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Five Trojans who should benefit from a fresh start under Riley

Bru McCoy
Bru McCoy (USA Today Sports Images)

The Lincoln Riley era is about to get under way at USC. The Clay Helton staff may not have recruited the way Trojans fans expect but there is still a lot of talent on the roster. Many of those current players failed to live up to expectations when they reached the college level but some will get fresh starts with Riley coming aboard. Here is a look at five current USC players that stand to benefit with Riley and his new coaching staff at the helm.

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As a recruit: Bryant was a celebrated signing for Helton and his staff. He took official visits to Washington, Oklahoma, Oregon, Arizona State and USC but the Trojans looked like the favorite long before he announced his commitment at the All-American Bowl in early January.

What he’s done: After just seven receptions as a freshman, Byrant has stepped up in a big way this season. After Drake London went down with a season ending injury, Bryant has become one of the team's top targets. He has 44 catches on the year with close to 600 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches.

Why Riley will help: Bryant was a dynamic receiver out of high school and can be effective split out wide or when lining up in the slot. There are a lot of similarities between Bryant and the type of receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown was at the college level. Riley has proven he knows how to put players like Bryant in position to make big plays so he should thrive under new leadership.

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As a recruit: A late riser in the recruiting cycle, Dart parlayed a big senior season into a lengthy offer sheet. He ended up picking USC over Arizona State, UCLA and BYU.

What he’s done: In six games this season, Dart has thrown for more than 1,100 yards while completing 61 percent of his passes. He's also thrown eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

Why Riley will help: This is a no-brainer. Riley has been a quarterback whisperer, helping players like Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield and Jalen Hurts thrive in college and the NFL. Dart has a ton of talent and should have a great career in SoCal if he and Riley get on the same page quickly.

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As a recruit: Ford's recruitment wasn't overly intriguing. He was a longtime USC lean but did take an official visit to Colorado. Washington, Oregon and Michigan were also in the mix. Ford announced his USC commitment at the All-American Bowl in early January.

What he’s done: Injuries have played a big part in Ford's career. He played in just four games in his first season, preserving his redshirt, and didn't have much of an impact. The following season he suffered a knee injury and didn't play. This year he has just 14 catches in seven games and only one touchdown.

Why Riley will help: Ford is a talented receiver with great size and can be a real mismatch against defensive backs that aren't prepared to play physically. If Riley and his staff can keep Ford healthy, he should be a reliable target for the Trojan quarterbacks. In the past, Riley has pressed his advantage when he finds a mismatch and Ford can present a lot of problems for a defense.

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As a recruit: Epps committed to Alabama early in his recruitment but opted to sign with Texas. He committed to the Longhorns in August before his senior season, choosing them over Florida State, Michigan, Texas A&M and LSU. Epps transferred to USC after three years in Austin.

What he’s done: In three seasons at Texas, Epps totaled 24 receptions for about 300 yards and four touchdowns. This season he's caught ten passes for less than 175 yards and has one touchdown catch.

Why Riley will help: At Oklahoma, Riley did an excellent job of using athletic tight ends to create mismatches and pick up big chunks of yards. Epps has the ability to do just that with his size, arm length, and overall athleticism. Don't be surprised if Epps has a huge 2022 season.

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As a recruit: The recruitment of McCoy was intense, dramatic, strange, and historic. The former five-star went back and forth between USC and Texas. McCoy committed to USC at the All-American Bowl in early January but, after enrolling that month, decided to transfer to Texas. After going through spring practices in Austin, McCoy then decided to transfer back to USC.

What he’s done: As a redshirt freshman in the 2020 season, McCoy hauled in 21 catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He's been suspended for this season after off the field legal issues.

Why Riley will help: Assuming McCoy can remain eligible this coming season, Riley will have a big time weapon in the former five-star. McCoy has the size and speed to be a dominant outside receiver. Riley had multiple receivers at Oklahoma over the years with similar skill sets and many of them have found their way into the top half of the NFL Draft.

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