Eighteen different USC players caught a pass in 2022, playing in the Lincoln Riley-led Air Raid attack. However, of the 345 total catches made by the Trojans, the All-American arrival Jordan Addison accounted for 17.1% of those receptions in his emergence as the top receiving option, for one season only.
Now, Addison is off to the NFL as a first-round selection and bequeaths a new opportunity for the rest of the Trojans’ WR room: The title of WR1 in the “Land of Troy.”
USC’s WR Room: Who Takes Over For Jordan Addison?
Here’s who is vying for the leading receiver role—from returning players to newcomers—all the way to who’s the most capable of handling WR1 reins.
Upperclassmen Returners & Prized Transfers
Tahj Washington, Redshirt Senior
Washington was the only other Trojan to hit 50 catches last season, placing him second to Addison’s 59. He was also second in receiving yards (785) and touchdowns (six). And he’s already taking on the initiative of being a leader in the locker room.
At 5’10”, he’s still fearless in making contested grabs and attempting to win the air lob. He’s also slippery enough to make the first defender miss in the open field. His speed makes him capable of being the YAC (yards after catch) and deep ball king for this offense. He did have more yards per catch (15.7) than Addison’s 14.8 average.
The former Memphis Tiger is the most experienced wideout as a redshirt senior. But he’s not a guaranteed lock to become WR1 post-Addison with how deep the WR room is, including one already called “Addison’s replacement.”
Dorian Singer, Junior
It’s quick to label Singer as the Addison replacement. But it’s a bold title to be labeled as such, as Singer is yet to haul in his first reception in a game with the Trojans.
However, Addison arrived at USC as his own transfer from Pittsburgh (where he was a 2021 All-American), and Singer himself was his own star in Tucson, earning All-Conference First Team honors in the Pac-12 last season.
Singer was an explosive play dynamo in the desert, as 25% of his catches were on the explosive play side. That includes this ridiculous one-handed touchdown grab versus USC last season. And he has a near similar build to Addison at 6’0″, 180 pounds. He could be the new Addison for USC.
Brenden Rice, Senior
Now we get into the son of an NFL icon.
Rice’s dad rewrote the NFL receiving record books during his career. The world knows him as Jerry Rice. This Rice, though, has a return man background that could get him to fill in right away for Addison. Rice not long ago tallied 469 kick return yards and averaged 27.6 yards per return while at Colorado in 2021, before his arrival in L.A.
And as a receiver, the 6’3″ Rice has seen his numbers improve each season, including finishing fourth on the Trojans with 39 grabs while tying Washington in average yards per catch. Another increase in catches will mean a 50-catch or more campaign and place himself as an All-Conference member.
Mario Williams, Junior
Williams led all USC wideouts in one category: average yards per reception at 15.8.
But one rare and major advantage he has in this WR room is his familiarity with Riley’s offense, proven by his 75 career catches for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns, which includes the one season Williams was with Riley at Oklahoma.
Williams improved his separation from defenders in his USC debut, leading to his high average in yards after the reception. But he proves he’s capable of coming back to the ball, as seen here versus Stanford. He’s realistically entering season three in Riley’s Air Raid, giving him the rare edge of being a seasoned veteran in his system.
Michael Jackson III, Junior
Jackson is bulkier at 210 pounds and only caught 17 receptions. However, he averaged 16.2 yards from scrimmage and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns with four.
He’ll look to improve upon his two starts from a year ago while in a crowded receiver room. But when given the ball, he’s a YAC monster the moment he breaks loose from one tackle. USC’s offense is capable of being even more explosive with the ball in his hands.
The Intriguing Underclassmen
Kyron Ware-Hudson, Redshirt Sophomore
Hudson has gotten his feet wet with USC. He went from grabbing two passes his freshman year to playing in all 14 games last season and catching 15 passes, scoring three touchdowns. Now he’s entering year three in college.
National recruiting analyst Greg Biggins of 247Sports once compared him to former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin and wrote how Ware-Hudson “was one of the strongest receivers in the country who can bully opposing corners.”
USC’s WR Room: The Prized Newcomers
The five-star was the state of Nevada’s top prospect and the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver out of the distinguished national power Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. He was even compared to Super Bowl champion and perennial Pro Bowler Tyreek Hill by 247. Branch enrolled early as a 2023 prospect.
Slightly taller than the 5’10” Branch at 5’11”, Lemon was the nation’s ninth ranked WR and California’s sixth-best prospect for 2023. He earned a comparison to Curtis Samuel of the Carolina Panthers. Lemon was another early enrollee and rejoins fellow Los Alamitos High star quarterback Malachi Nelson at USC.
So Who Takes the WR1 Reins Addison Leaves Behind?
Let’s start with the fact that USC is in immensely good hands with Branch. His speed in space will allow him to feast on future defensive backs. He could even become a Marvin Mims type for Riley, as the OU standout under the USC head coach had a nearly similar build and displayed high concentration on contested grabs. Branch could play immediately with a strong fall camp.
Washington, though, is the elder statesman, plus the lone 50-catch WR returning to USC. His YAC prowess is capable of setting the tone for this wideout crew. He’s entering this season with All-Pac-12 honors written all over him.
Yet, Williams is again considered a veteran—a vet from Riley’s scheme. And he’s showing signs of picking up and flourishing in this system with the chance to take the No. 1 wideout title.
However, Singer’s got a tremendous opportunity to join Addison as transfers who didn’t take long to thrive in the Land of Troy and lead this unit. Given Singer’s production as a 66-catch, 1,105-yard receiver in the Pac-12, Singer is given the slight edge to emerge as the new WR1 in L.A.