Lincoln Riley, the head coach of the USC football team, is up for business on all fronts as the Trojans examine the potential that is available in the college football transfer portal. There’s no reason the Trojans shouldn’t sign a handful of the top players available in the portal to improve their team and continue building on their successful 2022 campaign. The four players that USC football needs to target in the transfer portal for the 2023 college football season are covered in this article.
Remember that USC had a significant roster change in 2022. They had 21 transfers leave and 19 new FBS transfers enter. A four-win club was transformed into an 11-win group that was on the verge of qualifying for the College Football Playoff by the team using the transfer site. Coach Riley, though, argued that the team must get better overall as a result of the Pac-12 championship games loss. Now that the transfer window has started, USC can attempt to fill any roster gaps.
Let’s take a look at the players USC football should try to sign during the 2023 transfer window.
1. Kyon Barrs (Arizona, DL)
This is still one of the most urgent issues for USC football now as it was a year ago. Keep in mind that Riley wants to win the national title. The talent of the Trojans’ defensive line, edge rushers, and linebackers must all considerably improve before they can do this.
DL Tuli Tuipulotu is a star, but it would be unexpected if he chose to forego the NFL and play for USC again the next year. Brandon Pili and Nick Figueroa will certainly leave the Trojans as well.
This is the reason USC football reportedly made an offer to Arizona DL Kyon Barrs and targeted him in the past. Additionally, Mississippi State, Indiana, and Fresno State have made offers to the graduate transfer.
Barrs, a junior who stands 6’3 and weighs 300 pounds, started all 12 of the Wildcats’ games this year and finished with a career-high 39 tackles. 4.5 of the tackles were for a loss. Along the Arizona defensive line, Barrs also enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2021, starting seven out of ten games. After compiling 33 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and a team-high five sacks, he was awarded second-team All-Pac-12.
He recorded 102 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks for the Wildcats in 38 games overall. Remember that he was an unranked talent coming out of California’s Murrieta Mesa High School, so attending USC might feel a little like coming home.
Coach Fisch explains Kyon Barrs impact on defense. pic.twitter.com/Ol7ckimLto
— Averie Klonowski (@AverieKlonowski) November 6, 2021
2. Clayton Smith (Oklahoma, LB)
The linebacker position needs to get bigger, faster, and more athletic for USC football. Last year, they signed Shane Lee and Eric Gentry, although Lee needs to put on weight and Gentry has poor coverage skills. Ralen Goforth, a starter in 2020 and 2021, entered the transfer portal on Monday, and even though Lee still has eligibility left, it is uncertain if he will play in 2023. Since Sunday night, three more USC linebackers have also entered the portal, meaning the team’s linebacker unit probably won’t look the same come next year.
One name to watch is Oklahoma outside linebacker Clayton Smith, who came through the gate on Monday morning. Smith signed with Riley at OU and was a top-40 recruit in the 2021 cycle, demonstrating a player-coach relationship. Smith had four appearances as a freshman in 2021, making three tackles and recovering a fumble. By the end of preseason camp, true freshman R Mason Thomas had taken his place, and Smith had only registered five tackles in three appearances during garbage time. Returning to coach Riley might give Smith’s career the boost it needs.
3. JQ Hardaway (Cincinnati, CB)
JQ Hardaway might potentially be considered as a cornerback by USC football. He was selected as a safety in the draft and was a highly regarded high school recruit. However, he did participate in cornerback for the Bearcats. At 6’3, his height and mobility make him a desirable option for the Trojans.
Even though Hardaway only played in 11 games and took 95 snaps while at Cincinnati, he was the second-rated prospect in that team’s 2022 class and was predicted to be their next top defensive back. His physique and skill set ought to have an effect on the Trojans’ defense.
4. Gunner Britton (Western Kentucky, OT)
USC football’s offensive line will lose three starters in 2022, switching from defense to offense. To improve the line now and give the five freshmen who will enroll in the program next year time to develop, USC needs more depth and experience at guard and tackle.
Gunner Britton, a man from Western Kentucky, is one to keep an eye on. In the 2018 recruiting class, he was a three-star talent coming out of Conway High School in South Carolina. He signed at Western Kentucky after high school and sat out the 2018 campaign. In 2019, Britton played in all but one of WKU’s games, beginning the first two at left tackle. He was also selected for the All-Freshman Team of Conference USA.
Britton played much in 2020, but in 2021 he started to make a bigger impression. Bailey Zappe, the Western Kentucky quarterback who set an NCAA record and was the C-USA MVP, was under his protection. While playing six games as the starting right tackle and seven games as the starting left tackle for Western Kentucky in 2022, Britton started every game.
He did well at both positions, receiving an 80.7 PFF College grade and ranking sixth nationally among tackles who played at least 20% of their team’s snaps in pass-blocking with a grade of 87. Britton entered the transfer portal following the 2022 campaign and will still be eligible for one more year.