Texas A&M might have the nation's No. 1 recruiting class and the best ever — USC still has a claim here — but the Trojans have dominated the offseason from start to finish, beginning with luring Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma and bringing him to Los Angeles.
While Riley's first traditional recruiting class isn't even in the top 50, let alone the top 25, if you combine that with the work he and his staff have done in the transfer portal, you can make an argument that USC has the No. 1 overall recruiting class. Of course, his Oklahoma ties have a lot to do with as several players, as well as one of the top recruits in the 2023 class, have already followed him out west.
And that's before taking into consideration other transfers, including running backs Travis Dye (Oregon) and Austin Jones (Stanford), wide receivers Brenden Rice (Colorado, son of NFL legend Jerry) and Terrell Bynum (Washington), defensive lineman Tyrone Taleni (Kansas State), linebackers Romello Height (Auburn) and Shane Lee (Alabama), and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (Colorado). It's easy to see how Riley is planning on transforming this roster into an immediate Pac-12 contender.
And while Riley's first traditional recruiting class didn't make nearly as many waves, it should be pointed out that he and his coaching staff had less than two months to put it together — and it's certainly not bereft of talent. And don't expect USC to rank No. 65 next February either. The Trojans already have three 5-stars who have committed for 2023, including quarterback Malachi Nelson, the hometown product (Los Alamitos) who is the No. 2 overall prospect in the class (behind only Arch Manning, Peyton and Eli's nephew) and flipped from Oklahoma to USC as soon as Riley was hired.
So while the future for the Trojans looks bright, the focus here is on what to expect in Year 1 of the Riley regime. With so much roster turnover, here are some new names to keep an eye on for 2022, starting with the most obvious one.
Caleb Williams, QB
None of USC's quarterbacks in the past couple of years have really been all that talented or ambitious, save for Sam Darnold, who was honestly a dumb-luck find. The Trojans intended for Ricky Town to pay off, but he was ultimately a bust and instead, the coaching staff turned to Darnold. With Williams in the fold, USC has a true No. 1 athlete and quarterback who showcased what he could do last season as a true freshman at Oklahoma. Don't forget that he displaced Spencer Rattler, who was the Heisman Trophy favorite entering last season, as the Sooners' starter. Now, he brings his all-world talent out to Los Angeles, reconnects with the man who recruited him and helped him flash his potential, and hopefully transforms the Trojans' offense.
Mario Williams and C.J. Williams, WRs
If you're already overhauling the offense, you might as well add some tremendous talent at the wide receiver position and USC did just that by adding two more Williams (no relation) to the roster. Mario also followed Riley from Oklahoma, and his familiarity with Caleb Williams (again, no relation) should help both settle into their new surroundings and build a rapport with other teammates. Mario was a top-50 overall recruit in the 2021 class, and he tied for third on the Sooners with 35 receptions (for 380 yards and four touchdowns) as a true freshman. C.J. is a 4-star and top-100 overall recruit in this year's class and he's the one who will have to earn his stripes and playing time whenever he arrives on campus. Opportunity should be there, however, considering it will be a brand-new offense to anyone that didn't come from Oklahoma. It's a good thing USC doesn't use names on the back of its jerseys. I imagine shouting the last name "Williams" in practice will look a little something like the Spider-Man pointing meme.
Raleek Brown, RB
For fans of Reggie Bush, USC hasn't had an electric talent at running back for some time. That's not to say they haven't had great backs — just none who make you wonder what the potential ceiling was for those players. Brown had everyone and their mother trying to recruit the Mater Dei star. He has speed, vision, incredible athleticism, and a desire to be great. Even a quick Google search of his name will inevitably bring up Bush comparisons.
Brown has his work cut out for him if he wants to make an immediate impact, however, with Dye and Jones in the backfield mix too. Dye is coming off a 1,200-yard campaign for Oregon, while Jones ran for more than 1,100 across three seasons at Stanford.
Domani Jackson, CB
Jackson is the jewel of this year's recruiting class. The 5-star was Raleek Brown's teammate at Mater Dei and is the No. 5 overall prospect in the 2022 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. He could serve a leading role in helping to turn around a USC defense under new coordinator Alex Grinch that tumbled to the bottom tier of the Pac-12 leaderboard in 2021.
The Trojans also added a pair of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman defensive backs in Zion Branch (No. 6 safety, No. 58 overall) and Fabian Ross (No. 28 CB) in addition to transfers Blackmon (Colorado) and Latrell McCutchin (Oklahoma). One way or the other, expect to see a lot of new faces on the back end of this defense this fall.
Podcast: Transfer QBs Could Dominate CFB in 2022 - Which Ones Will Make the Biggest Impact?
— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.