Miller Moss, 'lights out' in spring, leads USC starting QB race

LOS ANGELES -- After a spring game that featured four interceptions by USC's three quarterbacks, head coach Lincoln Riley said Saturday that longtime backup Miller Moss is the front-runner in the competition to replace outgoing Heisman winner Caleb Williams under center.

"He's certainly ahead right now, there's no question about that," Riley said. "We're in a position right now where we don't have to name a starter. ... If we played today, it would certainly be Miller."

Moss, who has been at USC since 2021 and spent the past two years behind Williams, threw two interceptions Saturday, but Riley contended that he was still pleased with Moss' overall performance and praised his play during the Trojans' spring camp.

"He's been awesome," Riley said of Miller. "He's played at a really high level."

Saturday was Moss' first on-field performance since his record-breaking six-touchdown game against Louisville in last year's Holiday Bowl. Moss' showcase in that game was good enough that Riley and USC's staff felt compelled to acquire only a younger quarterback from the transfer portal and not seek out an older, multiyear transfer as well. Coming into the spring game, the expectation was that Moss had the inside track on the starting job, and Riley confirmed as much after the game Saturday.

"I don't think my mentality or approach has been predicated on what [Riley] says about the quarterback position," Moss said regarding his status as the favorite for the position.

Since the start of spring camp, Moss has had to adapt to a new role. Without Williams as the de facto leader, Moss has had to balance out his newfound leadership on the team with his own development. Riley pointed out that Moss was slow to start camp, having a few practices that were not up to his level, but then quickly bounced back and was "lights out all spring."

"It's not that you have success once and then it's all easy after that," Moss said. "There's ebbs and flows of this thing, so there's going to be more adversity coming up this year, and I feel like we're well-equipped to handle that."

Behind Moss, sophomore Jayden Maiava, who transferred from UNLV after a 3,000-yard freshman season, is "improving rapidly," according to Riley, but needs more time to settle into the offense and the team.

"It's a climb for him right now," Riley said. "He's a hard worker, he's a talented kid. He gets better every day, and you can just see the wires connecting a little bit more."

Regardless of who lines up under center in the fall, on Saturday, Riley gushed about the progress and growth -- literally -- of the offensive line who will be protecting the Trojans' starting quarterback.

"I do think we're going to have the ability, it feels like right now, to move more people off of the ball than maybe we have had in the first two years," Riley said. "We got a little bit more mass, a little bit more kind of girth with us. We are starting to look more like you feel like the O-line at USC all it look like. And I think that's very exciting."