Lincoln Riley’s transfer portal wins: Looking at USC’s roster after Jordan Addison joins Caleb Williams

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Jordan Addison has decided where he will play in the 2022 college football season. He is transferring from Pitt to USC, as many expected.

Addison won the Biletnikoff Award in 2021 as the best receiver in college football. He helped guide the Panthers to an ACC championship game appearance as a dynamic weapon for Kenny Pickett.

Addison caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Panthers last season while adding 56 yards and a score on the ground. Now, he will take his talent to Los Angeles as Lincoln Riley’s latest big-name acquisition.

Riley, who is in his first year at USC following a five-year stint as Oklahoma’s head coach, has routinely won recruiting battles in the transfer portal during the 2022 offseason. Addison represents one of his biggest overall gets. He should pair well with quarterback Caleb Williams, whom Riley also landed via the transfer portal.

Why did Addison choose USC, and how has Riley found so much success in recruiting transfers? Here’s what to know about the decision and how it impacts the Trojans’ roster.

MORE: Where Caleb Williams ranks among 2022 transfer QBs

Why Jordan Addison transferred to USC

Addison said Thursday on Twitter that he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to transfer but that he loved playing for the Panthers.

“The last few weeks have been very difficult,” Addison wrote. “I struggled with my decision as to whether I should exercise my right to enter the portal. Student athletes have not always had that opportunity, and I made that choice.”

“I have now carefully considered the advice of my family and close friends and fully weighed both the risks and benefits associated with my decision,” he added. “I also respect that others may make a different choice. But for me, I will continue my full development as a student athlete by enrolling at USC.”

Addison’s decision isn’t just about exercising his right to enter the portal, however. According to Pittsburgh Sports Now, Addison will receive a name, image and likeness deal worth up to $2 million at USC.

The NIL deal is also a part of the greater controversy surrounding the transfer portal. Riley has become familiar with that during his brief tenure at USC.

DeCOURCY: NIL deals may be vexing, but let’s not get hysterical

Lincoln Riley, Jordan Addison transfer portal controversy

News of Addison’s decision to transfer from Pitt was broken by ESPN’s Pete Thamel on April 29. Almost immediately, Addison was connected to USC, and that raised red flags for Pitt’s coaching staff.

Thamel said on ESPN’s “College Gameday” before Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft that Pitt “essentially accused USC of tampering” with Addison given their strong connection to him.

“It’s to the point where Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi multiple times called USC coach Lincoln Riley . . . and had some pointed conversations with him to express his displeasure,” Thamel said. “I really think we may look back on this as something in college football that’s a little bit of a pivot point. You have one of the most established stars in the sport who will find out in the next 18 hours whether or not he could go on the open market.”

This isn’t the only controversy that Riley has generated during the transfer portal era. Early in his time with the Trojans, Riley recruited several of his former Oklahoma players to join him at USC, including star quarterback Caleb Williams.

This rubbed many Sooners fans the wrong way, and tampering accusations were bandied about. Riley denied tampering and gave a diplomatic answer when asked about recruiting his former players.

“We didn’t take players from Oklahoma; we took players from the transfer portal,” Riley said in a February radio interview with Colin Cowherd. “Once a player gets in a portal and they are open to any school in the country, we would be crazy to not look at it and now help our football team.”

MORE: Jimbo Fisher rips ‘narcissist’ Nick Saban over cheating allegations

USC transfers since Lincoln Riley’s hire

Tactics aside, there’s no denying that Riley has been one of the most effective coaches in the transfer portal during the 2022 college football offseason.

Riley landed two of the biggest names in Williams and Addison, as well as 12 other transfers who will provide depth. Travis Dye — who rushed for 1,271 yards and 16 touchdowns for Oregon in 2021 — is among the most notable transfers besides Addison and Williams. He could become a starter for Trojans in short order.

A list of USC’s transfers to date under Riley, per ESPN:

Player Position Previous school
Jordan Addison WR Pitt
Caleb Williams QB Oklahoma
Earl Barquet DE TCU
Brenden Rice WR Colorado
Mario Williams WR Oklahoma
Tyrone Taleni DE Kansas State
Terrell Bynum WR Washington
Bobby Haskins OT Virginia
Shane Lee LB Alabama
Romello Height OLB Auburn
Travis Dye RB Oregon
Austin Jones RB Stanford
Latrell McCutchin CB Oklahoma
Mekhi Blackmon CB Colorado

The Trojans have also lost players to transfers, including quarterbacks Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart, tight end Michael Trigg, wide receiver Bru McCoy and running back Brandon Campbell.

Still, USC has added more than it has lost. That’s part of why the Trojans currently have the No. 1 overall recruiting class of the 2022 offseason.

USC roster: Trojans’ projected starting lineups

USC has been able to rapidly rebuild as a result of Riley’s recruiting prowess in the transfer portal. The Trojans should have a chance to battle for the Pac-12 title in 2022 thanks to a starting 22 that appears to be much stronger.

A look at USC’s projected starting lineups on offense and defense, per Ourlads’ Scouting Service:

Offense

QB Caleb Williams*
RB Travis Dye*
WR Jordan Addison*
WR Terrell Bynum*
WR Tahj Washington/Gary Bryant Jr.
TE Malcolm Epps
LT Courtland Ford
LG Andrew Vorhees
C Brett Neilon
RG Justin Dedich
RT Jonah Monheim

Defense

DE Nick Figueroa
NT Stanley Ta’ufo’ou
DT Tuli Tuipulotu
RUSH Romello Height*
MIKE Shane Lee*
WILL Ralen Goforth
CB Mekhi Blackmon*
FS Calen Bullock
SS Xavion Alford
CB Latrell McCutchin*
NB Max Williams

* Denotes 2022 transfer.

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