USC 2011 Recruiting: National Signing Day Nears

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The early version of a piece I wrote for Tuesday’s Daily Trojan. Be sure to check out their website for extensive coverage of all USC sports and follow them on twitter @DT_sports

Championships are won on the field in football, but the roster that achieves the feat is built through recruiting. Wednesday, the courting of prep stars culminates with National Signing Day as prospects from around the country sign their letters of intent and fax them in to their future schools. By signing the letter, student athletes are bound to attend the university they sign with. In return, the athletes are guaranteed financial aid.

On June 11, 2010, the NCAA handed down scholarship restrictions against the USC football program allowing them to only carry 75 scholarship players for three seasons. However, these penalties have yet to take effect because of the pending appeal, creating some confusion as to how many players the Trojans can sign. The USC coaching staff has not revealed their exact strategy for the 2011 recruiting class. On the one hand, Lane Kiffin could sign a full class of 25 and build up the roster to maximum strength before the penalties begin. On the other hand, he could sign 20 players and hope the appeal is won. In the latter scenario, 2011 would be the first year USC would serve its three-year reduction.

In the face of sanctions, Lane Kiffin has done a stellar job recruiting. According to Rivals.com, the Trojans possess the fifth best recruiting class in the country with seventeen verbal commitments in addition to the eight new spring enrollees. Notable commitments include wide receivers George Farmar (Gardena, Calif.) and Victor Blackwell (Santa Ana, Calif.), defensive end Greg Townsend, Jr., defensive tackle Antwaun Woods, and athlete De’Anthony Thomas. USC is tied with four other schools for having the second most 5-star commitments in their class. Only LSU, who has three 5-star players, has more. Notable commitments include wide receiver George Farmar

Last year, USC closed with a fury as some top undecided prospects chose the Trojans. With several uncommitted prospects still on the board, the Trojans could pick up some very talented players on Wednesday. Five-star offensive lineman La’El Collins (Baton Rouge, Louis.), four-star guard Aundrey Walker (Cleveland, Ohio), and four-star offensive tackle Troy Niklas (Anaheim, Calif.) are among some of the top names that could land at USC.

Despite the impressive job the coaching staff has done, the last 48 hours have shown how fragile a recruiting class truly is. Over the weekend, three-star linebacker Kent Turene (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.) de-committed from USC and re-opened his recruitment. Sunday night, rumors swirled that highly prized 5-star athlete De’Anthony Thomas (Crenshaw High) is considering switching his longtime pledge to USC in favor of Oregon.

Lane Kiffin and his staff deserve tremendous credit for their diligence and perseverance on the recruiting trail, but the palpable evidence of their work will not come until Wednesday when recruits finally sign on the dotted line and confirm their pledges.