Sports | November 29, 2021 1:15 pm

Lincoln Riley’s Move to USC Is Costing Oklahoma Its Top Recruits for 2022

Five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson decommitted from Oklahoma on Sunday night and others are following suit

Head coach Lincoln Riley arrives before the 2021 AT&T Red River Showdown
Head coach Lincoln Riley arrives before the 2021 AT&T Red River Showdown in 2021.
Tim Warner/Getty

Following the news that Lincoln Riley is leaving Oklahoma to coach at USC, five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson decommitted from the Sooners, and other top recruits are now following suit.

 Nelson, the No. 3-ranked football prospect in the ESPN Junior 300 for the class of 2023, committed to Oklahoma in July but wrote on Twitter he was decommitting “in light of the recent events and changes.”

Other players who have changed their future plans based on Riley leaving Oklahoma include defensive end Derrick Moore, offensive lineman Demetrius Hunter, linebacker Kobie Mckinzie, receiver Brandon Inniss and running back Treyaun Webb.

“Leaving OU was probably the most difficult decision of my life,” Riley said. “OU is one of the best college football programs in the country, and it has been forever. That’s not going to change. It’s not going to change in the SEC, it’s not going to change with another head coach. It’s stood the test of time and it’s going to continue to do so. This was a personal decision solely based on my willingness to go take on a new challenge, and I felt like it was the right opportunity for me and my family to do that.”

Riley, 38, went 55-10 in five seasons at Oklahoma, winning four Big 12 titles and making three College Football Playoff appearances. Now that Riley is at USC, there’s a chance California native Nelson will end up there as well to play for a coach who helped produce Heisman-winning quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

USC has been fairly criticized in recent years because of the quarterbacks who have left Southern California to play college football,” per The Athletic USC beat writer Antonio Morales. “There is Bryce Young at Alabama, C.J. Stroud at Ohio State and Matt Corral at Ole Miss just to name a few. Players like that almost always ended up at USC, and Nelson seemed like he’d be the next one to get away after this current staff botched the process. But Riley makes the Trojans immediate contenders for Nelson. And if USC lands him, it helps get the Trojans closer to being one of the premier go-to schools for QBs once again after Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma and Alabama cut into their share.”