USC Football Recruiting: Updates on 2014 Commits and Targets
The recruiting trail is about to heat up in Los Angeles, as the USC Trojans ended the year on a high note—they posted a 10-4 record after a tumultuous 2013, punctuated by a 45-20 thrashing of No. 20 Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. The wave of positive energy will give new head coach Steve Sarkisian a boost as he assembles his inaugural recruiting class.
Sarkisian has many questions to answer as to whether he can get USC back to its days of dominance, but his skills as a recruiter leave no doubt. He took an 0-12 University of Washington team and made them into a regular Pac-12 North contender in five seasons, and he lured some of Southern California's top talent to the rainy Pacific Northwest.
If he could get them to leave the South Land, he surely can convince them to stay this time around.
With more than a month to go until National Signing Day, expect things to get really interesting as Sarkisian and his staff (which is still under construction) try to land a top-ranked group of new talent for USC.
If you're a USC football fan, or just intrigued by college football recruiting, look no further for a complete rundown of Trojan commits and targets.
Note: All 2013 stats are from 247Sports.com unless otherwise stated.
Update 01/30/14: Adoree' Jackson, JuJu Smith and Damien Mama are all set to announce their respective college choices on ESPNU come National Signing Day. Mama will start things off at 8:00 a.m. PT, with Alabama, BYU and USC in contention for him. Jackson is up next at 11:00 a.m. PT, and he is deciding amongst USC, UCLA, Florida and LSU. Lastly, Smith is on deck at 12:00 p.m. PT, looking at USC and its two rivals, UCLA and Notre Dame.
Update 01/28/14: Uchenna Nwosu has officially shut down his recruitment and is 100-percent a Trojan, according to his Twitter account.
Update 01/28/2014: Damien Mama has cancelled his official visit to BYU, and will instead visit UCLA over the weekend, according to Scout.com's Greg Biggins.
Update 01/27/2014: Adoree' Jackson tells the media that he will announce his college choice on nationa Signing Day, at 11:05 a.m. at Junipero Serra High School. His decision is down to USC, UCLA and Tenessee.
Update 01/26/14: TE Bryce Dixon cancelled his official vist to UCLA, scheduled for Jan. 31. Instead, he will take an unofficial visit to USC that weekend. He told Blair Angulo of ESPN that he is "100 percent" locked into USC.
Update 01/24/14: DT Joshua Frazier has rescheduled his official visit to USC from Jan. 24 to Jan. 31.
Update 01/21/14: 3-star WR Shay Fields decommitted from USC on Jan. 21.
Update 01/19/14: 5-star ATH John "JuJu" Smith named a top 4 on Jan. 19, and USC made the cut.
Update 01/18/14: 3-star DB John Plattenburg Jr., who flipped from UCLA to USC earlier in the month, took his official visit to USC over the Jan. 17 weekend. According to ESPN's Blair Angulo, Plattenburg had a great time meeting with the coaching staff, whom he almost committed to when they were at Washington. Angulo also noted that defensive backs coach Keith Heyward believes Plattenburg can be a very versatile contributor for USC. He has no more official visits scheduled.
Update 01/18/14: 3-star OLB Olajuwon Tucker, too, took his official visit to USC over the Jan. 17 weekend. The Serra linebacker told Angulo that he is all but sold on the Trojans, and the official visit solidified his decision. Tucker had committed to USC' previous coaching staff, so this weekend was for him to get to know Sarkisian and the new staff. Angulo also reports that Tucker will likely cancel his official visit to Miami, which was supposed to take place later this month.
Update 01/18/14: 3-star ATH Charles Nelson took his official visit to USC over the Jan. 17 weekend as well. Per Angulo, Nelson really enjoyed his visit and the Trojans are now at the top of his list. Wide receivers coach Tee Martin made a lasting impression on Nelson, Angulo reported, as did taking the field at the Coliseum.
Update 01/18/14: 4-star ATH Michiah Quick was another recruit present for a big weekend of official visits for USC, and according to Angulo: "Plattenburg tells me he got great vibes from fellow visitor Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central), making sure to tell him, 'USC will be the place to be.'"
