USC Early Signing Period 2018 tracker, live blog and open thread

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images /

It’s the first-ever USC Early Signing Period. Over the next three days, Clay Helton will look to sign committed recruits and new Trojans in the 2018 recruiting class.

It may be time to retire the notion that Signing Day is Christmas in February for college football fans. Because today, December 20th, starts a three-day early signing period allowing the nation’s most sought-after recruits to sign a National Letter of Intent.

The Trojans enter the 2018 USC early signing day period festivities with nine commitments in the 2018 recruiting class, many of whom are expected to fax in their paperwork. Beyond that? It’s anyone’s guess as to how the inaugural signing period will go down.

LOI Tracker | Big Board | Twitter

ESPN’s Signing Day special is limited to just two hours, starting at 11:30 a.m. PT, and doesn’t feature an announcement from a recruit considering the Trojans. But it doesn’t mean USC doesn’t have a lot at stake on Wednesday.

Jackson Carman, the nation’s No. 1 offensive lineman according to the 247Sports Composite, is set to pick and ultimately sign with either Ohio State, Clemson or USC. The Trojans sport just a 10 percent chance to land the Fairfield, Ohio product in the 247Sports Crystal Ball, although national analyst Barton Simmons predicted a Troy steal on Tuesday.

RELATED: USC’s 10 Biggest Signing Day Gets of the Last 10 Years

From there, all of USC’s attention turns to defensive end Abdul-Malik McClain and safety Talanoa Hufanga. The former has been pledged to UCLA and could balance out the loss of Bo Calvert should he flip to the Trojans, while the latter is an Oregon native planning to enroll early at either USC or with the in-state Ducks.

Who will sign with the Trojans and who will push their time back to the traditional February Signing Day? Follow allow along with the 2018 USC early signing period here on Reign of Troy or on RoT’s new mobile app available in Apple’s App Store and Google Play on Android devices.

Live Blog

10:45 p.m. Tuesday: If USC was banking on signing four-star offensive lineman Penei Sewell over the next few days, they’ll have to wait. He announced Tuesday night that he will opt to sign his paperwork in February. Read more >>

5:45 a.m. Wednesday: USC enters the day ranked No. 41 nationally in the 247Sports composite and seventh in the Pac-12, a far cry from where the Trojans want the 2018 class to end up. Will they rise up the rankings as the Early Signing Period begins. Today is the day to find out.

7:00 a.m.: There’s just an hour left until Jackson Carman makes his signing decision. With no LOIs reported for USC so far, the five-star lineman could be the first piece of big news for the Trojans today.

7:40 p.m.: Crystal Ball predictions for Carman on 247Sports have shifted massively in favor of Clemson over the last hour, though it is hard to tell if that’s because experts are hearing things in favor of the Tigers or jumping off the Buckeye train and guessing where they’ll land.

Meanwhile, USC director of recruiting and player personnel Erik Ziskin just let loose a string of vague tweets, perhaps signalling LOIs received.

8:10 a.m.: It’s Clemson for Carman. USC misses out on a major recruiting target to start off the Early Signing Period, but that’s always a possibility when you swing for the fences with an out-of-state target. Carman did opt to leave Ohio, but for South Carolina, not California. Read more>>

8:15 a.m.: Past Signing Days have shown that USC is not particularly quick to announce the letters of intent they have received, but other sources can fill in the gaps. That’s the way it is for four-star running back Markese Stepp, whose high school announced his signing. Read more>>

8:20 a.m.: While the wait for more LOIs to come in (and be officially announced) continues, the next signing to keep an eye out for doesn’t come until noon, when UCLA commit Abdul-Malik McClain, who is rumored to be considering USC, makes his decision at noon.

Meanwhile, Ziskin continues to drop hints. Six LOIs in perhaps?

8:55 a.m.: Since USC seems to have no interest in officially announcing their signees, all there is to go on at this stage is another cryptic tweet from Ziskin. Now seven victory signs.

9:05 a.m.: Where do the Trojans stand for the next few decisions? Things are looking pretty good.

McClain, a four-star weakside defensive end, is a UCLA commit, but his Crystal Ball on 247Sports reads 100 percent in favor of the Trojans, with all nine predictions coming within the past two days.

Then there’s Chase Williams, who is set to sign at 12:30 p.m. USC is the pick in 94 percent of Crystal Ball predictions for the four-star cornerback, including 15 predictions for the Trojans since the middle of November.

As for Ohio State commit Jaiden Woodbey, a five-star safety. His recruitment appears very much up in the air despite the pledge. The Trojans hold 45 percent of picks, but Florida State has made a late push. He will announce his signing at 5:30 p.m.

Of course, as the Carman commitment shows, predictions aren’t always to be trusted.

Oh, and there’s another tweet from Ziskin signaling eight victory signs.

9:10 a.m.: Let’s do some math. Ziskin has offered a tweet of eight Fight Ons. Six current USC commits are expected to sign during the early period: Stepp, Palaie Gaotote, Justin Dedich, Raymond Scott, Kana’i Mauga and Liam Douglass. Either a couple of commits are signing unexpectedly, or the Trojans may already have good news on a couple of uncommitted players.

