Can Max Browne be the second USC freshman quarterback ever to win the starting job?
USC was thought of as a national signing day loser because of their eight decommitted prospects. However, their class of 12 recruits certainly has the quality, which makes up for the lack in quantity.
Here are my grades for how USC did in recruiting position by position, based on need, talent of prospects signed and talent of prospects that decommitted. All of these rankings are by Rivals.
Max Browne was one of the few recruits that committed to USC early on and stayed with his commitment. He was the second-highest ranked quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class and was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year.
This signing was huge because of the way that Max Wittek struggled down the stretch after Matt Barkley went down. Browne certainly has the talent to compete for the starting quarterback job immediately and to eventually add his name into the discussion for the greatest USC quarterback of all time.
Running Back: A
USC landed two top-10 running back prospects in Ty Isaac and Justin Davis.
Isaac, the 5-star recruit who was rated as the fourth-best running back, was named the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year in his senior season. He has great size (6'3", 217 lbs), breakaway speed and strong hands. Because of these traits, he can be the featured running back for USC in the future.
Davis was ranked as the ninth-best running back in this recruiting class. He has a great mix of power and elusiveness. As a junior, Davis rushed for 2,613 yards and 39 touchdowns. While USC already has running back depth, there’s a reason why they’re referred to as Tailback U.
What would you rate USC's 2013 class overall?
Wide Receiver: C+
The only wide receiver prospect that signed with USC was Steven Mitchell. Mitchell was the sixth-ranked wideout, and his signing continues USC’s recent trend of signing at least one blue-chip receiver. While being only 5'10" isn’t ideal, he possesses great quickness and route-running skills.
Mitchell is suited to be a slot receiver based on his skill set. That’s a perfect match, since Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor will be the two starting wide receivers on the outside.
However, USC had two wide receivers that decommitted—Sebastian LaRue and Eldridge Massington. While both wideouts were rated lower than Mitchell, USC could’ve used the wide receiver depth, especially if Marqise Lee declares for the NFL draft after his junior year. Also, Massington signing with rival UCLA certainly stings.
Offensive Line: B+
USC landed the top-rated guard in Khaliel Rodgers and Nico Falah, 14th-ranked tackle. USC needed the offensive line help, as they allowed 17 sacks last year. That doesn’t sound like a lot, except the Trojans allowed only six the previous season.
Even though Rodgers is the highest-ranked guard, Scout also categorizes him as a center. So, he can be Khaled Holmes' replacement, which is the biggest hole on USC’s offensive line. Rodgers is in a much better position to play early on than Falah.
Falah will have trouble becoming a starting tackle for USC right away. He’s smaller than USC’s other starting tackles Zach Banner and Max Tuerk, and he’s worst at pass protection. Since run-blocking is his strength, a switch to guard or center in the future could happen.
Which prospect has the best chance to make an impact for USC in their freshman season?
Defensive Line: C
USC landed the top-rated defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow, but this is the position where the Trojans lost the most talent. Jason Hatcher, Kylie Fitts, Torrodney Prevot and Eddie Vanderdoes were four of USC’s eight decommits.
Bigelow, a U.S. Army All-American, was the first member of this class to commit to USC. He’s strong at both stopping the run and rushing the passer. Just like Leonard Williams the year before, Bigelow has a great chance of making huge strides in his freshman season.
However, the reason why this grade is this low is because of the question, “What if?”, regarding the four players lost.
With USC switching to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, they needed to sign a couple linebackers to match their scheme. So they went out and got Michael Hutchings and Quinton Powell.
Hutchings is the higher-rated outside linebacker, and he’s a very physical tackler. His position can change to one of the interior linebackers in USC’s 3-4 defense because of his tackling prowess.
Powell, who USC snagged on national signing day, is the 15th-ranked outside linebacker. His strength is his athleticism, which is why he’s a fit to play one of USC’s outside linebackers in the future.
However, with the amount of young talent that USC has at linebacker, both of these players could have a tough time generating consistent snaps in their freshmen seasons.
USC had trouble finding a solid second starting cornerback last season. Additionally, since their top corner, Nickell Robey, declared for the NFL draft, they needed to sign multiple cornerback recruits. USC only ended up with one.
"That one" is Chris Hawkins, the fifth-ranked cornerback. He’s a great cover corner and is dangerous on special teams as well. He’ll have a great opportunity to land one of the starting jobs in his freshman season.
Yet, USC lost one of their prized jewels in their class a couple days ago, cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey and Hawkins would have been a great duo, but Ramsey signed with Florida State instead. Now, cornerback will be the weakness heading into USC’s 2013 season.
With safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling graduating, USC surely filled up their spots quickly. USC landed the top-two rated safeties in Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay III. Even though Max Redfield decommitted from USC, the Trojans made up for it by signing the higher-rated prospect in McQuay III instead.
Cravens was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year in California and is a very hard-hitting safety. McQuay III is more of a ball-hawking safety with good ball skills. These two commits have the opportunity to start early on and to become one of the best safety pairs in the nation in the future.