Lincoln Riley feels momentum gathering for USC in spring

USC Spring Game
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LOS ANGELES – For a coach charged with the monumental task of raising a prestigious college football program from its lowest depths in three decades, Lincoln Riley looked quite content after Southern California’s spring game.

Running out of the historic Coliseum tunnel in front of a cheering home crowd for the first time on a sun-kissed Saturday in Los Angeles left Riley even more confident he’s leading the Trojans in the right direction.

“If you’re in this city and you don’t feel the momentum around this program, you’re not paying attention,” Riley said.

Coaches frequently attempt to speak such feelings into existence, but the renewed excitement at USC isn’t just coach-speak. The Trojans went through their scrimmage in front of 33,427 fans – the largest crowd to attend the spring game since the school began keeping track in the 1990s.

A vast fan base is clearly renewing its passion for a program that mostly gave angst to its faithful in the past half-decade. USC’s success in recruiting and in the transfer market also have skyrocketed since Riley’s hiring less than five months ago, headlined by the arrival of Heisman Trophy hopeful Caleb Williams as the Trojans’ top quarterback.

In another sign of the renewed interest around USC, the spring game was broadcast nationally on ESPN. But winning is the most important step, and Riley believes the Trojans will be ready to do much more of it in his debut season.

“Today was a great example of the progress that’s been made in a really short time,” Riley said. “I thought the day was really representative of how the entire spring has gone.”

Many fans traveled downtown to the Coliseum to get their first look at Williams, the Oklahoma transfer with a smooth release and impressive poise in the pocket. The sophomore completed every pass he threw in the first half of the spring game, including two touchdown passes to Mario Williams, another ex-Sooner who followed Riley to the West Coast.

Caleb Williams’ talents are obvious, but he intends to supplement them by being a vocal leader for a roster with many players who just met this spring. He’s eager to take on a central role in what’s certain to be a year full of unique challenges, and he isn’t daunted by the pressure of following the Heisman winners whose jersey numbers are honored in the Coliseum’s famed Peristyle end.

“I don’t really get nervous,” Williams said with a smile. “It was really cool. Hopefully we get to pack it out really soon. Coming out here and getting in front of the fans, having ESPN and all that, showing the public what we’re going to be – we’re not even close to what we actually are going to be, so it’s awesome.”

A huge chunk of the Trojans’ current roster arrived at the school after Riley, who conducted a thorough overhaul of a wildly imbalanced talent pool left behind by Clay Helton‘s staff. USC will have more new players than holdovers at its skill positions, and the defense has undergone a thorough overhaul.

The roster changes have only just begun, too. The Trojans intend to sign a healthy second crop of transfers in the next few weeks while spring football ends across the country, bolstering their depth chart across the board.

“I don’t know that there’s one position that we’re so anemic that we can’t go and compete right now,” Riley said. “We just need a little bit everywhere, if that makes sense.”

The fans and recruits in attendance might not have paid much attention to the perfect weather and the Coliseum’s clear views from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, but they saw what Riley is building on the field.

The regular season starts Sept. 3 when Rice visits the Coliseum, and former Alabama linebacker Shane Lee thinks the Trojans will be ready to impress even more fans.

“We’ve put in a lot of work, and it’s amazing to see the progress since I got here,” Lee said. “We’re bringing in guys that fit our culture and our scheme. I’m excited to see where it’s going.”

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

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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.