Projecting Who's Staying and Who's Leaving from USC After Bowl Game

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 2, 2023

Projecting Who's Staying and Who's Leaving from USC After Bowl Game

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    Austin Jones and Caleb Williams
    Austin Jones and Caleb WilliamsBrian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Despite a late-season loss keeping the USC Trojans out of the College Football Playoff, the 2022 campaign should be remembered as a successful year in Los Angeles.

    Head coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams arrived from Oklahoma and keyed an immediate turnaround for the Trojans. After a frustrating 4-8 season in 2021, USC finished 11-3, closing the season with a 46-45 loss to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl.

    Riley's second full offseason at USC will be another hectic one.

    The transfer portal is buzzing with outgoing and incoming players, and several key Trojans are expected to leave for the NFL. But there's also a strong recruiting class on the way.

Who's Leaving?

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    Jordan Addison
    Jordan AddisonEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Seniors

    Simply reading "senior" isn't enough for confidence because of the eligibility pause in 2020. However, running back Travis Dye, wide receiver Terrell Bynum, left tackle Bobby Haskins, left guard Andrew Vorhees, defensive lineman Nick Figueroa and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon are among the USC players out of eligibility.

    Early NFL Draft Departures

    On both sides of the ball, USC is bracing to lose a star player. Pitt transfer Jordan Addison didn't have the dominant year expected but still paced the Trojans in every major receiving category this season. Tuli Tuipulotu, however, ranked among the national leaders in tackles for loss and sacks with 21 and 12.5, respectively, heading into bowl season.

    Ralen Goforth and More Transfers

    Now that the season is officially over, some top contributors may enter the portal. At this point, the biggest loss is linebacker Ralen Goforth, who notched 43 tackles this season and is headed to Washington.

Who's Probably Staying?

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    Tahj Washington
    Tahj WashingtonAlika Jenner/Getty Images

    Caleb Williams, QB

    Sure is nice to return the Heisman Trophy winner, right? Williams earned the nation's most prestigious individual honor after setting a program record. The dual-threat QB arrived at the Cotton Bowl boasting 13-game totals of 4,447 offensive yards and 47 touchdowns.

    Most Key Receivers

    Addison will leave a considerable void, but USC is well-prepared to replace him. It's unlikely that Tahj Washington, Brenden Rice or Kyle Ford—all players with 340-plus receiving yards in 2022—declare for the NFL draft. Mario Williams isn't yet draft-eligible, either.

    Almost the Entire Secondary

    While safeties Max Williams and Bryson Shaw could pursue the pros, they should be back for another year. None of safety Caleb Bullock or cornerbacks Jaylin Smith and Ceyair Wright have to make that decision. USC's secondary didn't have a great season in 2022, but stability figures to help the Trojans improve in coverage next year.

Who's on the Way?

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    Christian Roland-Wallace
    Christian Roland-WallaceChristopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Arizona Boys

    Since the regular season ended, USC has picked up three additions from Pac-12 foe Arizona. Wide receiver Dorian Singer collected 66 receptions for 1,105 yards and six touchdowns, and cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace notched 58 tackles with six pass breakups. Defensive lineman Kyon Barrs, who tallied 39 stops with 4.5 for loss, completes the trio.

    Mason Cobb, LB

    Last season, three Oklahoma players followed Riley to USC. This year, the Trojans plucked a top performer off Oklahoma State's roster. Breakout linebacker Mason Cobb racked up 96 tackles and generated 13 tackles for loss with the Pokes in 2022.

    The 5-Stars

    USC hopes to have landed its QB of the future in Malachi Nelson, who flipped his verbal pledge from Oklahoma once Riley bolted for the Trojans. Nelson's high school teammate Makai Lemon, a 5-star receiver, is also staying local with USC. Zachariah Branch, the nation's top-rated wideout, is joining Nelson and Lemon in Los Angeles.