USC Football Recruiting: Everything You Need to Know for National Signing Day
National signing day is less than one month away, and with so much talent still up for grabs, USC will be hitting the recruiting trail aggressively as it tries to close out a top-ranked class.
As it stands now, USC has 12 commits and four early enrollees, giving it 16 members for the class of 2014, per 247Sports. The Trojans have just two* scholarships left to dole out before national signing day, but given the fickle nature of recruiting, we can expect at least a few of these guys to end up decommitting.
As USC tries to close out recruiting strong, here is everything you need to know leading up to Feb. 5.
All recruiting info and star ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
Top Remaining Targets
Jackson has been considered a USC lean for much of his recruitment, and with several of his Junipero Serra High School teammates already committed to the Trojans, it's likely he will end up in Troy come signing day.
Earlier this month, Jackson tweeted his top six schools, and naturally, USC made the cut. With the lack of depth and experience in the secondary at USC, early playing time is an obvious draw for Jackson.
John "JuJu" Smith
This is another blue-chip athlete the Trojans are pushing hard to get. He's played on both sides of the ball at Long Beach Poly as a safety and wide receiver, and would likely be a receiver at USC. He has an explosive skill set that the Trojans need, and he's the kind of homegrown talent that USC wants to lock up if it is to return to national prominence with so few players.
Smith is scheduled to make an official visit to USC on Jan. 17, and at that time, we can expect the Trojans to go all out to earn his allegiance.
Like Jackson, Mama has a number of friends and teammates already committed to the Trojans, and he, too, is a strong USC lean. The Trojans need him to bring size and skill to a weak and talent-depleted offensive line, and like many of USC's current commits, early playing time is a realistic possibility for Mama.
The 5-star offensive guard has unofficially visited USC four times and will join Smith on Jan. 17 for an official one.
Jordan Austin, 280 lbs OT, Claremont High, Calif.
Don Hill, 225 lbs DE, Timberline High, Idaho
Jalen Greene, 195 lbs QB, Junipero Serra High, Calif.
Toa Lobendahn, 293 lbs OG, La Habra High, Calif.
Claudeson Pelon, 275 lbs DE, Mesa C.C., Ariz.
Chris Brown, 290 lbs OG, Loyola High, Calif.
Bryce Dixon, 220 lbs TE, St. Bonaventure High, Calif.
Malik Dorton, 230 lbs DE, St. John Bosco High, Calif.
Shay Fields, 160 lbs WR, St. John Bosco High, Calif.
Ajene Harris, 170 lbs WR, Crenshaw High, Calif.
Rahshead Johnson, 165 lbs WR, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo High, Calif.
Jonathan Lockett, 170 lbs CB, Mater Dei High, Calif.
John Plattenburg Jr., 179 lbs CB, Lamar High, Texas
Viane Talamaivao, 310 lbs OG, Centennial (Corona) High, Calif.
Olajuwon Tucker, 220 lbs LB, Junipero Serra High, Calif.
Uchenna Nwosu, 200 lbs S, Narbonne High, Calif.
Players Who Could Contribute as Freshmen
This 4-star tight end won't have to work very hard to earn a starting spot in 2014, thanks to junior Xavier Grimble electing to leave early for the NFL draft. That leaves just Randall Telfer and sophomore Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick as available scholarship players.
We know that Steve Sarkisian likes to utilize his tight ends as a cornerstone of his offense a la Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Dixon has the skill set to be an important member of USC's new scheme. He will need to gain some weight before he sees significant playing time, but he already fits the mold for what Sarkisian wants out of his tight ends.
Talamaivao is a dominant run-blocker and will serve the Trojans well as they go about employing a no-huddle offense. His presence on USC's offensive line, which has been pretty weak over the past two seasons, will go a long way in creating opportunities for the quarterback to run.
In 2013, USC's O-line gave up an astounding 30 sacks, an atrocious figure that it needs to cut down if USC wants to be a contender in 2014. Talamaivao can help restore the integrity of USC in the trenches, and needs little grooming before he can start on Saturdays.
Given USC's secondary woes, Lockett can come in and earn himself some serious playing time if he can stay healthy. Kevon Seymour, Devian Shelton, Anthony Brown and Chris Hawkins would be in front of Lockett on the depth chart, but aside from Seymour—who bloomed late in the 2013 season—none of these guys have been healthy long enough to have significant experience.
Lockett is a 4-star talent with good ball skills and strong instincts—he can see the play develop and excels in man coverage. Those attributes could help him earn a spot in the rotation from his very first fall camp at USC.
Storylines to Watch
Can Steve Sarkisian close on the recruiting trail like Lane Kiffin couldn't a year ago?
This time last year, USC commits were abandoning ship like cardinal and gold was going out of style. The disastrous 2012 campaign had an incredibly negative impact on recruiting, and the Trojans definitely felt the blow. But a surprising 10-4 effort after an incredibly taxing season punctuated with a commanding bowl win has kept USC relevant and in the national conversation.
Unlike last year, USC's class of 2014 has pretty much remained in tact, save for Jordan Poland, who decommitted earlier this month. If Sarkisian can finish strong, he will go into his inaugural season at USC in a much better position than Kiffin did in 2013, and he will have public perception on his side. And he definitely needs the fans on his side, since many are still salty about his hire in the first place.
Can the Trojans get everything they want on national signing day, given the scholarship limitations?
As the class stands now, USC has 17 scholarships filled, leaving just two available. As previously noted, the Trojans really want to land Damien Mama, Adoree' Jackson and John "JuJu" Smith when it's time to sign on the dotted line. With three players in the mix for just two scholarships, USC could have a bit of a problem if no one budges.
The fickle nature of recruiting actually works out for the Trojans here, because at least one player is likely to decommit, which will open up a scholarship.
On Sunday night, defensive end Austin Maloata told Keenan Bowen of 247Sports.com that he is opening up his recruitment, with Washington State and Arizona State now in the mix for him. The writing has been on the wall for some time now regarding Maloata, being that the Trojans have backed off of him since Ed Orgeron left the team.
If he ends up parting ways with USC, the Trojans have enough scholarships to get everything they want. Even if he doesn't, the odds that another member of this class will change his mind are pretty high, if history is any indication.
—5-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson became the first athlete in Junipero Serra High School history to win the prestigious Mr. Football Award, which he earned during the 2013 season.
—Jackson also has ambitions of competing in the 2016 Olympics, and USC's track and field tradition is another thing he likes about the prospect of being a Trojan.
—3-star safety Uchenna Nwosu is USC's longest-standing commit, having given his verbal to USC on Oct. 8.
—3-star linebacker Olajuwon Tucker had an astounding 117 tackles (25 for loss), 12 sacks and seven interceptions as a senior.
—3-star quarterback Jalen Greene passed for 2,500 yards and rushed for 1,100 more, scoring 35 total touchdowns as a senior.