SEC defensive line transfer Isaiah Raikes explains why he joined D’Anton Lynn’s defense at USC

In anticipation of joining the Big Ten in the 2024 season, USC recognized the urgent need to bolster its interior defensive line with experienced players. One of those roles was filled by Isaiah Raikes, formerly of Texas A&M. Raikes brings valuable experience and talent, helping to solidify USC’s defensive line in the upcoming season. He talked to the media after practice on Thursday. He explained why he chose to leave Aggies and join the Trojans. He elaborated on what he needs to improve to take his game to the next level.

Standing at 6’1″ and weighing 313 pounds, Raikes is a strong and athletic defensive lineman who can stack and shed blockers, causing havoc and collapsing the pocket. He is similar to Antwan Woods, who played in the middle of the line in 2015. While Woods wore the defensive line No. 99, Raikes wears No. 2, which is dwarfed by his large frame. Despite his size, Raikes moves exceptionally well and is a space-eater in the middle of the defensive line.

As he continued to talk, we again heard the two words every USC coach and player has echoed all offseason: “versatility” and “development.” Raikes shared how defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn told him during his recruitment that he could use his versatility on the line and develop him for the NFL. Raikes explained that he had one year left in his career. He wanted to play somewhere he could develop as a player and showcase his abilities for NFL scouts.  

“I knew their defense had a need for defensive linemen, and I wanted to come into somewhere where I felt like I could make a difference right away,” Raikes said candidly. “Once I found out they were hiring Coach Lynn, that was definitely a big factor.”

On this, Raikes was clear: “I know he can show me exactly what I need to do, and know exactly what he wants to see out of me to get drafted as high as possible.” Lynn wants him to work on his consistency and controlling the line of scrimmage; he needs to play with more physicality (another theme shared throughout the first five practices).

Many fans were clamoring about a lack of toughness on the line after a dismal defensive performance in 2023.  Raikes listed a couple things the defensive line is focusing on in camp that should address their concerns:

“Physicality is a big thing we got to be physical at the point of attack.  We got to dominate, just taking over as a defensive line,” he said.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire