USC Football Recruiting: Strong Class Shows Trojans Are Going in Right Direction

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03:  Steve Sarkisian speaks at a press conference introducing him as the new USC  head football coach at the John McKay Center at the University of Southern California on December 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

USC knew it would take a while to recover from Tropical Storm Kiffin, but the finish line may be coming sooner rather than later following what was a strong 2014 recruiting class.

As things stand now, they have the 11th-best class in the country, according to 247Sports. John Smith, Toa Lobendahn, Claudeson Pelon, Damien Mama and Bryce Dixon are among the headliners.

Adoree' Jackson also looks to be on his way to Los Angeles after he caused some problems when he failed to send in his letter of intent.'s Mitch Sherman reported on Wednesday night that the LOI was on the way to Steve Sarkisian and the USC coaching staff:

The school confirmed Jackson's arrival late on Wednesday via their official Twitter account:

This is the cherry on top of what was an encouraging signing day. The 5-star cornerback is the seventh-best recruit in the country according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Ever since the sanctions against the school were levied in 2010, there has been a cloud hanging over USC. Between the postseason ban and the deleterious reign of Lane Kiffin, the program has taken a major hit since the Pete Carroll days.

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Of course, the sanctions didn't stop the Trojans from getting solid recruiting classes. According to 247Sports, they ranked third in 2011, ninth in 2012 and 12th in 2013.

Kiffin, though, demonstrated that it doesn't matter how much talent you have at your disposal if you can't actually coach.

Now it feels like there's a clean slate at USC.

This is the last year that the sanctions will be in effect. Although, Sarkisian said, "We'll probably feel the effects of those sanctions for two more seasons, quite honestly," per USA Today's George Schroeder.

Rather than already making excuses, Sarkisian holds a realistic assessment of his program. There's no need to get fans excited and proclaim that the team will be national title contenders in 2014 or even 2015. He's smart in taking things one step at a time.

And the first step was securing a top recruiting class.

Erik McKinney of singled out Mama, Jackson and John "JuJu" Smith, stating:

Sarkisian and the Trojans were able to land all three, giving USC one of the best signing days of any program in the country. The signings give USC 19 additions in the 2014 class, including nine ESPN 300 pledges, one ESPN JC 50 prospect and impact players on both sides of the ball. There is really no way to overstate how well Sarkisian and the Trojans closed on signing day, posting what amounted to a perfect day.

One of the biggest problem areas that needed addressing was the offensive line. And Sarkisian has done just that with Lobendahn, Mama, Viane Talamaivao and Chris Brown. All four offensive guards are listed as 4-star recruits on 247Sports' composite ranking.

Putting Jackson, Smith and Jonathan Lockett in the secondary could give the Trojans a major edge in the future, as well.

Bryce Dixon is one of the best tight end recruits in the country. He's part of that athletic crop of TEs who play more like wideouts. He has the potential to be an All-American at USC. Couple that with the arrivals of Jalen Greene and Rahshead Johnson, and the offense looks to be in capable hands.

Unlike Kiffin, you get the feeling that the coaching staff will be able to get the most out of the talent at its disposal.

Sarkisian did a lot with a little at Washington, taking a program that was driven into the ground under Tyrone Willingham and turning it into a contender in the Pac-12 North. Having coached under Carroll, he's also well aware of what it will take to succeed in Los Angeles and what the expectations will be.

You always wondered what he could've done in Seattle with some top-end talent, and now he has that at USC.

Now, Sark has shown that he can recruit as well as coach.

The rest of the country is on notice.


Follow me on Twitter @JosephZucker.