Four-star defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood has committed to USC. Credit Lane Kiffin and the Trojans for starting the 2014 recruiting cycle off on a great note, as Smallwood is indeed a big-time commitment.
Whether or not USC can finish strong will be the question on everybody's mind in 2013-14, but that's a different discussion for some other article. For now, let's focus on this important pickup for USC.
Smallwood is from Fresno, California and he checks in at 6'1'', 280 pounds (247Sports). He was in attendance for USC's junior day and committed after receiving an offer from the Trojans, according to Blair Angulo of ESPN.com:
Smallwood admitted he never gave much thought to committing this early, but USC felt like the perfect place. The lineman had seen enough and made his decision.
“I never really thought about it,” Smallwood said with a laugh. “The recruiting process has picked up for me, but this offer came up and USC seemed like the best place for me. I’m excited.”
Smallwood goes on to talk about how USC would want to use him defensively, per Angulo:
Smallwood said the coaching staff sees him as a nose tackle, as either a one- or three-technique. The 6-foot, 270-pound lineman also has offers from Cal, Houston, Nevada, Oklahoma and Oregon State.
“Coach [Clancy] Pendergast is going to be great for them,” Smallwood said. “They’ll be a lot better defensively than they were last year. The scheme is really aggressive and I feel it fits me perfectly.”
Overall, this is a big commitment for USC. Smallwood is ranked as the No. 16 defensive tackle in the 2014 class according to the 247Sports composite rankings, and he's an important in-state recruit for the Trojans to land.
Will USC finish with a top five 2014 recruiting class?
He joins a class that already features three 4-star offensive linemen in Jordan Poland, Casey Tucker and Toa Lobendahn, and if you're a USC fan it has to be encouraging to see the Trojans having early recruiting success in the trenches—where football games are won or lost.
Smallwood has the potential to be a very good defensive lineman for the Trojans. He has good size and above-average quickness for a defensive lineman. He displays explosion off the ball, has the speed to shoot the gap and he uses his hands extremely well to disengage the blocker.
He's strong enough to demand double teams but he can also be effective in pursuit and as a pass rusher as well. He has the ability to be an every down defensive tackle and he can make a difference against the run and against the pass. Smallwood already is a great defensive tackle recruit and he still has his whole senior season to improve his fundamentals, gain more experience and hit the weight room.
Keeping him committed will be the key for USC, especially after a 2013 recruiting cycle that saw a handful of notable recruiting losses.
If the Trojans can hold on to his commitment and eventually get him to sign, though, by the time he gets to USC, he'll have the potential to be a marquee recruit.