Update 01/18/14: 4-star ATH Rashead Johnson also spent time recruiting Quick to USC, according to Angulo. "I think he'll come to USC," Johnson said of Quick, to Angulo. Johnson was a longtime UW commit before the coaching shakeup, but after taking his official visit, he now sees himself a Trojan for the next four years.
Update 01/18/14: DE Austin Maloata officially decommitted from USC on Jan. 18.
Update 01/15/14: DL Claude Pelon did not attend classes on Monday, Jan. 13 when the spring semester began at USC, due to an academic hang up at his previous school. Head coach Steve Sarkisian addressed the media in a press conference on Tuesday and said that he expects Pelon to be good to go soon, and to fully participate in spring ball.
Update 01/14/14: USC's four freshman early enrollees QB Jalen Greene, OL Toa Lobendahn, OL Jordan Austin and DE/OLB Don Hill are officially enrolled in spring classes, as of Jan. 13
Update 01/14/14: 4-star WR Michiah Quick listed USC in his Top 6 on Tuesday night, as indicated by his Twitter bio. USC is still looking to gain some ground with Quick, who has been favoring Oklahoma and Notre Dame through the recruiting process.
Update 01/14/14: 4-star OG Damien Mama has pushed back his official visit to USC from Jan. 17 to Jan. 24 so that he can participate in the Polynesian Bowl, which is also on Jan. 17. John "JuJu" Smith has also pushed back his official visit date to the 24th as well.
Update 01/12/12: 3-star DE Austin Maloata opened up his commitment from USC on Jan. 12. Washington State and ASU are the new leaders.
Update 01/06/14: 3-star DB John Plattenburg flipped from UCLA to USC on Jan. 6, 2014.
Update 01/04/14: 4-star TE Bryce Dixon committed to USC during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, 2014.
Update 01/02/14: Top-rated running back Leonard Fournette committed to LSU during the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 2, 2014.
Update 01/02/14: Jordan Poland (4-star OT, 6'6.5", 333 lbs.) decommited from USC on Jan. 2, 2014. According to Gerard Martinez of Rivals.com, Poland was going to be an early enrollee, but grades were an issue.
It's been a busy December at USC, with the Trojans landing the verbals of three linemen, a defensive back and a quarterback.
First, cornerback Jonathan Lockett committed to USC on Dec. 11. He was previously committed to Washington, but flipped after receiving an offer from USC on Dec. 6. According to 247Sports.com, Lockett is a 4-star prospect.
Defensive end Claudeson Pelon also announced his commitment to the Trojans on Dec. 11, and he became Sarkisian's first official member of the Class of 2014 when he signed with USC on Dec. 18. He is a 4-star talent out of Mesa Community College in Mesa, Ariz.
On Dec. 15 and 16, defensive end Don Hill and offensive guard Chris Brown also committed to USC, respectively. Hill is a 3-star talent set to be another of USC's four early enrollees in January, while Brown is a 4-star lineman that had been keen on USC since former interim head coach Ed Orgeron had recruited him earlier in the fall.
Most recently, Serra quarterback Jalen Greene surprised everyone when he flipped his commitment from Washington to USC on Dec. 22. The 3-star, dual-threat quarterback's decision to pledge his allegiance to Troy is particularly interesting, as he brings a skill set that, if used, could really add freshness to USC's traditional (but stale) pro-style offense.
Jalen Greene - 3-star dual-threat QB; 6'3", 195 lbs.; 4.82 40-yard time; Early Enrollee
123-of-202, 2,303 YD, 30 TD, 1,130 RUYD, 14 RUTD
Greene's commitment to USC says that Sarkisian—who told the media and fans upon his hiring that he wants to bring a hurry-up offense to Troy—is very serious about changing the offensive identity of Trojan football. It's rare that USC pursues a quarterback with the skill set Greene possesses, preferring to go after NFL-style pocket passers. As the landscape of college football continues to change, however, a quarterback that can think on his feet but still command the troops, à la Andrew Luck at Stanford, can make a team even more competitive.