Or the tweets are a mirage. Guess, we’ll find out.

9:15 a.m.: It’s official! Palaie Gaotote becomes the first Trojan signee to formally be announced by USC. The five-star linebacker could not be more important to the 2018 recruiting class. Read more>>

9:25 a.m.: Stepp is the next commit to get the official treatment. The Trojans officially announce the four-star running back.

9:35 a.m.: The next signee on the board is offensive tackle Liam Douglass, a three-star with upside who is likely to spend some time developing at USC. Read more>>

10:10 a.m.: No more need to wait for an announcement from McClain, his LOI is already in the bag, completing the flip from UCLA and giving USC another pass rushing specialist for the Predator position. Read more>>

10:35 a.m.: Time for more Twitter tea leaf reading. Ziskin teases with nine victory signs. If that’s one for each signee today, then the math certainly gets interesting. USC has announced four, and at least three more committed players are expected to join that number.

One of those will not be De La Salle defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa, who is not slated to sign today, per Mike Lefkow of Bay Area News Group.

Remember, there are three uncommitted players still on the Big Board: CB Chase Williams, S Jaiden Woodbey and S Talanoa Hufanga, whose stated commitment date is Dec. 28.

11:15 a.m.: No official tweet for Narbonne linebacker Raymond Scott, but the four-star linebacker is now listed among USC’s signees on the Signing Day Central page. That’s good enough for us. Read more>>

11:20 a.m.: New USC signee Abdul-Malik McClain tweeted out a message about his commitment, thanking God and the universities that recruited him.

“It’s truly a blessing. But, I can only choose 1,” he wrote. “I have chosen to spend the rest of my life as a Trojan!! Serving Faith, Family & Football!”

11:45 a.m.: USC finally got around to tweeting out Scott’s signing, but added an important tidbit. The linebacker will be enrolling early for the Trojans. That’s a big deal as there may be need for immediate contributions from freshman linebackers in 2018.

11:55 a.m.: We’re still waiting for LOI confirmation from Justin Dedich and Kana’i Mauga, but the next potentially important announcement for the Early Signing Period is just around the corner. Four-star cornerback Chase Williams will be signing his letter of intent at 12:30 p.m. Will the former Nebraska commit pick the Trojans?

1:00 p.m.: Chase Williams is a Trojan. At his signing ceremony at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, he lifted up a USC t-shirt and put pen to paper for the cardinal and gold, giving the Trojans a much needed figure at cornerback. Read move>>

1:05 p.m.: That was quick. USC makes Williams’ signing official right away, welcoming him to the Trojan family.

1:20 p.m.: All but one of USC’s expected signees for the day are in. Four-star center Justin Dedich is the latest to be officially announced, joining the Trojans as the No. 1 center in the nation. Read more>>

3:00 p.m.: It looks like USC is done for the day. The Trojans announce the signing of four-star outside linebacker Kana’i Mauga, who was the Defensive Player of the Year in Hawaii. Read more>>

3:20 p.m.: During his Signing Day press conference, Clay Helton indicated that the scholarship for former walk-on kicker Chase McGrath will count against USC’s 2018 class. With Jalen McKenzie’s blueshirt also factored in, plus the eight players signed today, the Trojans have 15 scholarships to work with until February. Three of those are currently occupied by unsigned commits. There’s also the 85-man total roster limit to worry about, but that will be affected by NFL and transfer decisions.

5:10 p.m.: Safety Jaiden Woodbey is on deck, but it seems USC doesn’t expect him to sign as a Trojan, having already announced their eight signees for the day. It’s now just a question of whether he sticks with his Ohio State commitment or flips to Florida State.

In the meantime, we took a look at USC’s four early enrollees and what they might add for the Trojans in spring camp. Read more>>

The Big Board:

5-star OL Jackson Carman

  • Rank: 9th in 247Sports Composite
  • Size: 6-foot-6, 330 lbs.
  • Location: Fairfield, OH
  • Status: Committed to Clemson
  • Choices: USC, Clemson, Ohio State

4-star S Jaiden Woodbey

  • Rank: 27th in 247Sports Composite
  • Size: 6-foot-2, 204 lbs.
  • Location: Fontana, CA
  • Status: Ohio State commit
  • Choices: USC, Ohio State, Florida State
  • Announcement: 5:30 p.m. PT

4-star S Talanoa Hufanga

  • Rank: 87th in 247Sports Composite
  • Size: 6-foot-1, 193 lbs.
  • Location: Corvallis, OR
  • Status: Uncommitted
  • Choices: USC, Oregon
  • Announcement: Dec. 28

4-star DE Abdul-Malik McClain

  • Rank: 218th in 247Sports Composite
  • Size: 6-foot-4, 230 lbs.
  • Location: San Juan Capistrano, CA
  • Status: Committed and signed for USC
  • Choices: USC, UCLA

4-star CB Chase Williams

  • Rank: 125th in 247Sports Composite
  • Size: 6-foot-1, 190 lbs.
  • Location: Corona, CA
  • Status: Committed and signed for USC
  • Choices: USC, UCLA, Nebraska

Letters of Intent Signed (8):

Unsigned Commits (3):