In approximately two weeks, USC will have signed its 2014 recruiting class, and in doing so, new head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff will have established the foundation on which the program will build going forward.
With 19 scholarships to give this year—five of which have already been used by early entrants to the program—Sark and company know that they will have to get it right with these precious free rides because USC can't afford to miss on a recruit while it finishes up the NCAA-mandated sanctions which have decimated its roster for the last three years.
Bearing this in mind, USC has its eyes set on some very good players as it closes this year's recruiting class.
This slideshow will look at some of these blue-chip targets and offer an assessment the Trojans' chances to sign these highly sought-after players.
What are the odds of USC fattening up on some prime prep talent come national signing day?
Let's find out...
One of the most intriguing recruiting storylines of the 2014 class is: Exactly where will Scout.com 5-star cornerback/receiver Adoree' Jackson wind up?
At one time, it appeared Florida was the leader for Jackson's services, primarily because he wants to run track and the Gators have always had a very good program in addition to being a football powerhouse.
Jackson acknowledged that much in an article written by Scout.com's Bob Redman (subscription required), in which he talked about the Gators' rough football season and great track program. "They had a rough season and they have a great track program," Jackson said. "I respect Florida and their track program is outstanding and they will get back to the top.”
However, recent conjecture now has USC back on top for Jackson's services, although he continues to play it very close to the vest.
Still, USC also has a very good track program, and Jackson and his good buddy, quarterback Jalen Greene (Greene is now enrolled at USC), are only a month or so removed from a Las Vegas road trip in which they watched the Trojans dispatch Fresno State 45-20.
When you take that trip into consideration, along with the dozen or more unofficial trips Jackson has made to USC, it is easy to make the Trojans the front-runner for Jackson's signature. But when it comes to recruiting, nothing is for sure.
Odds of Jackson signing with USC: 4-1
Another prospect who is playing his college football destination close to the vest, Scout.com 5-star offensive lineman Damien Mama will choose between Alabama, USC, UCLA and BYU.
Mama has long been considered a USC "lean," but an article by Scout.com's Talo Steves (subscription required) about recent revelations regarding Mama's desire to take a Mormon mission has thrust the Cougars forward as a serious contender for the huge (6'5", 370 pounds) Mama.
Oh, and there is one other thing to consider: Mama will make a visit to BYU on January 31 his final trip, and last impressions always linger longer.
Still, Mama has always loved USC, and with close friends and fellow Polynesians Viane Talamaivao and Toa Lobendahn already committed to the Trojans, chances of Mama donning the Cardinal and Gold seem fairly good.
Odds of Mama signing with USC: 3-1
Scout.com 5-star safety/wide receiver John "JuJu" Smith was considered a USC "lean" a long time ago, and since his uncle, Johnny Nansen, was hired by Steve Sarkisian to be his running backs coach, things look even rosier for USC to land the supremely athletic Smith.
This seems to be the consensus opinion about Smith, and even this is shared by recruiting experts such as Scout.com's Greg Biggins, who tweeted:
Johnny Nansen is the uncle of LB Poly (Calif) ATH JuJu Smith, USC was already leading there, would say that lead is very comfortable now
— Greg Biggins (@GregBiggins) December 5, 2013
Although Smith still has Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and others listed as schools of interest, look for USC and Uncle Johnny to sign JuJu in February.
Odds of Smith signing with USC: 2-1
Another visitor to USC this month will be Scout.com 4-star linebacker Fred Warner, who hails from Mission Hills High School (San Marcos, Calif.).
Warner has been committed to BYU for quite some time, but with his visit, the 6'3", 205-pound 'backer said he will give USC a chance to change his mind.
Said Warner to Scout.com's Greg Biggins (subscription required) when discussing the Trojans, "I grew up a USC fan and they have great tradition, it’s close to home and I really like the coaching staff a lot." But Warner also said the following, "The thing is, my gut feeling won’t bring me away from BYU but we’ll see."
My gut feeling is that Warner will stick with the Cougars.
Odds of Fred Warner signing with USC: 7-1
The aptly named Quick is a blazing-fast receiver who also played cornerback for his Central High East Campus team in Fresno, Calif.
The Trojans need receivers, and Sark and company will be doing their level best to sway Quick to play ball for the Cardinal and Gold.
Though he has USC on his final list of suitors, Quick's last visit will be to crosstown rival UCLA, and that does not bode well for his playing for the men of Troy.
Odds of Quick signing with USC: 15-1
Defensive Tackle Josh Frazier (USC visitor next week)
Because the Trojans only have those few scholarships available, the list of prospective players who might don the Cardinal and Gold is frustratingly small.
This is not to say that Steve Sarkisian and his staff won't be exploring a myriad of possibilities should other options present themselves.
In fact, while those players who have already given USC their verbal pledge will still have an opportunity to play for the men of Troy, some of those players have also been advised that their services might be better utilized elsewhere.
Over the next three weeks or so, the Trojans will host over 20 players as they put the finishing touches on the 2014 recruiting class.
Will this class change significantly before national signing day?
Maybe, but we won't know for sure until February 5.
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