Despite the drama that led up to Wednesday, USC’s National Signing Day was largely uneventful. The Trojans by no means had the day that was anticipated back in August, but the day was by no means a failure. Here’s a recap of what went well for Lane Kiffin and his Trojans:
USC Landed A Top 15 Class
In August, USC had the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, but once the dust cleared from the string of de-commitments, the Trojans saw that ranking tumble. Late losses of guys like defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes and cornerback Jalen Ramsey hurt tremendously, and the Kylie Fitts fiasco didn’t help things either. In Jaunary however, USC welcomed a stacked selection of early enrollees, new Trojans immediately poised to make an impact. And on Wednesday, they followed that up by closing the rest of the commits that had been on board since last summer, and even lured uncommitted linebacker Quinton Powell out of Florida to the West coast. When the fax machines stopped whirring, USC signed a total of 12 guys, including the early enrollees and finished with the No. 13 class in the nation. The dozen that USC secured are all ESPN Top 300 guys, and five of them are five-star talent. The Trojans signed more five star athletes than any individual team save Alabama, and have arguably the best crop of just 12 athletes. When you considered the scholarship limitations USC had to deal with and the struggles that brought, Lane Kiffin and his staff did a great job.
USC will have the option to bring on 20 players next year because of the left over scholarships from this year, which will go a long way in reloading the program.
The Trojans Didn’t Close Hard, But They Closed
In a 48 hour span, USC lost the commitments of cornerback Jalen Ramsey, defensive end Torrodney Prevot and defensive end Jason Hatcher (again), and things were not looking good for the Trojans. Athletes had been jumping off the ship left and right, and the class that once touted too many players now had not enough. But USC did not pine for lost talent, and instead focused on keeping the guys who knew they wanted to become Trojans. Once Signing Day started, nothing else traumatic happened. One by one the long-time commits faxed in their Letters of Intent, and guys considered “soft verbals” like offensive tackle Nico Falah did not give the coaches any more reason to sweat. Part of the reason USC’s Signing Day seemed so low key was that six guys have been enrolled in January, and many seemed to forget that. Sure, it would have been nice for fans to see all 12 guys commit on TV, but the more important thing is that half the class is already on campus, priming themselves to get noticed again during Spring Ball.
USC Landed Big Time Players That Play Positions Of Need
Of the dozen USC signed, nearly all play positions of imminent need and could see their Trojan careers start early. Most importantly, defensive backs Su’A Cravens, Leon McQuay III and Chris Hawkins have started their freshmen years already and will have a leg up on getting game-ready. Cravens and McQuay are of the utmost import, as T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling have graduated and are departing for the NFL.
Then there’s Max Browne, who Kiffin said yesterday in the post-Signing Day press conference, would be right in the thick of the quarterback competition this spring. There has yet to be a chosen successor to Matt Barkley, and for USC to not fall even more from grace in 2013, getting that established now is a high priority.
Interior defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow, and linebackers Quinton Powell, and Michael Hutchings likely won’t start immediately, but with Pendergast’s versatile 4-3 and 3-4 schemes and a short depth chart, they will get their fair share of playing time in their repsective rotations.
Running backs Ty Isaac and Justin Davis will compete against Tre Madden, D.J. Morgan and Buck Allen for depth behind Silas Redd. As seen last year, the lack of depth at running back can be crippling, and adding two highly touted backs helps the Trojans tremendously.
Wide receiver Steven Mitchell could see immediate playing time behind Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor, and he’s very similar to Lee at this point in his career.
Offensive linemen Nico Falah and Khaliel Rodgers may be primed for redshirt seasons in their first years, but with the Trojans needing to replace Khaled Holmes at center, there’s a chance that Rodgers could fill in sooner than expected at center. He’ll be competing against Marcus Martin and Cyrus Hobbi for playing time.
The day not all was rainbows and unicorns on National Signing Day, but all things considered, this was probably what Kiffin would have signed up for a year ago, with the talent on the roster.