LOS ANGELES — When Josh Henson first heard that Lincoln Riley was taking the USC head coaching job, he didn’t think about in terms of an opportunity for himself. He assumed that Oklahoma offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh would fill the same role on Riley’s new staff in Los Angeles.
When that did not come to fruition, though, Henson — the offensive line coach at Texas A&M the past three years — reached out to a contact on the new USC staff, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who put him in touch with Riley.
“It was talking about the opportunity of USC, the timing of this job at this time right now, and all those things to me were super attractive,” Henson said at a press conference Thursday. “I’d heard what kind of man that Coach Riley is, the kind of character that he has, the way he runs his program and the culture he builds and I wanted to come be a part of that.”
Riley wanted him to be a part of it, too, naming Henson USC’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
It’s not Henson’s first coordinator job. He served as the OC from 2013-15 at Missouri, where he first worked with Grinch. That tenure started promisingly, with Henson’s offense finishing 16th nationally in yards per game and 13th in scoring.
By the time Year 3 rolled around, though, the wheels had fallen off, with the Tigers ranking 124th and 126th in those respective categories.
“We lost seven of our starters by Game 3 of the season, so it was kind of a wild year. I’ve never been in a year like that,” Henson said, adding the experience taught him to make the most of bad situations, to stick to his core beliefs and to make the job a collaborative effort.
The USC offensive coordinator job will different for Henson. Riley is known as being very hands-on in the day-to-day operations of the offense, and he will call plays for the Trojans.
So Henson will serve more as his deputy, while making suggestions that might enhance things.
“The play caller’s vision is always going to be the vision for the offense,” Henson said. “Right now my primary job is to learn his offense, learn his way of thinking and support that the best way possible.”
USC has loaded up on talent through the transfer portal this off-season. Two running backs, including Pac-12 all-purpose yards leader Travis Dye. Three receivers, led by freshman All-American Mario Williams. Offensive tackle Bobby Haskins, whom Henson admired from afar at Virginia.
And then of course quarterback Caleb Williams as the straw to stir the drink.
“He made practice fun,” said receivers coach Dennis Simmons, who previously worked with Williams at Oklahoma. “You have a guy out there that has that type of energy and that type of passion that you’re playing with, it makes the time go by quicker.”
Henson will be responsible for keeping everyone accountable, and for developing the offensive line to make the entire offense hum.
“We can build a great offensive line here,” Henson said. “They’ve got to have the frame to carry a certain amount of weight and be effective at this level, and really to get to the level where we want to go, that’s to play for and win national championships.”