Lincoln Riley vs. Dan Lanning: USC and Oregon football have a new age recruiting rivalry

In the 2023 recruiting cycle, California’s top defensive prospects chose Oregon over USC

The USC and Oregon football programs going after the same recruits is nothing new, but the two men who lead both programs are still relatively new to their schools. 

Lincoln Riley and Dan Lanning each signed their first real high school recruiting classes at USC and Oregon after coaching their first seasons in the Pac-12 last fall. It’s still early in their tenures, but a pattern developed this recruiting cycle: California’s top defensive prospects chose Oregon over USC. 

It’s no secret that USC made 4-star St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) defensive lineman Matayo Uiagalelei a top priority. The program did the same with 4-star Serra (Gardena, Calif.) cornerback Rodrick Pleasant. 

And both players signed with Oregon. 

Uiagalelei and Pleasant were each predicted to pick USC in the days leading up to their collegiate announcements, but Oregon managed to close the deal late. The race to sign Uiagalelei and Pleasant were two of the biggest recruiting battles in California in the 2023 cycle and Oregon won both. 

USC’s defense struggled mightily this past season and Oregon is one of college football’s premier NIL destinations. Those two factors had to impact both recruitments – but especially the latter. 

Back in December, Riley admitted that USC lost out on some recruits due to NIL deals. “Of course we did,” Riley said when asked about the subject. 


On the defensive side of the ball, USC fans should pay close attention to the recruitment of Long Beach Poly (Calif.) linebacker Dylan Williams. 

Williams was committed to USC before de-pledging in October and now Oregon is one of the favorites to land the 4-star prospect. 

There’s nearly a full year to go before the 2024 class signs. Right now, USC’s 2024 class has two commits and Oregon’s has five. A lot is going to change. 

But this much is certain — if Oregon keeps signing USC’s priority defensive recruits from the Trojans’ own backyard, a currently one-sided recruiting rivalry will become an even bigger problem.

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