USC’s Riley details recruiting coups, reunion with Williams

Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News
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LOS ANGELES — Lincoln Riley says he didn’t – and couldn’t – talk to Caleb Williams between the day the coach left Oklahoma and the day his once-and-future star quarterback entered the transfer portal five weeks later.

Southern California’s new coach had to wait patiently and stressfully for the chance to land the centerpiece of his first recruiting class with the Trojans, along with two more ex-Sooners who decided to follow Riley from Norman to the West Coast.

“There’s a long period of time where there’s zero communication,” Riley said Wednesday while announcing his February signing period class. “And then all of a sudden, Caleb and his parents make the decision to jump into the transfer portal. We had a conversation shortly after that, and I don’t think we talked even one bit of football. It was just kind of like a long-lost friend. It was good to be able to reconnect.”

Riley closed the deal with Williams for the second time, and the former five-star recruit enrolled at USC last Friday. The quarterback’s commitment capped a bountiful haul for the Trojans in the transfer portal: Riley signed 13 players away from other schools, from Oregon to Virginia, restocking his first roster with elite talent.

Riley said he doesn’t plan to rely on transfers this heavily in the future. His evaluation of the Trojans’ 2021 roster led him to identify spots needing quick improvement, and his coaching staff worked aggressively to find veteran collegiate players who wanted to join them.

“This is a unique year and a unique situation,” Riley said. “When you’re trying to really revamp a roster and fill the amount of spots that we’re attempting to fill, being able to have all these different mechanisms to use to fill that has been extremely valuable.”

USC signed two veteran Pac-12 running backs in Oregon’s Travis Dye and Stanford’s Austin Jones, who racked up a combined 2,318 yards of total offense last season. They also grabbed three productive transfer receivers: Oklahoma’s Mario Williams, Colorado’s Brenden Rice and Washington’s Terrell Bynum produced a combined 1,115 yards receiving last season.

Mario Williams and Caleb Williams already are a tight duo, and Riley believes his new quarterback will form similar bonds with his new receivers. Although Caleb Williams kept the Trojans waiting for nearly a month before announcing his decision, Riley knows Williams is eager to get to work in his new home.

“He works really hard at his craft, and he does a great job of bringing people together,” Riley said. “I think that’s what he’s most excited about right now is to just go to class, to get with the guys, to get back just in the flow of being part of a team and part of a university.”

The Trojans’ recruiting class is a mighty haul for a short time frame at a school that went 4-8 last season. Riley thinks the players were enticed by the chance to win quickly in a desirable location like Southern California, where name, image and likeness rights will only become more valuable in the uncertain recruiting landscape of the future.

“I think the real surge (in NIL) has happened now as recruiting has gotten competitive,” Riley said. “It’s a factor, and anybody that says it isn’t is not paying attention. … I think it’s going to continue to be another way that we as a program can separate ourselves, and we absolutely plan to do that.”

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff


CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.