receiver.

Addison is the latest in what has become a parade of outstanding transfers to USC since Riley shocked the college football world last November with his announcement that he was leaving his post as head coach at Oklahoma to become the new Caesar at the Coliseum.

And the way he has set about the Helenian task of returning the Trojans to the glory and riches of the days of Pete Carroll — if not Hector — is by convincing many of the nation’s best skill players to leave their previous FBS school and choose SC. The list of distinguished names to make the trek out to South Central include not just Addison but quarterback Caleb Williams, running back Travis Dye, receiver Mario Williams and Jerry Rice’s son, Brenden.

Add members of NWA and Snoop back into the mix, and it’s a party fit for a SoFi Super Bowl halftime show.

Those kinds of names get fans’ and other players’ attention. But it’s not players that USC has lacked, even if the program has missed on some of the most high-profile players in the sport who played high school ball in the Trojans’ backyard.

While there are a handful of California blue-chip recruits committed to SC for the 2023 class, it bears mentioning that there have been six blue-chip quarterbacks from the West Coast who have either stopped through SC or dismissed it altogether.

Former Mater Dei signal-caller JT Daniels started his career at USC and then left to join a Georgia team that won the College Football Playoff national championship. He has since transferred to West Virginia to reunite with former SC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.

State of Arizona product Kedon Slovis succeeded Daniels and was the Trojans’ starter going into the 2021 season when he was usurped by state of Utah product Jaxson Dart. Slovis transferred to Pitt, where I’m certain he thought he’d benefit from Addison, who is one of the biggest reasons that former Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was selected in the first round of last month’s NFL Draft.

Dart, the former National Gatorade Player of the Year, played well enough at USC in 2021 to warrant a shot at starting next season. But shortly after Williams announced his decision to transfer to SC, Dart chose to transfer to Ole Miss.

And those are just the QBs who actually ended up playing games at the Coliseum.

Reigning Heisman winner and former Mater Dei Monarch Bryce Young committed to USC before flipping to Alabama. But neither former St. John Bosco quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei nor Rancho Cucamonga, California, product C.J. Stroud picked SC. They are the starting quarterbacks at Clemson and Ohio State, respectively.

Lincoln Riley, USC football the new CFB villains?

RJ Young breaks down the expectations for USC in the upcoming season and ponders if the Trojans are the new villains in college football.

One way for Riley to make sure the next Reggie Bush — 305 in eyeblack — picks USC is to make sure it’s an attractive place for talent to play. That’s what must happen for Riley to achieve his dream of turning SC into the mecca of college football.

But you can’t build a foundation for a place of worship in college football without being outstanding on the offensive line, and the Trojans have a lot of foundational work to do.

The man who helped Riley create the offensive powerhouse OU has been for the past seven years is still in Norman. His name is Bill Bedenbaugh, and most offensive line coaches and players cite him as one of the best in the sport.

But not only must Riley now build his offensive line without Bedenbaugh, the new SC coach has to do it with fewer bodies. At the end of spring practice, USC counted just eight scholarship offensive linemen who could participate in its 15 practices. The Trojans have just 13 on scholarship now.

Reasonably, that should be a priority for USC, if for no other reason than to allow Williams and Dye to operate without having defensive linemen and linebackers in their lap.

Now, to be fair, Trojans offensive line coach Josh Henson won a national title on the 2007 LSU squad and also served under Mike Gundy and Jimbo Fisher prior to diving into the glamorous world of USC football. Still, rebuilding a position is a lot to ask of anyone in his first season. 

So is putting together a capable defense and competing for the Pac-12 Championship in a league in which Utah has proven to be the class leader. Not to mention that the former defensive coordinator for the reigning national champs, Dan Lanning, is now the head coach at Oregon, and, in non-conference play, Fresno State and Notre Dame are anything but easy wins for USC.

Let’s see if Riley, Addison and the Trojans can live the life of a boss player as they hum along to Tupac’s classic with “all eyez on me.”

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.

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