Four-star offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia chose Oregon over USC football, another sign of issues in OL recruiting.
Lose out on one top offensive line recruiting target and USC football could play it off as a fluke. Lose out on four in a row and there are simply no more excuses.
USC’s recruiting on the offensive line is in trouble.
On Tuesday night, four-star offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia announced his commitment to Oregon. He’s the Ducks’ second Top 100 offensive line pick up for 2021 and their fourth since 2018.
The Trojans haven’t landed a single Top 100 offensive lineman since Austin Jackson in 2017.
Rankings aren’t everything, but they’re enough to make USC football worry.
USC’s defensive backs class is outstanding and they have continued to reel in top receivers over the years, but the trenches are where the Trojans have lacked the most during the Clay Helton era.
It hasn’t been a problem of just quantity or quality. It’s been both.
USC addressed the former in 2020 with six offensive line additions. However, none ranked in the Top 350 in the 247Sports composite rankings. Three were outside the Top 1,000 players in the recruiting class.
The Trojans insisted they were focused on numbers more than anything. And to be fair, there weren’t a lot of elite offensive line recruits to target in Southern California. The excuse might have held up if the top targets USC had on the radar in 2021 hadn’t landed with a Pac-12 rival.
It’s a major problem that will reverberate through future seasons.
Oregon beat USC for Suamataia, who ranked 59th in the 247Sports composite. They also won out for Bram Walden, the No. 89 prospect for 2021. In 2019, Oregon landed Jonah Tauanu’u from Narbonne, the No. 63 prospect in the class and a player who made frequent unofficial visits to USC’s campus. Penei Sewell, who is slated to be a Top 10 draft pick in 2021, went the Ducks’ way in 2018 as the No. 57 player in the class.
Can you really blame those linemen for making the choice they did?
USC hasn’t produced an All-American offensive lineman since 2016. While Jackson managed to grab a first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, he did so on the strength of his natural talent. The knock on him was that he lacked refinement as a prospect.
Meanwhile, Sewell blossomed as an All-American and Outland Trophy winner and Oregon’s offensive line gained a reputation as one of the top units in the country.
This isn’t meant to throw shade at USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno. He has a strong track record going back to his time at Stanford. In 2014 with the Trojans, Drevno’s line included All-Pac-12 first-teamer Max Tuerk and two freshman All-American first-teamers in Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao.
It should, however, be a wake-up call. Elevating USC’s offensive line recruiting going forward has to be the top priority. That means showing real progress on the field in 2021 and getting more boots on the ground in recruiting linemen for the class of 2022.
There need to be more Alijah Vera-Tuckers coming through for the Trojans. And there need to be more recruiting battles won.