When a program lulls itself to sleep with poor decisions on hiring and generally shows no interest in fixing a staffing issue well the only way back is to drain the pool. Collapse the structure and begin the construction era all over again. Ground zero stuff. Today college sports are in a very different and unique position to do this. In the past, it could take 2-3 recruiting cycles to restore a national program to the levels at the very top of the power five schools. No more. The challenge to rebuild is now aided by improved HS talent of course but more so by the transfer portal (TP) and supercharged by the Name Image and Likeness (NIL) attraction.
For the Trojans, the work was begun immediately on the hiring of Lincoln Riley.. He didn't mince words. He didn't preach how close the program was or the infamous we are one play away repeated phrase of the previous head coach. Coach Riley had to drain the pool. Lower the depths of the roster and find the diamonds to which he would re-construct this once-proud program. Construction by definition is all about building blocks or phases. Coach Riley is taking this one brick at a time as he begins his first spring camp this week.
The current roster is looking good but its weakness is obvious. To run a full camp you need the numbers. You need the players to be able to cycle and rest key players throughout the process and not overburden them. Spring camp being underway is stuck with an all too low volume on the roster side of things. This will continue to be a challenge for Coach Riley and the staff as they work to install the offense, defense, and special teams throughout the camp and keep a close eye on the repetitions each player goes through. Time will tell.
The horizon points to continued growth through the TP. The TP will most like bring in 15-20 new players between spring and fall camp. The downside to this is obvious as these players even though they are most likely top talent will not have the luxury of time before the first whistle blows for Fall Camp. If there is one thing I believe this staff can do its recruit. This is a very well-oiled engine within the staff led by Riley. But the other big resource is the star talented players who also recruit within their networks.
Add it all up and the Trojans are in a very good space. They know where their challenges are and they are keenly focused on pulling off one of the biggest turnarounds in college football.