Halfway point of the spring camp: The devil is in the details

Head coach Lincoln Riley is optimistic about the future as players and coaches return to the field.

Caleb Williams and the rest of the offense are warming up during practice. Williams is wearing a gold uniform and the rest of the offense is wearing cardinal uniforms.

During Tuesday’s football practice, the team has started to come together with an impressive recruiting class of 11 transfers and 10 early-enrollee freshmen joining the team. Ten more freshmen will round out the roster in the summer to complete USC’s 2023 signing class. USC will welcome back the entire coaching staff for 2023.

As a 15-year NFL coaching veteran, Greg Brown is joining the staff as a senior defensive analyst. Head coach Lincoln Riley talked about Brown’s value to him and the team.

“All coaches, it’s just like we are with our kids, like the linebacker coach is always going to see it through the eyes of a linebacker,” Riley said. “So, to have a guy that’s not tied to any of those that can just really sit there day-to-day, they can just look at the overall perspective of it and offer up great ideas. It’s been valuable.”

Last season, Trojan tight ends combined to catch 17 passes in 14 games. As usual, USC has a smaller group in the tight-end room. The tight end depth in practice is not looking brighter than last year, especially with redshirt senior Jude Wolfe out with an injury. Freshman tight end Kade Eldridge, who made the 2023 PrepStar All-Western Region, has yet to make an appearance in practice and will be joining later this spring.

“Right now? Today? Not good,” Riley laughed when asked about the tight end depth at practice. “Obviously, not having Jude right now, it’s tough for us. We’ll be excited to get him back in the fold and we’ll get Kade over here as well. So it’s going to be good. It’s just currently not very good.”

On the other hand, Riley is impressed by USC’s running backs so far. Sophomore running back Raleek Brown should be a key contributor this season after Travis Dye moved on to the pros. Coaches have been moving him to different positions to see how much more he can put on his plate.

Junior quarterback Caleb Williams also sees how talented Brown is as a player.

“He played running back for a year and a lot of times in high school he wasn’t running the routes he runs now,” Williams said. “So we’re working on it. But he has a natural talent for it. And like I said, it’s just a lot of small things, certain steps, when to lean, when to not lead, when to break down.”

Having seen action across the entire offensive line, redshirt senior Justin Dedich is returning as a tenured veteran. He has seen many players come and go including offensive linemen Andrew Vorhees and Brett Neilon, who are off to the NFL and will need to have their shoes filled by younger and less experienced players. Spring practice is offering the unit an opportunity to gel.

“It’s a good thing we have spring ball getting to know each other, getting to know how each other works. Little minor details that we’re working on right now.” Dedich said, responding to how the offensive lines were reshaped from last year.

Dedich also believes Arizona transfer Kyon Barrs, who will be joining the defensive line as a redshirt senior with one year of eligibility remaining, can help the unit with the experience he brings to the table.

“He’s an elite player, and it’s definitely making me a lot better as a player every day,” Dedich said. “It’s kind of cool because we grew up in the same valley. He’s from Murrieta, I’m from Temecula, so I played him when he was a young buck and so that’s kind of a cool little transition.”

Championships are won at practice — Riley is dedicated to make sure everything runs smoothly to reverse last year’s mistakes.

Riley is personally invested in the team and spoke on his Trojan pride. “When you come and get really invested in a place, you’re a part of all of it. And so you take it personally when it hasn’t gone right.”

“It’s a part of our history. We are all Trojans; this is where we want to be,” he added. “And we want to own all parts of it, the good and the bad. We want to make sure this part that we’re here for hopefully is as good as it possibly can be.”

The Trojans are at their halfway point at the seventh practice. At the spring game on April 15, the team will look to bring its A-game and show the fans its potential.