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Lincoln Riley eager to return USC Trojans to winning ways

Lincoln Riley arrived at Southern California on Monday with a determination to restore the Trojans to their place atop the college football world.

Riley landed in Los Angeles roughly 24 hours after he agreed to leave Oklahoma following five successful seasons in charge. He addressed his new players before receiving his official welcome at the Coliseum in what he called “a surreal moment.”

“It was tough to leave the place I was,” Riley said. “At the same time, I knew this was the right thing.”

The respected 38-year-old coach who went 55-10 with the Sooners made a swift decision to join the Trojans, who expressed their fervent interest in him shortly after he arrived home Sunday morning from Oklahoma's narrow loss to Oklahoma State. Riley said he was happy in Norman, but the opportunity presented by this new challenge on the West Coast was too fascinating to resist.

Riley expressed admiration for his new school's history, alumni base, facilities and the recruiting opportunities in talent-rich Southern California. He also took an immediate shine to the venerable Coliseum, which was packed with fans during Pete Carroll's tenure before the past 12 years of decreasing success.

“This place is going to be full," Riley said. “This is going to be the mecca of college football.”

USC finishes its current season at California on Saturday night, but Riley will already be at work planning his roster for next season and beyond. He also confirmed Oklahoma assistants Alex Grinch (defensive coordinator) and Dennis Simmons (receivers) will join him at USC, along with some support staffers.

Athletic director Mike Bohn effusively praised his new hire, calling Riley “our top candidate and one of the best coaches in all of football.”

“It says that USC is the premier destination for the best and brightest,” Bohn added. “It sends a loud and powerful message to the college football world that this sleeping giant is wide awake, standing up and fighting on.”

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