Sarkisian pursued Greene because he can be that guy for USC. He can shred a defense with his legs, but his passing abilities remain true to what USC football is all about.
Greg Biggins of Scout.com (subscription required) lauded Greene's passing skills in a report about his commitment:
He has a live arm and the ball just explodes out of his hand. He throws a very tight ball and there’s little wasted motion in his release. His best attribute right now is probably his athleticism and ability to escape pressure in the pocket.
That said, Greene has much to learn this spring if he intends to compete with the likes of the incumbent Cody Kessler and backups Max Wittek and Max Browne. Both Kessler and Browne have experience playing in a spread offense from high school, and Kessler has the further advantage of having played against collegiate-level defenses for an entire season.
Greene's presence in the USC quarterbacks corps will certainly shake things up this spring, and his ability to emerge as a viable option for the starting job will be something to follow.
None at this time
Analysis: USC was only pursuing top-rated Leonard Fournette at running back, but during the Under Armour All-Americal Game on Jan. 2, 2014, he committed to LSU.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michiah Quick - 4-star WR; 6'0'', 170 lbs.; 4.50 40-yard time
John "JuJu" Smith - 5-star ATH; 6'1", 200 lbs.; 4.60 40-yard time
Charles Nelson- 3-star ATH; 5'8.5", 170 lbs; 4.39 40-yard time
Ajene Harris - 2-star WR; 6'0", 170 lbs.; 4.82 40-yard time
Bryce Dixon - 4-star TE; 6'4", 220 lbs.
Rahshead Johnson - 4-star WR; 5'11", 165 lbs.
Update: USC has been keen on ATH Charles Nelson recently, with the Florida native having taken an official visit to Troy on Jan. 17. According to ESPN's Blair Angulo, Nelson "had a blast" on his visit, and spent much time talking to fellow Florida Trojans, Nelson Agholor, Leonard Williams and Quinton Powell. He's not particularly tall, but he has explosive speed and surprising physicality, considering his size. He could be a return specialist for the Trojans, as well as a utility weapon as a slot receiver.
Update: Rashead Johnson also took a visit to USC on Jan. 17. He told Angulo it was "surreal" seeing the UW staff decked out in USC gear, but that he had an amazing experience and sees himself a Trojan for the next four years. Angulo further reported that Johnson learned more about what his role at USC will be: "he'll be used at USC, primarily at slot receiver and perhaps at nickelback on defense," he said.
Fields received his offer from USC back when Orgeron was still the interim head coach, and he has remained committed to the Trojans through the coaching change. He's slightly undersized for his position, but with their incredibly anemic wide receivers corps, the Trojans need all the help they can get. This is one position where the Trojans absolutely need to shore up on depth, as they will only have Nelson Agholor, Darreus Rogers, Victor Blackwell, Steven Mitchell and the oft-injured George Farmer if Marqise Lee elects to enter the NFL Draft. Fields is a slot receiver and should fit in well with Sarkisian's plans for the offense.
Quick and Smith are in play for the Trojans, with Smith thought to be more of a USC lean than Quick, who is also looking at Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Smith is currently the top-rated safety in California, but he wants to play on both sides of the ball in college. With USC lacking depth both in the secondary and at wide receiver, Smith could be headed to Troy come National Signing Day, in the interest of playing time.
Damien Mama - 5-star OG; 6'4", 370 lbs.
Casey Tucker - 4-star OT; 6'6", 270 lbs.
Viane Talamaivao - 4-star OG; 6'3", 310 lbs.
Toa Lobendahn - 4-star OG; 6'3", 293 lbs.; Early Enrollee
Chris Brown - 4-star OG; 6'4", 290 lbs.
