Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans are in uncharted waters. Even though the Trojans are saddled with sanctions that limit their recruiting class to just 15 scholarships, plus two carryover initials for early enrollees, the Trojans class is statistically notable for its perceived quality.
USC doesn’t have a single commitment from a three-star player and their current average star rating according to Rivals is a whopping 4.43, more than a half-star better than the next-best team, Notre Dame at 3.87.
While a small sample size creates an inflated average, any way you slice it, such a monumental star average this late in the recruiting season is intriguing, with National Signing Day just 48 hours away.
Should the rating hold, it would be the Trojans’ record dating back to 2002, or as far as Rivals’ historical records go. And not only would it be a new high, it would absolutely shatter the mark sent in 2007.
That year, with a class anchored by Joe McKnight and Ronald Johnson, USC topped out with an average-star rating of 4.22. The class had six five-star signees, the same number the Trojans have now via verbal commitments and early enrollees.
In the Class of 2010, Lane Kiffin’s first year and a class that was strongly aided by Pete Carroll, the Trojans finished with a star rating of 4.20. That class had just four five-star players, including well-known busts Markeith Ambles and Dillon Baxter.
As of now, it looks like a certainty that the Trojans will best their record in 2013. Consider that an absolute worst-case scenario including the de-commitments of Jalen Ramsey, Torrodney Prevot, Nico Falah and Jason Hatcher, would actually increase the star rating to 4.5 for a 10-man class or 4.45 if you add Quinton Powell.
On the flip side, should USC finish with an improbable bang and add three five-stars(Eddie Vanderdoes, Matthew Thomas and Tuscaloosa-bound A’Shawn Robinson), without losing a commit, they would max out at a Rivals rating of 4.53, in addition to setting a record with nine five-star commits.
Spoiler alert: that isn’t happening. But for that to be even be a possibility at this point, following a 7-6 season that included a flame-out in the Sun Bowl, that’s unheard of.
And of course, every year there is a debate on what defines the success of a recruiting class, and every year there isn’t a real answer. Is it the size of the class? The quality of the players? The fit between a recruit and a player?
The reality is that the best way to gauge the quality of a class is by seeing it play out. The Trojans have had both good and bad history with five-star prospects, and 2010 is the prime example of that. But with sanctions being what they are, USC cannot afford to miss on anyone and landing four and five-star recruits is the best way to start fighting back against the sanctions.