Well, that didn’t take long.
The first big splash of the Lincoln Riley era — other than the hire of Riley himself — came Tuesday, when five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson announced his commitment to USC. Nelson, a product of Southern California’s Los Alamitos High School, is the No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2023, according to 247Sports’ rankings.
The commitment comes less than 48 hours after Riley’s hire was officially announced by USC Sunday evening — the same day the 6-foot-3, 180-pound quarterback announced his decommitment from Oklahoma in the wake of Riley’s hire.
“Lincoln Riley was my guy and that’s who I committed to,” Nelson told 247Sports of his decision. “We have a special relationship that goes beyond football and he’s the guy I want to play for. I really think Lincoln is the best QB coach and offensive coach in the country.”
Nelson, who figures to be USC’s quarterback of the future once he arrives, is the first recruiting flip by Riley since being named the Trojans’ head coach, but the groundwork has already been laid for other potential marquee additions to future classes.
Raleek Brown, 247Sports’ No. 2 running back in the Class of 2022, remains committed to the Sooners but alluded via Twitter to a homecoming on Sunday evening, and Riley paid him a home visit hours after his introductory press conference Monday. Makai Lemon, another Los Alamitos product and the No. 2 athlete in the Class of 2022, decommitted from Oklahoma earlier Tuesday afternoon — as did Brandon Inniss, the nation’s top 2023 receiver, on Monday. Four-stars 2022 linebacker Kobie McKinzie and 2023 running back Treyaun Webb have also dropped their Oklahoma commitments.
Nelson’s commitment also represents the beginning of USC’s hopeful return to prominence in the Southern California recruiting landscape, a presence the program has lacked in recent years.
“A lot of the best are right here [in Southern California]. What a tremendous advantage for us, for this program,” Riley said Monday, slightly more than two weeks from the start of Early Signing Period. “The decisions we make here in the next few weeks will shape the future of this roster. So we will definitely hit the ground running.”
He wasn’t lying.