USC coach Lincoln Riley is inspired by protection’s progress

When Lincoln Riley stepped onto the apply discipline this previous Sunday firstly of his second spring as USC’s soccer coach, the duty in entrance of him felt a bit much less daunting than it did a 12 months in the past.

The basis of this system was already fashioned, the core beliefs already ingrained, the processes put into place. There have been fewer inquiries to reply, fewer particulars to handle.

“You have a sense that we’re building upon something now as opposed to just starting something,” Riley mentioned Tuesday. “Now it’s time to really build. And I think our guys sense that. I think there’s certainly a lot less new, but at the same time, we’ve pushed the guys to understand that what was acceptable 12 months ago is not necessarily acceptable now.”

Nowhere is that extra true for USC firstly of spring than on protection, the place one want solely journey again two months to know what unacceptable seems like.

USC’s disastrous defeat within the Cotton Bowl in January definitely raised loads of questions in regards to the route of its protection and the way forward for coordinator Alex Grinch. Though Grinch was retained, the remainder of that underperforming protection is already wanting loads completely different.

Seven incoming transfers and freshmen alongside the defensive entrance. Five extra added to the secondary. And extra positive to return in the summertime.

“What the answer was at times last year won’t necessarily be the same answer this year,” Riley mentioned when requested in regards to the protection. “Those things are going to evolve and change, especially as these rosters fluctuate. But we’ve really been able to take a very good look at these guys, two days in, and I’ll say this. We’re excited about where we’re headed defensively.”

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Reporters and followers received’t get an prolonged have a look at the protection till USC’s spring sport April 15. But Riley supplied some thought of the place it stands Tuesday. He pointed to power and weight features within the secondary, which he felt wasn’t bodily sufficient final season, and reiterated there will likely be a number of new starters alongside the defensive entrance.

Riley mentioned there’s lastly some depth at linebacker. New linebacker Mason Cobb has made an particularly sturdy early impression, rising as a vocal chief within the locker room very like fellow linebacker Shane Lee did final spring.

“We’re really excited about some of the talent we brought and some of the talent that’s been on this roster that’s been developed,” Riley mentioned. “We expect to be an extremely high-level defense here at USC. No reason in the world why we can’t and why we won’t be. And we expect that that will happen and happen soon.”

Nelson arrives

Los Alamitos High School quarterback Malachi Nelson waits to enter the sector earlier than a highschool soccer sport towards Newport Harbor High School on Sept. 30, 2022, in Newport Beach.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

It hasn’t precisely been a really perfect begin at USC for five-star freshman quarterback Malachi Nelson, who underwent surgical procedure on his shoulder in late December, days earlier than coming to campus.

That plan was coordinated with USC. But it didn’t depart a lot time for Nelson to get his arm acclimated for spring. He didn’t begin throwing totally till Sunday, the primary day of USC’s spring practices.

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“For a QB, that’s like a golfer going out and playing a tournament without practicing or hitting balls for three months,” Riley mentioned. “He’s done well the first few days. He makes some plays where you see his ability, and certainly there’s plenty of mistakes. Every single play, we’ve got something to learn from. But he seems to take it and grasp it quick.”

Nelson ought to have loads of time to search out his footing from right here. With the defending Heisman winner forward of him on the depth chart, there’s no must rush Nelson’s improvement. Even behind Caleb Williams, USC already has a succesful backup in Miller Moss.

Having these skilled passers round Nelson, Riley mentioned, “has been a big plus.”

The freshman nonetheless isn’t cleared for full contact, however quarterbacks don’t take contact throughout spring, anyway. Beyond that, Riley mentioned there are “not too many limitations” with Nelson in the meanwhile.

“We’ll have to be careful with him in team settings,” Riley mentioned, “but we’ll be able to do most of the things, which is obviously key for his development.”

Gentry out

USC linebacker Eric Gentry reacts during the second half against Oregon State.

USC linebacker Eric Gentry reacts throughout the second half towards Oregon State on Sept. 24, 2022, in Corvallis, Ore.

(Amanda Loman / Associated Press)

USC hoped that some relaxation and rehab is perhaps sufficient for Eric Gentry’s injured ankle to completely recuperate. But because the weeks handed this offseason, that progress by no means fairly materialized.

Eventually, Gentry opted for ankle surgical procedure. The process will hold him out for the remainder of spring.

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“He’ll be back very, very quickly after,” the coach mentioned. “And probably would’ve missed spring ball regardless of when he had the surgery.”