USC received an early Christmas present last night and for new head coach Steve Sarkisian, the timing couldn't have been better.
When Scout.com 4-star cornerback Jonathan Lockett and 4-star JUCO defensive lineman Claude Pelon gave USC their verbal pledges, it not only immediately addressed two primary areas of need but also dramatically reflected a primary asset "Sark" brought down with him from his former gig at Washington.
The man can recruit.
In fact, for Pelon—a 6'5", 275-pound versatile lineman—having Sark at USC made all the difference in the world in his decision to become a Trojan.
According to Scout.com's (paid link) Jason Jewell, Pelon's junior college defensive line coach said this about the importance of USC's new coach in Pelon's recruiting, "Claude committed to USC tonight. Coach Sark did an in-home visit with him tonight and Claude committed to shut down his recruitment. Claude had a great relationship with them while he was at Washington and had visited USC with the previous staff."
For USC, Pelon had been a target for quite some time.
Defensive line is a crucial unit in need of restocking and in Pelon, they get a guy who can play anywhere along the line.
Big, but extremely athletic, Pelon is USC's first verbal in the 2014 class that has the size to play the interior line positions but given the fact so much is still air with the identity of their defensive coordinator, the fact that Pelon can slide to the outside offers a ton of versatility to the new guy as well.
Pelon had a long list of suitors hoping to get his services and programs such as Florida State, Wisconsin and Miami (FL), among many more, will now have to look elsewhere to restock this position.
But while the Pelon verbal was indeed huge, it was only half of the story on Wednesday.
Just before news broke of the Pelon verbal, USC received a commitment from Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, CA) cornerback Jonathan Lockett.
A Scout.com 4-star prospect, Lockett was formally committed to Washington when Sarkisian was there so when Sark took the USC gig and offered Lockett, the smart money was on his donning the Cardinal and Gold for his college career.
However, while Sark provided the ends to the means for Lockett, it was the hiring of former Washington defensive backs coach Keith Heyward that really sealed the deal for the athletic cornerback.
Lockett had this to say to Scout.com's Greg Biggins (paid link) when speaking of Heyward, "I love Coach Heyward. He was the biggest reason why I committed to Washington. He’s a great coach and a great guy and we have a really good relationship."
In Lockett, the Trojans get one of the finest cornerbacks in the region and after only signing Chris Hawkins in last year's class, this position is in critical need of restocking.
At 5'11", 170 pounds, Lockett has a good frame which will easily pack on more weight at the next level, but it is his athleticism which sets him apart from others in the area at his position.
Possessing excellent fundamental skills at the position, Lockett is able to get in and out of his breaks due to his being blessed with swivels in his hips which allow him to turn on a dime with the receiver he covers.
Lockett held offers from a variety of programs, including Oregon, Notre Dame and UCLA, among others.
When all is said and done, Sark and his staff must be very pleased with their early holiday gift.
Not only do the Trojans receive a pair of verbals from two very good players at units of need but the Trojan staff has delivered the news that they are going to be very active as national signing day draws near.
With USC now having 12 verbal commitments in hand, the Trojans still have scholarships to give in this recruiting cycle and it will be interesting to see who jumps on board now that Pelon and Lockett have claimed two of those.
In other words, don't be surprised if this is just the beginning of a flurry of verbal commitments for USC as recruits see the number of available Trojan scholarships dwindle.
All of which should make Sarkisian smile during this holiday season.
Merry Christmas, coach.
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