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Lincoln Riley must develop a true complementary offense for USC football

USC football head coach Lincoln Riley has had to revise the larger balance of offense and defense on his team. Last year at USC was an eye-opener which clearly brought about new changes on his defensive staff. Riley used one set of methods under Alex Grinch. It’s different now. Riley is learning how to be a better football coach. He is, after all, only 40 years old.

Riley recently said, “Everything here is going to be done with the defensive mind first,” and that has to start with the offense. Although USC finished the 2023 regular season third in points per game (41.8), fifth in yards per play (7.0), and 13th in total yards per game (468.4), USC was 113th in the country in time of possession. That would place them squarely at 16th among the 18 Big Ten schools which will play football in the conference this fall.

USC’s quick-strike aerial attack, a lack of commitment to the run game, an inability to secure the football, and generally undisciplined play led to penalties and missed pass blocking assignments. Those flaws contributed to a feast-or-famine offense. Turnovers and short drives put the defense in difficult positions and led to physical and mental fatigue late in games.

USC needs to find a mix of pass and run in 2024 that will take pressure off this emerging defense as the Trojans find their way in the new scheme under D’Anton Lynn. Swing passes, dig routes, and screens can be utilized as an extended run game. Riley and his quarterback need to be patient and take what the defense gives them to control the ball and clock. Although it’s hard to argue with a top three scoring offense in 2023, we will see if Riley’s new mindset of defense first is a new identity or if it just pertains massive changes to the defensive side of the ball.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire