Re-Evaluating USC's 2011 Recruiting Class
USC's 2011 signing class was the last one before their scholarship ban went into effect. It was the last opportunity for the Trojans to bring in a fully loaded class with the hopes that those talented athletes would help carry USC through the years of reduced classes to come.
So how did they do?
On paper, the Trojans' 2011 signees were considered third-best in the nation and No. 1 in the Pac-12, according to 247Sports.
But for all the usual reasons that cause athletes to transfer—playing time, academic eligibility, "family reasons"—several of those 19 signees came and went from Troy without leaving a dent in the program. Of those that stayed, some shined brightly while others are still trying to find the limelight. Others were just flat-out busts.
This is a look back at USC's 2011 signing class.
All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
USC signed two quarterbacks in 2011: 4-star Cody Kessler and 4-star Max Wittek. Ranked No. 4 and No. 2 at their position that year, respectively, it was interesting when both ultimately inked their letters of intent with the Trojans.
Matt Barkley had firmly cemented himself as USC's signal-caller, and his decision to come back for his senior year guaranteed that neither Kessler nor Wittek would get any meaningful reps until 2013 and that the two would later compete for the right to stay at USC.
Kessler ultimately won that battle, starting for the Trojans for the majority of 2013. He did well enough to lead the Trojans to a 10-4 season last year and keep his job heading into 2014.
That being the case, Wittek elected to transfer out of USC this spring.
How Kessler performs in 2014 will be the true test of his value to the Trojans and will determine if he lived up to his 4-star billing.
For now, he's been a solid quarterback for the Trojans and should only get better this year.
USC signed two running backs in 2011. One ultimately transferred, and the other flew under the radar for a few years in Troy.
A 4-star running back, Amir Carlisle was supposed to be the next big thing for USC on the ground, but that didn't pan out as expected. Injuries kept him from doing anything major for the Trojans, and in January 2012 a new job offer at Purdue for Carlisle's father would motivate the running back to leave Troy altogether.
He wound up with the Trojans' rivals, Notre Dame.
But no matter, because converted 4-star linebacker Tre Madden and 3-star running back Javorius "Buck" Allen have developed into prolific playmakers for the Trojans. In two seasons, Madden and Allen have combined for 1,509 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns, plus another 453 yards receiving and five touchdowns.
The two will once again lead USC's running game in 2014.
Had Madden been signed as a running back, USC would come away with an "A+" grade for this crop of athletes.
USC brought in a trio of wide receivers in 2011: 4-star Victor Blackwell, 5-star George Farmer and 4-star Marqise Lee. Of the three, only Lee lived up to his highly coveted status. The former Trojan racked up dozens of Pac-12 and USC records over the course of his three-year career and was a fan favorite every game day.
With 3,655 career receiving yards and 29 touchdowns, Lee etched his name into the history books of Troy.
But Blackwell and Farmer? Not so much.
Farmer, a Junipero Serra product, was supposed to follow in the footsteps of former teammates Lee and Robert Woods. Injuries prevented that reality from every materializing, however. Blackwell just never found good footing as a backup behind Lee and Woods.
But 2014 could be a good year for both of these guys, as Farmer is healthy and Blackwell is now one of the veterans on the team.
That said, time is running out, as a bevy of incoming freshmen are looking to edge them out for playing time.
Only one of these three ended up producing for USC thus far, but he produced so much that he picked up the slack.
Junior Pomee was the lone tight end for USC in 2011; that signing turned out to be disastrous. A former 4-star talent, Pomee never developed into anything while in Troy.
On top of that, he was unceremoniously removed from the team in February 2013 after being charged with five felonies including burglary, grand larceny and receiving stolen goods.
The case against him was ultimately dismissed, but the damage was already done.
Pomee was gone from Troy, and though USC was led by Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer during this time, the Trojans' tight end corps has been anemic ever since.
USC brought in a solid crop of offensive lineman three years ago, with Cyrus Hobbi, Aundrey Walker, Marcus Martin, Cody Temple, David Garness, and Jeremy Galten joining the ranks at that time.
While they certainly provided depth, only the 3-star Martin and 4-star Walker did enough to be regular starters. Even then, Walker has proven to be quite a bust for the Trojans, often running hot and cold in terms of his ability to protect the quarterback.
Hobbi was a 4-star prospect out of high school, but a disastrous start against Stanford in 2012 in place of the injured Khaled Holmes and eligibility issues going into this spring saw him crash and burn out of USC.
Temple signed with USC as a 4-star guard but in 2012 was switched to defensive tackle. Injuries have prevented him from making any significant contributions thus far.
USC hauled in Greg Townsend Jr., Christian Heyward, Antwaun Woods, Charles Burks and DeVante Wilson in 2011, and with the exception of Woods all have been busts for the Trojans.
Former 4-star Townsend Jr. has struggled with injuries, having most recently missed the entire 2013 season because of knee surgery. Similarly, former 3-star Burks dealt with his own injury problems over the years and has yet to really gain a footing on the depth chart. He came in as a defensive end/fullback, but now lines up at outside linebacker.
Only Woods has been able to develop into a great athlete for the Trojans, and the 4-star prospect will be one of the leaders of USC's stout D-line this season.
Lamar Dawson, Anthony Sarao, Tre Madden and Dallas Kelley made up USC's linebacker crop. This group has collectively fared the best of USC's 2011 class.
While Kelley mostly served as a reserve linebacker and special teams player, Madden, Sarao and Dawson have all seen time as starters. As previously mentioned, Madden has become one of USC's top running backs and will continue that role in 2014.
Dawson and Sarao both came in as 4-star prospects, with Dawson being the more heralded of the two. He made headlines when former head coach Lane Kiffin gave him the coveted No. 55 jersey before he had even lined up for a single snap with the Trojans. As fate would have it, he's underachieved through most of his career, though injuries have had a little to do with that.
He's been really good at times, with 139 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions for his career. But by and large, he has yet to become that feared middle linebacker worthy of No. 55.
Sarao on the other hand has really developed while at USC. He's had 88 tackles, 2.5 for loss and three sacks over the past two seasons, and this fall he will compete with Dawson for the starting job at the Will linebacker position.
Isiah Wiley and Ryan Henderson joined the Trojans as defensive backs three years ago, but those signings proved to be extremely unproductive.
Juco transfer Wiley, a 3-star prospect, contributed greatly to USC in 2011 and was supposed to have another standout season in 2012. But academic eligibility evaded him, and he was gone from Troy almost as quickly as he got there.
A 3-star cornerback, Ryan Henderson just hasn't made his presence known on the depth chart, having to wait his turn behind the likes of Nickell Robey and Josh Shaw among others throughout his career.
Kris Albarado and Andre Heidari signed with USC in 2011 and have fared well overall.
While they both underachieved in 2012 and even at times in 2013, the 3-star Heidari (composite ranking) in particular has given USC better days. Heidari's best year was 2011, when his kickoffs averaged 65.03 yards and he nailed 15 of 17 field-goal attempts. A knee injury in 2012 curtailed his development, and he frustratingly missed a few field goals that could have been difference-makers that season.
But he made up for it in 2013, most specifically by nailing the game-winning kick over Stanford.
Both return to USC for the 2014 season, and fully healthy, we can expect more from Heidari in particular this year.