Home Los Angeles News Malachi Nelson begins journey to be USC’s next quarterback

Malachi Nelson begins journey to be USC’s next quarterback

Malachi Nelson begins journey to be USC’s next quarterback

As USC went about its third spring practice on Wednesday, the last before a week-long spring break, quarterback Caleb Williams stood on the sidelines next to head coach Lincoln Riley. They watched as freshman Malachi Nelson trotted onto the field to take reps.

Riley nudged Williams and asked him if he shouldn’t be out on the field helping out the freshman.

“It’s actually a new role for me,” Williams said, noting that in the past he’s spent snaps on the sideline talking with wide receivers or talking trash to the defense. “It’s been a little different with trying to help the young guy out, Malachi, and being right behind him.”

Nelson is Riley’s selected heir to Williams’ job as the Trojans’ starting quarterback. A five-star prospect out of Los Alamitos High, Nelson was originally committed to Riley when he was still at Oklahoma, along with his Los Al battery mate Makai Lemon. They soon flipped their commitments to USC after Riley moved to Los Angeles.

A five-star recruit and the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class according to ESPN, he threw for 2,898 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior. He led the Griffins to a Sunset League championship and a first-round playoff victory over Long Beach Poly before falling to Mater Dei in the second round.

Nelson underwent shoulder surgery in December prior to enrolling at USC. The recovery limited his offseason throwing until Sunday’s first spring practice, when he was able to let loose. He’ll be non-contact the rest of camp, but that’s not any different from the rest of the Trojan quarterbacks.

“He’s doing well. He’s talented. You can see that. He’s eager,” Riley said Tuesday. “He makes some plays where you see his ability, and certainly there’s plenty of mistakes. Every single play, we’ve got something to learn from. But he seems to take it and grasp it quick.”

Riley wants Nelson to learn from Williams and backups Miller Moss and Jake Jensen. They each have at least a year in Riley’s system (Williams has two) and have wisdom to impart.

That’s a valuable opportunity for Williams, too. As he tries to improve upon last year’s Heisman Trophy-winning campaign, the junior quarterback can hone his own skills by teaching the freshman, whom he met at quarterback camps in the past.

“It also helps me. What I’ve been trying to reach to be a coach on the field,” Williams said. “It’s something I’m taking on full steam.”