USC Football Recruiting: Can Kiffin Create the Cornerback-U Carroll Desired?

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It’s hard to say, especially since under Carroll, the Trojans always had stellar safeties. Troy Polamalu was a holdover from the Paul Hackett era, but guys like Scott Ware, Darnell Bing, Taylor Mays, Kevin Ellison and T.J. McDonald were recruited by Carroll and his staff and had great careers at USC, or in McDonald’s case, still continuing to thrive.

Moving forward, the seeds being planted by Kiffin to build Cornerback U are starting to be watered, especially when you look at the Class of 2013.

It all started and starts with Chris Hawkins, who committed to the Trojans back in April. Hawkins, a 6-foot, 175 pound corner out of Rancho Cucamonga, is a teammate of USC-target Tahaan Goodman, and has been ranked in the top five at his position of late, and is rising. He had the touch for interceptions during USC’s Rising Stars camp last week, and should be a vocal leader for the Trojans this weekend in Beaverton, Oregon, as eight commits and bunch of SC targets all gather at The Opening held at Nike’s World Headquarters.

Those targets include players like Jalen Ramsey and Priest Willis, who are big, talented players that could thrive in the Monte Kiffin defense.

Ramsey, a 4-Star corner out of Nashville, is being recruited by Tee Martin, who is using his southern ties to try to lift top-flight talent out of SEC Country. Both USC and Vanderbilt are favorites for Ramsey, who is a corner with both size and technique to play in the Pac-12. At 6-foot, Ramsey has the ability to cover anybody in the conference, and being a high school running back as well, his athleticism allows him to make plays all over the field.

At the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge, Ramsey had the dubious task of guarding highly-touted Class of 2013 receiver Marquez North, and he played well enough to earn Sports Illustrated’s top ranking during 7-on-7 drills.

Comparing Ramsey to Robey, Jalen Ramsey’s height gives him an advantage in the aerial game, especially given the type of receivers that are in the Pac-12, which tend to be big, lanky yet athletic wide-outs like Keenan Allen giving corners all they can handle.

Ramsey visited USC twice in June, and after spending this upcoming weekend at The Opening, he’ll stay in the Pacific Northwest and visit Washington on Monday. With Chris Hawkins being with Ramsey at The Opening, along with other players-turned-recruiters like Max Browne, the Nashville talent should get an ear full of pro-USC chatter while at Nike.

In addition to Jalen Ramsey, Priest Willis is another corner with considerable interest from and for USC. He’s another big, athletic corner, with a 6-foot-2, 200 pound frame. The Tempe native is considering USC along with Notre Dame, LSU and Nebraska among others, and has been to Troy four times this year already, including a trip to USC’s Junior Day back in February. Like Ramsey, he’ll likely be making a trip to Washington after The Opening, and has already been sighted with Hawkins and Goodman up in Oregon.

Altogether, the Trojans have offered just six corners for 2013, but Hawkins, Ramsey and Willis, along with the potential commitments of Artie Burns, Vernon Hargreaves III and John Johnson, give the Trojans a basis for building a foundation of talented corners.

A Photoshop mockup of the 2013 defense entitled “No Fly Zone 2013” hit Twitter recently, and while it’s tongue-in-cheek, it makes you wonder just how good the USC secondary can be, with Su’a Cravens, the aforementioned trio of corners, and even possible safety commitments like Tahaan Goodman and Max Redfield, both of whom are Southern California kids with recruiting ties to USC.

You can’t build ‘Cornerback U’ in a single recruiting class, but with Robey being the trendsetter and Kiffin and his staff showing the ability to go after top-ranked talent at corner from out of state, there’s no denying that the talent at corner is better now than under Carroll, and will only continue to get better.