Earlier this week, I published a slideshow which outlined five of the biggest offseason concerns for new Trojans head coach, Steve Sarkisian.
One of those concerns listed was the need for Sarkisian to identify true freshmen who could contribute immediately for USC in 2014.
The reason for Sark to find those youngsters who can see the field early is obvious to any fan of the program, and it has everything to do with the sanctions that have been imposed by that—ahem—August college governing body, the NCAA.
Operating with a reduced roster, USC will need to get healthy bodies on the field of play this season, and that includes as many true freshmen as possible.
This slideshow will look at some of these recruits who have given USC their verbal commitment and the likelihood of their playing in 2014.
Can the Trojans count on these young players in a year when they might be needed badly?
Time will tell, but here are some likely candidates to help out the men of Troy.
Profiles are provided by Scout.com, and this list does not include Austin Maloata, Malik Dorton and Uchenna Nwosu, all of whom are listed as "soft verbals."
USC's newest verbal commitment plays a position of need, and depending on what Josh Shaw decides about his Trojans future, John Plattenburg might even find himself a critical part of the rotation.
Plattenburg—a Scout.com 4-star cornerback—has good size at 5'11", 180 pounds and is technically sound in all facets of the position.
If Plattenburg can impress, he can avoid a redshirt this year and contribute immediately.
Another recent Trojans pledge, athlete Rahshead Johnson's versatility provides him with a very good opportunity to contribute for USC in 2014.
Rated a 4-star prospect by Scout.com, Johnson will first be looked at as a wide receiver, but he also has excellent cover skills, so cornerback is also an option.
With Marqise Lee opting to enter the NFL draft, USC is thin at the receiver position, so whichever way Sark and company choose to utilize Johnson's skills, he has the ability to see playing time this year.
USC is expected to take at least five offensive linemen in this class, and one of the most talented is Scout.com 4-star tackle, Chris Brown.
Brown is an extremely athletic lineman who moves well and finishes his blocks with a nasty streak.
At 6'6", 290 pounds, Brown has a college-ready body but still may need some developing before he is ready to compete at the next level.
However, given his ability, it would be no surprise whatsoever if he was able to contribute right away.
As an early entrant, big defensive lineman Claude Pelon will have the added benefit of spring practice, and with the announcement of George Uko leaving early for the NFL, there is a good chance that USC will need the versatile Pelon.
As a JUCO transfer, Pelon will have three years to play two with the Trojans, so he could conceivably take a redshirt, but at 6'5" and 275 pounds, Pelon is already physically mature enough to make a difference right away.
Rated a 4-star prospect by Scout.com, Pelon is listed as a tackle but is quick enough to play end as well, which will make his availability extremely attractive to defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox in 2014.
Like John Plattenburg, Scout.com 4-star cornerback Jonathan Lockett has an opportunity to play in 2014 simply because he is a talented player at a position of need.
Unlike Plattenburg, however, Lockett is also a dynamic kick returner, as anyone who saw his electric return in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl can attest to.
Lockett is a shutdown corner who can lock down the opposing team's best receiver and, as such, will be a force at the next level.
Whether or not he can play his way into the rotation in 2014 remains to be seen, but he has the talent to do so in a unit that can use him.
Like Chris Brown, Scout.com 4-star offensive guard Viane Talamaivao has a chance to see the field of play in 2014 because the offensive line needs depth this year.
However, in Talamaivao's case, there may not be a nastier prep lineman in the nation, and anyone who has seen Talamaivao flattening the hapless opponent in front of him knows what I mean.
At 6'3" and 300 pounds, Talamaivao has the size to make an immediate impact and the disposition to seize the opportunity despite his relative youth.
If you like relentless offensive linemen, you will love Talamaivao, and that is why he stands a real good chance of playing in 2014.
Linebacker is yet another position that can use some help, and Scout.com 4-star linebacker Olajuwon Tucker has the talent to see playing time in 2014.
Tucker is already physically imposing at 6'3" and 229 pounds, but this year he really came into his own and completely overshadowed his more heralded teammate and fellow linebacker, Dwight Williams.
In fact, Tucker was so good that despite Williams's desperate attempts to land a Trojan scholarship offer, it was Tucker who landed that offer from the Cardinal and Gold—which he immediately accepted.
Tucker is an amazing athlete with exceptional lateral pursuit abilities, and it won't come as much of a surprise if he eschews a redshirt year in 2014 and contributes immediately.
In a banner year for prep offensive linemen, USC found an excellent one in Scout.com 4-star guard, Toa Lobendahn.
One of the first players to commit to the Trojans in this year's class, Lobendahn may be the most athletic of all of USC's offensive linemen, and at 6'5" and 285 pounds, he has the strength to move the pile as well.
Lobendahn has never wavered from his commitment, and as an early entrant, he stands a real good chance of playing in 2014.
By the time the February letter of intent signing day arrives, USC fans will be hoping that there are at least a few more who will be added to this list of freshmen ready to contribute in 2014.
Guys like Scout.com 5-star prospects Adoree' Jackson (cornerback/receiver), Damien Mama (offensive tackle) and John "Juju" Smith (safety/receiver) are just a few of the highly rated players who USC has a good shot at in this class.
Of course, it remains to be seen if USC can land these players and perhaps others, but in the meantime, this class has plenty of talent, and much of it may be seen in 2014.
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