Jordan Austin - 3-star OT, 6'6", 280 lbs.; Early Enrollee
The Trojans have been pretty weak at offensive line over the past couple of seasons, and the gaggle of O-line commits aligned with USC suggests a brighter future for the offense. Sarkisian noted in his introductory press conference that offensive linemen are a recruiting priority and that he wants to sign at least five in the class of 2014. He's almost halfway there, as Lobendahn and Austin are slated to be early enrollees next spring. Both are physically commanding presences up front and need little grooming to be ready to go toe-to-toe with the many talented defenses in the Pac-12.
Talamaivao is a dominant run-blocker and his talents will serve the Trojans well as they go about employing a no-huddle offense and creating opportunities for the quarterback to run. He and Lobendahn are the highest rated members of USC's Class of 2014, and their presence alone can restore the integrity of USC's O-line.
Claudeson Pelon - 4-star SDE; 6'4", 275 lbs.; Early Enrollee
Don Hill - 3-star SDE; 6'4", 225 lbs.; Early Enrollee
Malik Dorton - 3-star SDE; 6'3, 230 lbs.
USC has arguably the best defensive line in the Pac-12, and these four commits will only add to that stout, menacing unit. With hybrid linebacker defensive end Devon Kennard leaving for the NFL and junior defensive tackle George Uko likely following in his footsteps, USC is looking to replace them and also to stock up on depth immediately.
Pelon comes to USC from the junior college ranks, and if the success of Morgan Breslin is any indication, his experience at the collegiate level can help him earn a starting spot early. He's ready to come in and compete right away, with a first-step quickness that meshes perfectly with USC's aggressive pass rush. Hill also begins his USC career next spring, but a still-healing Achilles injury will see that he continues rehabbing instead of getting out on the practice field. Still, he's extremely athletic and when the time comes, he will split time as a down lineman and a linebacker.
Olajuwon Tucker - 3-star ILB; 6'4", 220 lbs.
Tucker needs to bulk up a bit before he sees the game field, but he has a good initial quickness despite not being particularly fast. According to scouting reports, he plays faster than his top-end speed indicates. Against the run, he can disrupt easily with penetration, and versus the pass, he's a ball-hawking machine when he cannot get to the quarterback. He's not particularly aggressive, something he will also need to work on to come in the shadows of guys like Hayes Pullard, Anthony Sarao and Lamar Dawson.
Adoree' Jackson - 5-star CB; 5'9.5", 182 lbs.; 4.44 40-yard time
John "JuJu" Smith - 5-star ATH; 6'1", 200 lbs.; 4.60 40-time
Jonathan Lockett - 4-star CB; 5'11", 170 lbs; 4.55 40-yard time
Uchenna Nwosu - 3-star S/OLB; 5'11", 200 lbs.
John Plattenburg - 3-star DB; 5'10", 179 lbs.
Lockett's path to USC was a wild one. He was first a Washington commit, but decommitted from the Huskies on Dec. 9, after Steve Sarkisian's departure to USC. When Sarkisian and Keith Heyward (former UW defensive backs coach) set up shop in Troy, Lockett followed suit. He's a 4-star talent with good ball skills and strong instincts—he can see the play develop and is particularly good in man coverage.
Uchenna has good instincts and awareness against the pass and the run, and a tall, lanky build that helps him to disrupt plays. He can read a play quickly, and react based on the situation. He also displays good insticts in coverage, rarely getting lost or tangled up by a wide receiver, something the Trojans definitely need in the secondary.
As it stands now, USC has redshirt junior Josh Shaw (who also spends time at safety), sophomore Kevon Seymour, redshirt sophomore Ryan Henderson, redshirt junior Anthony Brown, redshirt freshman Devian Shelton and freshman Chris Hawkins at cornerback. None of them have been healthy enough or good enough to start outside of Shaw, and only Seymour has really shown signs of improvement.
One of the problems with USC's sanctions is that the lack of depth can force underdeveloped players onto the gridiron before they are ready. That's definitely been the case for the cornerbacks. Both Lockett and Nwosu will need to put on weight and get a bit stronger before they're ready to suit up on game day, but in the meantime, he brings much-needed depth to yet another thin position at USC.