After one of the most extensive makeovers imaginable for a college football program, USC will put its new identity in the spotlight on Saturday as it takes the field for its spring game. With former Oklahoma coach coach Lincoln Riley now running the show and a deep cast of incoming transfers joining him, there is optimism that the 2022 Trojans will bear no resemblance to the 2021 squad that finished 4-8.
Immediately reversing the fortunes of a program coming off its worst season in three decades won't be easy, though, and the spring game could offer some hints at where things stand. The offense is expected to be excellent immediately as the Trojans welcome former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, who shined under Riley as a true freshman in 2021.
There are questions about the defense, however. The Trojans ranked 89th of 130 FBS schools in total defense during the 2021 season while allowing opponents to pick up 4.6 yards per carry. Six incoming defensive transfers from Power Five schools should help give first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch something to work with.
Ultimately, there is still a lot for USC to figure out in the months ahead before the Riley era officially starts. Saturday will be a progress report of sorts and another chance for the Trojans to generate hype as they write a new chapter in the legacy of a storied program.
Here is what you need to know for Ohio State's 2022 spring football game.
How to watch 2022 USC spring game live
Date: Saturday, April 23 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
Location: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- Los Angeles, California
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (try for free)
2022 USC spring game: Need to know
1. Running back rotation: The Trojans made a splash by landing former Oregon running back Travis Dye from the transfer portal after he finished second in the Pac-12 last season with 1,271 yards rushing. With leading rushers Keaontay Ingram and Vavae Malepeai departed from last year's team, Dye looks poised to play a huge role in Riley's offense.
Stanford transfer Austin Jones and redshirt junior Darwin Barlow, USC's leading returning rusher, should also play prominent roles in the spring game. That may only be the beginning when it comes to USC's depth at running back. With four-star true freshman Raleek Brown entering the mix this summer and Riley hinting at another potential addition, don't be surprised if the Trojans spread the carries around.
"They're going to all be involved," Riley said. "That's a room where we would target to have at least one more player in there. With our belief in running the football and all the different ways we've used those guys over the years, you hope to have four if not even five who are able to contribute and have different roles. Hopefully we can beef up that room a little bit in the coming weeks."
2. The other quarterback: Williams is the main attraction after throwing for 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions with the Sooners last season while living up to his ranking as a consensus top-10 prospect in the class of 2021. In two of the past three seasons, however, the Trojans have ended up relying heavily on their backup quarterback. If that winds up being the case again this season, the spotlight could fall on redshirt freshman Miller Moss. He was third on the depth chart last season behind Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart, both of whom have since transferred.
Now, the former four-star prospect finds himself as the likely backup to Williams, taking 50% of the team's reps in spring practice as the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster. Fans should expect to see a lot of Moss on Saturday, and Riley has been effusive in his praise of the 6-foot-2 signal-caller.
"I really enjoy coaching Miller," Riley said. "I really have ... He has strung together several nice days in a row right now. He's throwing the ball extremely well. Mentally, he's getting more comfortable every day. He's played very efficient, he's made a lot of explosive plays. I've been extremely impressed with the way he prepares. You can just tell his confidence is really growing."
3. Not a game of tag: In an era when some programs choose to avoid contact during spring games out of fear for injuries, the Trojans plan to take a physical approach. Riley has been vocal about his desire for a strong fan turnout, and with with ESPN televising the game, USC plans to give spectators a full half of something that resembles regular football.
"It's not going to be a game of tag," Riley said. "We're going to play football, like we have every single day. It'll be fun. We're going to try and keep it pretty fast-paced. We'll play a half of football."