When Lincoln Riley arrived at USC, he made many promises to the Trojan Family. One thing that he promised was roster evaluation and turnover, and there is no position on the roster that has already undergone as complete of an overhaul as the Wide Receiver room.
In the 2021 season, the leaders in receiving yardage for the USC Trojans were Drake London, Tahj Washington, and Gary Bryant Jr. While London is the only one of the three to leave USC in this offseason, London accounted for almost 50% of the group’s production (47.9% to be exact) all while only playing in eight games. There is clearly plenty of space for some receivers to step up (or be brought in) and contribute to the team in 2022.
Another in-house option has crossed his own name off the list in the uber-talented but oft-maligned Bru McCoy, who has entered the transfer portal. This leaves just Washington, Bryant Jr., and Kyle Ford as options on the team in 2021 to contribute at receiver in 2022.
Fortunately, it appears that Lincoln Riley was quick to realize the need at the position, and he has brought in plenty of competition to juice up the wide receiver room, particularly in the last few weeks.
First, nearly two weeks ago, the Trojans brought in a well-known foe, Wide Receiver Terrell Bynum from the University of Washington.
Bynum is a fairly long receiver at 6’1″ and 190 pounds. He will bring experience playing at a great level to USC’s wide receiver room, as he was an All-PAC-12 honorable mention in 2021, despite missing several games with injury.
Then, on January 8th, USC brought in another uber-talented young receiver in CJ Williams, the No. 11 receiver in the Class of 2022 out of Mater Dei. Williams is already a large receiver at 6’2″ and 193 pounds, but the smooth route runner has a large frame and the ability to put on even more weight at the college level.
Then, the Trojans made perhaps their largest addition just a few days ago in Wide Receiver Mario Williams, a transfer from Oklahoma. Williams was rated as the highest-ranked transfer portal receiver by 24/7 sports, and the speedy slot dynamo should be expected to add immediately to the Trojans’ receiving corps.
In what surely has to be the last of the additions to USC’s now stacked receiver corps, the Trojans also added wide receiver Brenden Rice, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, via transfer from Colorado on Tuesday. Rice has been used in a wide variety of roles for the Colorado Buffaloes, including as a rusher, returner, and receiver, as the Buffs did all they could to get the most out of the speedy wideout.
So, what exactly should we expect out of USC’s receivers in 2022?
Giving a statistical projection would simply be malpractice at this point in the season, particularly without the knowledge of who will quarterback the Trojans in 2022. While dual-threat star Caleb Williams has long been expected to transfer to USC, he has waited to go through his options before making anything official.
However, we can begin to consider the likely depth chart at the position in 2022 based on fit for different roles and previous experience levels.
While recent iterations of Riley’s offense have been led by star receivers such as CeeDee Lamb and Marvin Mims, the scheme has allowed for rotations at receiver and plenty of players to produce.
In 2021, there were four receivers on Oklahoma’s offense (including Mario Williams) who had over 350 yards receiving. With so much turnover and depth in USC’s wide receiver room, Trojan fans should expect involvement from a large number of players.
With turnover at head coach and quarterback, there is no reason to expect that the holdovers USC has at receiver, including Tahj Washington, Gary Bryant Jr., and Kyle Ford, should have any advantage over the new transfers to the USC program for reps.
However, going on past production and ability, the group of Mario Williams, Brenden Rice, Terrell Bynum, Tahj Washington, Gary Bryant Jr., and Kyle Ford all have a case to make to be significant contributors to the USC receiving game, as they each have flashed significant talent and have had over 200 yards receiving in a season.
Mario Williams carved out a larger role for himself in the slot at Oklahoma as the season went along and the trust he has built with Lincoln Riley makes him an early favorite to claim a role as the slot receiver in 2022.
However, he will have to fight with Brenden Rice, Gary Bryant Jr., and Tahj Washington for his role as the elusive, quick receiver in Riley’s offense, though these players are also able to play on the outside. Multiple members of this group may be used to exploit slower defenses or run unique play packages. Rice may carry a bit of an advantage for this type of role with his history running the ball as well as his demonstrated track speed at Colorado.
Terrell Bynum seems to be one of the best bets to be a consistent contributor as an outside receiver, as the tall receiver has done throughout his career at Washington. Bynum will be the man with the most playing experience in this unit. He will be pushed by true freshman C.J. Williams, who may struggle to crack the rotation so early in his career with so many more experienced players in front of him. However, the younger Williams certainly has the talent to do so.
Last but not least, Kyle Ford also figures to fit into this rotation at outside receiver. If Ford can put things together now two full years removed from suffering torn ligaments in his knee, he has the size and weight to be the most physically imposing of the group in 2022.
In all, the Trojans have a wide range of players at wide receiver who are ready to be contributors in 2022.
While some of these players have more experience than others, none has really put together a season of a true number one wide receiver in the past at the college level. However, with seven highly talented players coming in, surely one or two will be able to stick out above the rest with all players likely to be given the chance to grow into a role during the 2022 season.
At this point, further speculation as to the rotation beyond positions and experience is nothing more than that – speculation. This group will be sorted out in Spring and Fall practice, and it is one of the most interesting groups to watch going into Spring practices for USC football.