Although things remain in a state of flux with the Trojans' head coaching search, that hasn't stopped Ed Orgeron and his staff from continuing their work on the recruiting trail looking for future men of Troy.
Orgeron—USC's interim head coach and recruiting coordinator—is known as a maven when it comes to evaluating high school football talent and he and his staff have been busy since former head coach Lane Kiffin was given his walking papers a month or so ago.
Now with the Trojans heading into the last third of their season, the recruiting battles are heating up even more and a lot of groundwork will be laid in preparation for the February letter of intent signing day.
This slideshow will look at USC's efforts when it comes to crafting their 2014 recruiting class and offer an update to the group of high school players the Trojans have already secured verbal commitments from.
So without further delay, here is what is going on in the critical world of Trojan recruiting...
Key Needs for the Trojans
Cornerback will be an area of focus as USC has none in the fold for this class.
In addition, at one time, USC looked fairly well set at defensive tackle for the 2014 class but recent verbal decommitments from Michael Wyche and Tashon Smallwood have made this a definite area of need as the Trojans go forward.
Also, despite the verbal commitment of 2015 quarterback David Sills, USC could use a quarterback in this class as Max Wittek could conceivably transfer after losing his job to Cody Kessler this year and knowing that true freshman Max Browne might wind up the starter in 2014.
While the Trojans have received commitments from a pair of wide receivers, this unit will be short in 2014 too as it is likely that Marqise Lee will go pro next year so USC will probably use a scholarship at this position, especially if a big receiver can be enticed to wear the Cardinal and Gold.
Add to that a need for a tight end due to the rash of injuries to a unit that only has three scholarship players on the roster.
Include at least one offensive tackle and it becomes apparent that USC has more needs than available scholarships.
Here is a projection of positions still of need for USC:
Most Important Commits
At this point, the Trojans have received nine verbal commitments from a variety of 2- to 4-star (Scout.com) prospects.
Included among those nine players are offensive guards, defensive ends, linebackers and a pair of wide receivers.
Dorton is Scout.com's No. 10-rated defensive end and his greatest strengths are a nonstop motor and superior quickness on the edges, which will be beneficial since he may see time as an outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's 5-2 alignment.
Much of the same could be said for Maloata, who is a player with limited experience but tremendous upside as he learns the nuances of the game.
However, the gem of this class so far is offensive guard Toa Lobendahn—a 6'5", 285-pound 4-star prospect who gave his pledge to the Trojans early in the process.
Lobendahn has had a dominant season for his La Habra (CA) high school team after missing a few games due to eligibility issues (paid link).
Full List of Trojan Verbal Commitments
|Name||Scout.com Stars||Position||Height||Weight (pounds)|
|Toa Lobendahn||4||Offensive Guard||6'5"||285|
|Jordan Poland||3||Offensive Tackle||6'8"||335|
|Austin Maloata||3||Defensive End||6'3"||248|
|Jordan Austin||3||Offensive Guard||6'5"||280|
|Uchenna Nwosu||2||Outside Linebacker||6'2"||210|
|Olajuwon Tucker||3||Outside Linebacker||6'3"||229|
|Shay Fields||3||Wide Receiver||5'11"||170|
|Ajene Harris||2||Wide Receiver||6'0"||170|
|Malik Dorton||4||Defensive End||6'3"||235|
Most Important Targets
For USC to be successful going forward with recruiting, they will need to cover Southern California with a blanket when it comes to securing commitments from potential Trojans.
To that end, USC's most important targets will be local players, many of whom fill a need for depleted units after the 2013 season.
Perhaps there is no more important player than St. John Bosco (Bellflower, CA) offensive guard, Damien Mama, who grew up rooting for USC and is giving them a very long look along with several other major programs.
Mama is a massive (6'5", 370 pounds) lineman whose nimble feet belie his mammoth girth.
Keeping in the southland is Adoree Jackson from Junipero Serra High School (Gardena, CA), who is listed as a cornerback but will likely play receiver in college.
Jackson is an electric athlete who could be used in several capacities at the next level.
Long Beach Poly High School has been a recruiting pipeline for the Trojans historically, and they hope that continues with John (JuJu) Smith regarded as one of the best safeties in the nation.
Smith will take a long look at USC but is also coveted by most of the national powerhouses as well, so time will tell.
Other high-profile players USC has on its radar include Scout.com 5-star Tony Brown, a safety who is planning on visiting USC, wide receiver Davante (Speedy) Noil, who lists USC as "high" in terms of his interest, and Tee Shepard, the former Notre Dame pledge who is now in community college and will possibly take a visit to the Trojans.
|Name||Scout.com Stars||Position||Height||Weight (pounds)|
|Damien Mama||5||Offensive Guard||6'4"||370|
|John (JuJu) Smith||5||Safety||6'1.5"||185|
|Devante (Speedy) Noil||5||Wide Receiver||5'11"||185|
|Michiah Quick||5||Wide Receiver||5'11"||170|
|Bryce Dixon||4||Tight End||6'4"||220|
|Josh Frazier||4||Defensive Tackle||6'3"||310|
As USC continues its resurgence under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, the likelihood of the Trojans snagging premier recruits becomes more reasonable.
A win next week against Stanford would certainly make the high-profile potential Trojans sit up and take notice, but even if this doesn't occur, recruits are seeing that the men of Troy are becoming relevant again.
Oh, and let's not forget about the intrigue of the coaching search—assuming Orgeron plans on losing again this season. Either way, USC will benefit in the eyes of the recruits.
As such, look for USC to finish strong as the February Letter of Intent day draws near.
And maybe, just maybe, USC will find itself with a top-tier-rated class once again.
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