USC Football Scholarship Reset: What Does the List Look Like Heading into the Offseason?

Over the past 14 months, Lincoln Riley has taken serious steps toward improving the USC roster, which was in tough shape at the end of Clay Hilton’s tenure.

There has been some progress, but there is still work to be done, particularly on defense, if the Trojans aim to break through, win the Pac-12 and make it to the College Football Playoff.

Now that the NFL draft deadline has passed and the first transfer gate window has closed, it’s time to examine the USC scholarship distribution and assess where there might be holes in the list.

Note: This is an unofficial number of scholarships. There will be a drain. In some cases, players may not announce this. For example, Dorian Hewett left the program without warning.

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Quarterback (4)

• Caleb Williams (son)
• Miller Moss (Republic-Su)
• Jake Jensen (Republican-So)
Malachi Nelson (father)

Williams is the leader and will be on the list for another season. Nelson is the only newcomer, and if all goes well from a development standpoint, he’ll be the Trojans’ QB in 2024. Moss’ future should be interesting as he’s behind the Heisman Trophy winner and a five-star freshman to rival him. He didn’t enter the gate, so he would be around at least through the spring.

running backwards (6)

• Austin Jones (R-Sr.)
• Darwin Barlow (R-Sr.)
Marshawn Lloyd (Republican for Jr.)
• Ralek Brown (So.)
• Quentin Joyner (father)
Omarion Peterson (father)

That group was bolstered by the return of Jones having rushed for 727 yards and five touchdowns in 2022 as well as the transfer of Lloyds from South Carolina. Those two and Brown have to be the team’s top three players. Barlow will be worth watching. He’s got talent but he’s a Hilton asset who didn’t get much of a load in 2022 and found himself in a stable of talent just getting deeper.

receiver (9)

• Tahj Washington (R-Sr.)
Brendan Rice (Father)
• John Jackson III (Father)
• Mario Williams (son)
• Michael Jackson III (son)
• Dorian Singer (son)
• Kieron Hudson (Republican-so)
• Zakaria Branch (France)
Mackay Lemon (father)

This position has suffered some attrition with the losses of Kyle Ford, Gary Bryant Jr. and C.J. Williams, but the combination of what came back and the arrival of two five-stars (Brook and Lemon) and one of the Pac-12’s most productive games. Singer will keep this group deep and talented. USC could still use some elevation or a large sized receiver, so we’ll see if they target that in the gate.

narrow end (5)

• Malcolm Epps (R-Sr.)
• Good Wolf (R-Sr.)
• Ethan Ray (R-Sr.)
• Lake Makri (Su-Republic)
• Cady Eldridge (father)

This group remains mostly the same with the sole exception of Josh Vallow, who is running out of his eligibility. Of course, that dynamic could change dramatically if Duce Robinson, a five-star prospect in 2023, picks up the Trojans in the coming weeks or months.

offensive line (17)

• Justin Diditch (R-Sr.)
• Garrett Kingston (R-Sr.)
Jason Rodriguez (Republican)
• Cooper Lovelace (R-Sr.)
• Gino Quinones (R-Sr.)
Jonah Monheim (Republican for Junior)
• Cortlandt Ford (R-Jr.)
• Michael Tarquin (R-Jr.)
• Andrew Melek (R-Jr.)
• Andres Duerk (R-Jr.)
Cadyn Stephen (Republican for Jr.)
• Mason Murphy (Republican-so)
• Elijah Page (father)
• Amos Talalil (father)
• Micah Banuelos (father)
• Ani Noa (father)
• Tobias Raymond (father)

Dedic’s decision to come back was noteworthy, and he will start at the centre. The addition of Kingston (Washington State) and Tarquin (Florida) fill holes on the starting line, providing depth and giving the Trojans more time to develop the five incoming freshmen. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some attrition here, too.

defensive line (11)

• Jack Sullivan (R-Sr.)
• Stanley Ta’ufo’ou (R-Sr.)
• Dijon Benton (R-Sr.)
• Earl Parquet (R-Sr.)
• Tyrone Tallini (Father)
• Kion Barz (Father)
• Jamar Sekona (R-Jr.)
• Anthony Lucas (So.)
• Sam Green (father)
• Dijon Lafitte (father)
• Elijah Hughes (father)

No player in this group will replace the production of Tuli Tuipoloto, who led the nation with 13 1/2 sacks in 2022, but the transfer additions Lucas (Texas A&M), Sullivan (Purdue) and Barz (Arizona) should be defensive. Stronger line from top to bottom. USC still needs more talent and depth here, though, so it could aim for more of that in the gate between now and the start of the season.

