There’s no question that the Trojans are putting together a hellacious Class of 2013, headlined by Su’a Cravens and Max Browne, but despite the top shelf talent the Trojans have lined up at the skill positions, the defensive line is a priority that the Trojans are keying in on. With Kenny Bigelow and Kylie Fitts on board for the time being, plus highly-touted target Eddie Vanderdoes being said to be considering coming to USC, the Trojans could be assembling the next version of the Wild Bunch.
When the Trojans started their run under Pete Carroll, the defensive side of the ball was always stressed first, despite having three Heisman Trophy winners. Not only did Carroll bring back the retro jerseys to USC, but a swagger and consistency that paralleled the John McKay era. So, it was only fitting that the Trojans gave a reprise of one of the most iconic squads in USC history, with Wild Bunch II wrecking havoc on the defensive line in 2003.
With Omar Nazel and Kenechi Udeze on the ends, and Mike Patterson and Shaun Cody in the middle, the quartet combined for 33.5 sacks in 2003, and featured two All-Americans and three Pac-10 First Teamers. They might be remembered most for their domination of Michigan’s John Navarre and Chris Perry in the 2004 Rose Bowl, yet as a group, it’s hard to see a line coming along with as much chemistry and talent as Wild Bunch II.
Sure, the Trojans had one of the best lines in the country in 2007 headlined by Lawrence Jackson and Sedrick Ellis, but as a group, there hasn’t been a collective group as solid as the 2003 bunch.
That could change however, as the Trojans look towards the future. With the current players and commitments, plus the potential commitment and signing of Eddie Vanderdoes, come 2013, USC could have starting defense that looks like this:
Kenny Bigelow, Defensive Tackle
George Uko, Defensive Tackle/Three Technique
Eddie Vanderdoes, Strongside Defense End
Now, is Vanderdoes that likely of a commit for the Trojans? According to Tim Tolley, a recruiting analyst for FanSided 150, in addition to the editor of Victory Bell Rings, he’s considering USC, in addition to Oregon, Nebraska, LSU, Penn State and bunch of other schools.
Vanderdoes has a solid friendship with Arik Armstead according to Tolley, which has to bode well for Oregon. Add in Phil Knight’s Nikeness, and the Ducks could be the best suitor for Vanderdoes. But, don’t count out Penn State.
“He has said that he will take an official visit to Penn State and his dad confirmed it,” says Tolley. “Word is that he has a really good relationship with defensive line coach Larry Johnson, but Penn State is content with taking just one DT in Greg Webb, making Vanderdoes the only other DT that PSU is still recruiting.”
So for the purpose of this article, just let’s say that Vanderdoes makes due on the roughly 25 percent chance he has at coming to USC, making the aforementioned defensive line possible in 2013. It would be a raw version of the 2007 line, with the potential of grasping the Wild Bunch tag the longer that George Uko stays at USC.
With Uko in the mix, he’s the go-to guy at the three technique, meaning that either Bigelow or Vanderdoes would have to play end. Both are listed as being ends in high school, but their 300-pound size would make them tackles at the college level. Given that Uko is such a perfect fit for Monte Kiffin’s three technique, you would have to assume that he would retain that spot, allowing us to project Vanderdoes as an end for this scenario, with Bigelow inside alongside Uko.
Kenny Bigelow, should the Trojans keep his commitment, is worth all five of his stars and then some. When he shifts to the interior of the defensive line, he’ll become the Mike Patterson and Sedrick Ellis type of tackle at USC, and according to Jake Rowe of Rivals, he could be far better than that.
Folks, Kenny Bigelow is the most impressive HS player I’ve ever seen in person.I’ve seen Nkemdiche, Foster, Clowney, etc too.
— Jake Rowe (@JakeRoweRivals) June 22, 2012
With Bigelow’s size and strength in middle, say on the 1-gap, George Uko becomes the Shaun Cody. Throw Class of 2012 end Leonard Williams to the weakside, and put Vanderdoes in his current position on the strongside, and there’s nothing but a high ceiling for the Trojans’ defensive line, should they sign Bigelow and Vanderdoes.
Now, keep in mind that getting Vanderdoes is far from a sure thing (just like the prospects of keeping him as a defensive end). Unlike Michael Hutchings, who will announce his decision on July 1, Vanderdoes isn’t an overwhelming favorite to any particular school, but linked heavily to the aforementioned few.
Should the Trojans not land Vanderdoes, Williams can move to the strongside, where he played in high school, and Kylie Fitts becomes the other end, putting everyone in natural positions.
We’re still eight months from Signing Day, but the closer it gets, the better the Trojans’ class gets, so keeping Vanderdoes, Hutchings and Cravens all in state isn’t out of the question at all.
That Ed Orgeron guy works wonders. Oh, and yeah, he coached Wild Bunch II. Go figure.