In the wake of Signing Day, we took a closer look at USC’s newest signing class. First, we looked at what USC got right, and then we followed up with what the Trojans could’ve done better at. Now, while the ink is still drying on the LOI’s from the newest members of the Trojan family, it’s time to look at a couple of areas where USC really, really dropped the ball.
Here’s THE UGLY:
USC did not sign any defensive tackles. If there was one position that USC absolutely needed to replace, it was that of the DT. With the departure of Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris to graduation/the NFL draft, USC has all of one defensive tackle to replace them: George Uko(right). Sure, J.R. Tarvai and Antwaun Woods also play that position and very well will be ready to start for the Trojans at some point, but that point has yet to come. Uko is the only one of the three who got significant playing time last season, and he was pretty good coming off the bench.
Fortunately DL coach Ed Orgeron is a miracle-worker when it comes to making stellar D-lineman, but it kind of hurts that there is currently only one DT that is ready to go come next fall. One the bright side, the only defensive starters that USC lost at the end of the season were the DTs—so they are will return a solidly experienced defense to the field next season—but on the other hand, the one position that the Trojans needed to fill is the one they didn’t. USC aggressively recruited Ellis McCarthy and Aziz Shittu, but when it came time to make their decision, McCarthy signed with UCLA and Shittu with Stanford.
The good thing is the Trojans have plenty of time to mold a capable DT to compliment Uko on the starting line, and hopefully by the time fall camp rolls around, it will not even be an area of concern. It is slightly disappointing thought that there won’t be anyone to add depth to the position, but again, USC has shown that they can do a whole lot with little resources.
USC didn’t acquire any talent in the backfield. The Men of Troy carry a number of monikers, but perhaps the most well-recognized is that of Tailback U, and with running backs like Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen, and O.J. Simpson as alumni it’s easy to see why. We saw the emergence of the man that can be the next great USC running back in Curtis McNeal towards the end of the season, much to the delight of Trojan fans across the country. What we didn’t see, however, was a concerted effort to try and secure some depth behind him. McNeal is gone after the season, and with the transfer of 5-star recruit Dillon Baxter as well as Amir Carlisle the Trojans will be woefully lacking at the position going into the 2013 campaign. Unless D.J. Morgan develops into a force, the SC game plan is going to be pretty clear, much to the delight of whomever the Gods decide to ordain Matt Barkley’s successor.
Speaking of quarterbacks, the Trojans dropped the ball in this arena as well. Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are solid prospects—and USC might have actually over recruited the position in past years—but we didn’t hear a lot about making moves in earnest this year to find the next great Trojan QB. The quarterbacks behind Barkley are unproven commodities, and reports on campus are that Jessie Scroggins at this point is a recruiting miss. Going forward, that would mean that at best the Trojans have two capable players on the depth chart at QB, not something that the fans are going to be too happy about if one of them ends up getting hurt.
The Trojans were beaten on the recruiting trail. A lot.
The early 21st century was a time of dominance for the Trojans in terms of recruiting. There wasn’t a house on the West Coast that an ‘SC assistant couldn’t walk in to and have a legitimate shot at walking out with a commitment. Even as late as the 2010 Trojan class saw what felt like the entire West Army All-American team wind up in south central; however with a reduction in scholarships and increased parity in the Pac-12 as the result of better athletic funding and the addition of new coaches, the Trojans saw what fans will hope is an anomaly, in that they were being beaten in their own back yard. All of the problems we’ve discussed up until now can be traced back to this: Ellis McCarthy and Aziz Shittu on the defensive line, D.J. Foster at running back, Cyler Miles at quarterback, and a few others that USC normally would have gotten are now taking up residence elsewhere, and with scholarships being so hard to come by teams are going to continue to be able to do it for at least the next four or five years. Fortunately programs like Cal, Washington, and UCLA have shown that a stellar class doesn’t mean results on the field. It takes a certain type of person to be a Trojan, and the talent gap in the Pac-12 definitely still exists, but at this point fans have to be hoping that this isn’t indicative of a trend. The cupboard’s not bare by any means, but the talent feast that the Trojans have enjoyed got just a little smaller this year.