As February 6 draws near and USC's recruiting class becomes crystallized on national signing day, this year's class is starting to take it's final shape.
Lending to the class's final form is the recent verbal commitment of defensive end Jason Hatcher from Louisville, KY.
With Hatcher's pledge the Trojans now have 14 players either enrolled or committed to USC for the 2013 class, which leaves three more spots to be filled in their NCAA sanctioned allotment.
With those three spots still available, USC has its sights set on mega recruits Eddie Vanderdoes (defensive tackle), Kylie Fitts (defensive end), Quinton Powell (linebacker) and to a lesser extent, A'Shawn Robinson (defensive tackle) and Matthew Thomas (linebacker).
For Vanderdoes, Fitts and Powell, USC is a major player for their services, and their commitments will come down to a decision on February 6 when signatures are faxed by players to the schools where they will ply their trade.
Certainly, Lane Kiffin and his staff would love nothing more than to see those three players don a Trojan cap and prepare to sport the cardinal and gold for the next few years.
But what if this doesn't happen?
What if any, or all three, spurn the Trojans and decide to go elsewhere?
What should Kiffin do with those left over scholarships?
Kiffin could go ahead and offer scholarships to players like Los Angeles, Salesian High School's Jermaine Kelly (wide receiver/defensive back) or Narbonne (Lomita, Calif.) High School's Keishawn Bierria (linebacker) but would that be a wise move?
Both Kelly and Bierria are very nice players and could fill a role with the Trojans moving forward.
But is "role filling" something that should be desired for a program that is operating with a very limited amount of scholarships thanks to NCAA mandated sanctions?
Is it wise for USC to fill out its roster with good but perhaps not great players?
Or should Kiffin hold on to those scholarships for 2014 when other players more suited to their needs might become available?
For Kiffin, the answer won't be easy. After all, he is operating in 2013 with a very short leash after the debacle that was 2012 left the Trojans with a very disappointing 7-6 record.
Because of this, he may not have the luxury of looking beyond this year and if that is the case, having a full roster stacked with good (but again, perhaps not great) players may be more important than planning for a future that might not be available for this coaching staff.
It is a quandary to be certain, and it could get worse.
USC also has three players listed as "soft commits" in the form of defensive end Torrodney Prevot (Houston), cornerback Jalen Ramsey (Brentwood, Tenn.) and offensive lineman Nico Falah (Bellflower, Calif.).
What if—God forbid for Trojan fans—one or more of those guys go back on their pledge and sign elsewhere?
What would Kiffin do if on national signing day, he finds himself with five or six leftover scholarships?
Should he offer those precious scholarships to players that he otherwise wouldn't be recruiting, or save them for next year when USC enters the stretch run of their sanctions?
In a "make or break" year for Lane Kiffin, he may have to make a momentous decision five months before the first kickoff.
And how he responds to a nightmare scenario in early February may give us an early glimpse into how he will handle the upcoming season.
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