Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma for USC on Sunday in the biggest shakeup on the 2021 college football coaching carousel.
It’s a home-run hire for a Trojans program that is on its fourth head coach since Pete Carroll left after the 2009 season. Riley brings a 55-10 record, three College Football Playoff appearances and four conference championships.
That is not even the best part. Riley is going to bring Heisman Trophy- and national championship level quarterback play back to USC.
MORE: Why did Riley leave Oklahoma for USC?
Look at his track record. Oklahoma had back-to-back Heisman winners in Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018). Jalen Hurts (2019) finished second in Heisman voting the following season. All three started in College Football Playoff games. All three start in the NFL now.
In their final seasons at Oklahoma, the trio averaged 4,209 yards, 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions. USC would take that production, for sure.
Even Caleb Williams, who took over as the Sooners’ starter this year, was in the Heisman conversation despite not starting until midway through the season. Williams will be among the favorites in 2022.
MORE: Top Oklahoma recruits start to jump ship after Riley departure
Would he entertain entering the transfer portal and following Riley to USC? If not Williams, then would Spencer Rattler? Oklahoma has a verbal commitment from Malachi Nelson, the No. 2 quarterback in the 2023 recruiting class. Nelson plays at Los Alamitos (Calif.). Would he now consider staying close to home?
That could be part of the Riley Effect at USC. The Trojans need to keep the top five-star quarterbacks on the West Coast. Alabama’s Bryce Young (Mater Dei in Santa Ana), Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud (Rancho Cucamonga) and Ole Miss’ Matt Corral (Long Beach Poly in Long Beach), the three quarterbacks most likely to be Heisman finalists this season, all are from California.
Riley could help reverse that trend, and the recruiting impact could get USC back into the national spotlight for the right reasons. Riley’s offense has averaged 42.7 points per game at Oklahoma the last five years; the Sooners averaging 38.4 points per game in 2021 was considered a down season.
ORE: Seven best candidates to replace Riley at OU
During Carroll’s heyday, the program was built around Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Carson Palmer (2002) and Matt Leinart (2004). Palmer went to Santa Margarita Catholic in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., while Leinart attended Mater Dei.
This is the big-time hire that not only USC but the Pac-12 has been waiting for. The conference has not been to the CFP since 2016. The Trojans have a chance to re-emerge through recruiting with a proven winner. Riley has already proved he can replace a legend in Bob Stoops.
MORE: Riley was being honest about LSU job, after all
Now, he can build his own legend at one of the all-time blue-blood programs.
You can bet it will start under center.