In his two weeks as the head coach of USC Football, Steve Sarkisian has already been hard at work loading up on new talent. Just last week, USC locked down the commitments of Jonathan Lockett, a 4-star (according to Rivals.com) cornerback out of Mater Dei High School and 4-star defensive tackle Claudeson Pelon from Mesa Community College in Arizona.
Both of these guys were huge gets for USC, especially Lockett, who will join a secondary in desperate need of more talent.
Pelon—who goes by Claude—looks forward to joining the ranks of Troy, where he stands a chance of excelling immediately.
"It’s a great place. It’s a place where I can graduate and the coaching staff is great," Pelon said of USC. "I was going to commit to U-Dub anyway, so it was an easy pick for me to choose USC [after the coaching change]. There's a great environment there, so it was the best fit for me."
And speaking of the coaching staff, Pelon isn't the only one high on Sarkisian and his crew.
USC commit Viane Talamaivao—whom the Trojans flipped from Alabama earlier this fall—has spoken favorably of USC's hire as well:
The 6'4", 275-pound defensive lineman is originally from Orange County, Fla. but has spent the past couple years out West in Arizona. Despite being so far from home, Pelon says staying on the West Coast is the best choice for him.
"I was ready to see some new places and do new things. I just ended up deciding to do something and leave. It's not that I didn’t want to stay [in Florida], but why not Cali?" he said.
The Trojan coaching staff has been known over the years to lure top talent out of the South, with current players like defensive lineman Leonard Williams and wide receiver Nelson Agholor electing to suit up in cardinal and gold.
That fact had an influence on Pelon's decision, as did his preexisting friendships with current players.
"Knowing Leonard and having a relationship with him made it even easier, honestly," Pelon said of USC's All-American defensive end. "Getting his perspective really helped me make the choice."
He can also look to the talented hybrid outside linebacker Morgan Breslin, who also came from the junior college system and has flourished while at USC. He's been injured for most of 2013, but in 2012 he had 62 tackles (19.5 for loss) and a team-high 13 sacks.
Pelon is expected to arrive at USC on Jan. 13. He will be one of the Trojans' four early enrollees. Aside from the athletic prowess he brings, his status as an early enrollee is important because if USC doesn't fill those slots, it loses out on those scholarships going forward.
Like Sarkisian, Pelon will begin his career with Troy in the spring and will have the opportunity to make himself a major player from the outset. Pelon greatly admires the existing defensive line and is poised to contribute to its explosive pass rush.
"Leonard Williams, George Uko and those guys are pretty good," Pelon said. "So why not join an NFL-caliber defensive line with NFL-caliber talent? For opposing lines, they're gonna have to pick their poison of who[m] they want to guard."
That's a pretty accurate assessment from Pelon, who brings to the table a big frame with room for growth and first-step quickness that allows him to get leverage and disrupt when need be. Besides, USC's defensive line is pretty thin as far as depth is concerned, so bringing in Pelon was definitely of crucial importance.
Between now and Jan. 13, Pelon will be going back and forth between Arizona and Southern California, moving his things and getting a feel for his new teammates and new school. He also said that he followed USC a bit this season and admires the way the Trojans handled all the adversity they faced.
The drive and determination USC showed in the latter half of the season makes Pelon feel he will be going to a place where he can contribute to success.
"I have a chance to [do well] and I felt like the opportunity I have been presented with has just been great, honestly," he said. "I’m just happy to be going to Cali. It’s a place where I’ve never been; I’m excited about everything."
All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise stated.