Rush End (8)

• Jamil Mohammed (R-Sr.)
• Solomon Baird (R-Sr.)
• Suleiman Tuliopopo (Republican – father)
• Romelu Height (R-Jr.)
• Corey Foreman (son)
• Devan Tompkins (R-Fr.)
• Brian Shelby (France)
David Peavy (father)

USC needs more production from this venue. The healthy height, who suffered a shoulder injury last season, should help. We’ll see what Mohamed, a transfer from Georgia State, brings, or how quickly Shelby, a highly regarded freshman, joins the rotation. Riley is high on Tompkins and his progress during his redshirt season, so he’ll be someone to watch as well.

inside full back (8)

• Shin Li (Father)
• Mason Cobb (Father)
• Chris Thompson Jr. (Father)
• Eric Gentry (son)
Raisjohn Davis (son)
• Carson Tabarachi (Republic – France)
• Garrison Madden (R-Fr.)
• Tackett Curtis (father)

Other than receiver, no group has experienced more depletion this season. Cobb (Oklahoma State) was a much-needed addition after being a second-team player last season. Curtis is a promising student. Their arrival will help, but USC will likely be able to add another player here if they can get someone of quality in the gate.

Defensive Back (18)

• Max Williams (R-Sr.)
• Bryson Shaw (R-Sr.)
• Christian Roland Wallace (Father)
• Jacoby Covington (Republican for Jr.)
• Joshua Jackson Jr. (Republican for Jr.)
• Caline Bullock (son)
• Latrell McCutcheon (Jr.)
• Jaylen Smith (son)
• Care Wright (Republican-So)
• Zamarion Gordon (Republican-So)
• Anthony Beavers Jr. (Republican-So)
• Domani Jackson (So.)
Zion Branch (R-Fr.)
Adonis Otey (R-Sr.)
• Prophet Brown (PBUH)
• Fabian Ross (R-Fr.)
• Christian Pearce (father)
Maliki Crawford (father)

The defensive backfield is well stocked. Roland-Wallace is the only transport brought in. A healthy branch and Jackson would make this group even more talented. Like the offensive line, there may be some attrition here as older Helton stands are recruited.

Specialists (3)

• Aden Sleep Dalton (Father)
• Edward Chapelecki (son)
• Dennis Lynch (Republican-So)

Lynch has had his ups and downs this season, but Riley seems to have faith in the kicker. Some competition might be added, though. Chaplecki was a top punter on the All-Pac-12 team at Arizona State last season. He will likely replace Sleep Dalton as the starter this fall.

Departure Gate: Ralen Goforth (Washington), Julian Simon (Tulsa), Tyler Katua, Xavion Alford (Arizona State), Kobe Bibby, Colin Mobley, Sevy Nomura, CJ Williams (Wisconsin), Gary Bryant Jr., Britton Allen, Kyle Ford (UCLA ).

Number of Unofficial Scholarships: 89

According to our unofficial stats, USC is four over the FBS scholarship limit of 85, so there must be some attrition before the season begins. Some of that may be enforced, similar to last year.

“The challenge this year is that you’re parting ways with some of the guys that you’ve been with for some time,” Riley told reporters last week. “Not that it was easy last year… You didn’t have a pre-existing relationship with all of them. … I think our guys have usually left on good terms, but I think at the same time, if you’re going to upgrade the roster, you have to create websites to do this. There is no other way to do it.”

Riley also noted that USC is point-limited in the middle of the year for transfers, saying, “We’re getting really close to meeting the edge there.”

So there may not be any more additions until the second portal window opens on May 1.

(Photo by Caleb Williams and Austin Jones: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

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