NCAA Football: Southern California at California

USC quarterback Malachi Nelson is expected to enter the transfer portal after just one season with the Trojans, according to 247Sports. Nelson was a former five-star recruit who has been intertwined with USC coach Lincoln Riley since July 2021. 

Nelson was a blue-chip recruit consistently in contention to be the No. 1 quarterback in the Class of 2023. He ended up rated as the No. 5 passer and No. 13 overall recruit in the Top247 rankings out of Los Alamitos High School in Southern California. Nelson initially committed to Oklahoma but flipped to USC two days after Riley left the Sooners for the Trojans. 

The Southern California native joined wide receiver Zachariah Branch and tight end Duce Robinson as the crown jewels of Riley's first full recruiting class at USC. Nelson was expected to compete for the starting job in 2024, but enters the portal after just three passes and zero career passing yards at USC. 

Riley has been one of the most successful quarterback developers of the 21st century, developing three of his five starting quarterbacks into Heisman Trophy winners across his stints at Oklahoma and USC. The previous two -- Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray -- were selected No. 1 in the NFL Draft. Caleb Williams, Riley's incumbent at USC, is expected to join the list in the 2024 NFL Draft. Riley also helped develop Jalen Hurts into a second-round pick and ultimately an All-Pro with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Where the Trojans go from here

USC has been openly tied to multiple quarterbacks in the transfer portal, including Kansas State's Will Howard, Washington State's Cameron Ward and Texas' Maalik Murphy. Murphy is a Southern California native out of Junipero Serra. The Trojans do not have a passer committed in the Class of 2024 or 2025, but Riley does hold a commitment from Julian Lewis, the No. 1 overall player in the Class of 2026. 

Williams opted out of the Trojans' Holiday Bowl matchup on Dec. 27. Sophomore Miller Moss is listed as the primary backup and was likely to start. If Nelson is unavailable, Moss would be the only active scholarship quarterback in the bowl game.