The USC Trojans spring showcase was phenomenal. The air was electric and fans were gifted the first glimpse of Lincoln Riley’s high-powered offense.
Transfers from Oklahoma, Caleb and Mario Williams, were the stars of the spring game. Leading the way for the USC Trojan offense, the two combined for two touchdowns and had their way with the defense. Miller Moss, a sophomore quarterback, made a name for himself. He went 15-of-20 for 169 yards and one TD. A 48-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Kyle Ford.
a confident Miller Moss drops a dime to Kyle Ford for six pic.twitter.com/miyBIue2tQ
— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) April 23, 2022
The crispness of the passing game was on full display, and the spread style of offense was electrifying. From the pocket, both quarterbacks looked poised and comfortable. The offensive line surrendered three sacks to Romello Heights, Nick Figueroa, and Julien Simon.
The running game is an interesting conundrum. Fifth-year seniors Travis Dye, Austin Jones, and redshirt junior Darwin Barlow each contributed 64 yards on 18 carries. The lone rushing touchdown came on a six-yard run by Jones. This particular adoption of Riley’s offense lends insight to how the Trojans expect to win this season.
West Coast Air Raid
Mario on the 💰 #FightOn✌️ pic.twitter.com/ChSE3YGrcK
— USC Football ✌️ (@uscfb) April 23, 2022
While it would be foolish for head coach Lincoln Riley to tip his hand early, he did show the brass tacks of the 2022 USC Trojans’ identity. The offense is going to be the name of the game this season. Caleb Williams started 9/9 with two touchdowns on his first two drives. Remarkably, he only had 11 rushing yards, the significance being that Williams operated primarily from the pocket.
Standing and delivering from the pocket is going to be Williams and the Trojans’ best chance of winning. Williams frequently found Terrell Bynum and Williams when he needed big plays. Brenden Rice got involved in the action, but not as much with all of their firepower. The Trojans are attacking the seams with short and intermediate quick hitters. Riley’s system is very quarterback-friendly, and his top two guys at the position appear poised to deliver results. What was mysteriously absent was the contribution from the tight ends.
The tight ends are a secret that Riley and the offensive coaching staff are keeping under wraps. We saw a lot of open backfield space and 11 players (1 RB and 1 TE). What’s evident to the trained eye is that the tight ends possess good size, speed, and run crisp routes. There were no power sets, and if the I-formation was run, it must have been during a bathroom break.
Running In Order To Keep Defenses Honest
The running game is reminiscent of the old “run and shoot” offense. Dye, Jones, and Barlow aren’t the most dynamic talents in the backfield the Trojans have ever seen. What they are is more like plodders who can keep the chains moving and stay on schedule. The spread run game is designed to get quick lanes in the defense, but I have questions about limited vision.
This committee of running backs is capable of getting the yardage blocked by the offensive line. However, short of putting their heads down to bull forward an extra yard or two, they aren’t making many guys miss. There were opportunities to bounce runs outside and get more yardage. Hopefully, during the break between spring and fall camps, Riley can get a little more athleticism into his backfield committee.
The combination of quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends will carry the day for the Trojans. No matter who it is. If something unforeseen should occur, Moss is a capable quarterback with whom the Trojans can win. The depth at receiver is solid and getting better daily. The tight ends are the unsung heroes of the squad. The guy’s everyone are talking about, yet we haven’t seen them.
Up front, the offensive line is solid and will provide Caleb Williams with the necessary protection he needs to stand in the pocket and deliver. They aren’t monsters in the running game just yet, but for five guys blocking odd fronts and sub-packages, they were solid.
As of now, the Trojans aren’t ready to challenge for the college football playoffs and win a national championship, but a Pac-12 championship is well within range.