Tonight Lane Kiffin and his staff are seeing stars. That is, a roster of four-and-five star recruits who will be coming to USC this fall.
Despite the NCAA sanctions, USC has landed another top five recruiting class. Different services have the class rated from number two to number four.
The following is a list of key recruits. I have them arranged not necessarily in order of their rankings but in order of the needs they fulfill. This year the Trojans definitely needed to address the offensive line, linebacker, and defensive line. So, that is where we will start and then follow up with some of the top skill players.
Ht: 6'5" Wt: 355 lbs
Where he fits in best: Walker played offensive guard in high school and will most likely play in the same spot for USC or possibly tackle. It doesn't matter. He will be a force at either spot. He runs the Shuttle in 4.83 and has a 23-inch vertical. A five-star recruit, Walker is ranked 64th overall nationally and number one at his position. This kid huge and strong. He is already at maximum playing weight and could use some conditioning for better maneuvering.
Does he fill a need: A huge need. He is the perfect fit. The Trojans need to bolster the O-line not only this year but in years to come. He definitely makes up for the loss of Seantrel Henderson to Miami from last year's class. He will compete for playing time immediately as long as he is in shape.
Grade: A+ You can take it to the bank. Walker was also considering Florida State, Michigan State and Ohio State. A huge pickup for Kiffin and Staff.
Scottsdale, AZ Saguaro HS
Ht: 6'4", Wt: 285 lbs
Where he fits in best: Sticking with the offensive line, Cyrus Hobbi is strong and explosive off the ball and can dominate at the next level in both run and pass blocking. He has good size for an offensive guard position, and I expect him to stay at that position. He has the quickness to get downfield on the linebackers or pull on trap plays. Very good foot agility and balance. He has a good physique and can easily handle another 20 pounds without losing any of his quickness.
Does he fill a need: Like Aundrey Walker, Hobbi fits in just where the Trojans have been lacking along the offensive line. He may not be an immediate starter. He may even redshirt depending on how the season develops. But I expect him to be a mainstay on that o-line over the next few years.
Grade: A. Another huge pickup for Kiffin and Staff right where it is needed the most. USC had to fight off Arizona State and UCLA for Hobbi.
Danville, Kentucky, Boyle County
Ht: 6'2", Wt: 230 lbs
Where he fits in best: Dawson played inside linebacker and has excellent height for that position. But USC may use him as an outside linebacker. He has a dominant physical stature and the size for the outside linebacker position. He is an explosive run-stopper. He has the quick recognition skills along with the flexibility and balance to move freely in space that is required of top Division One linebackers. He would also be an excellent pass rusher from the elephant position.
Does he fill a need: Offensive line and linebacker were USC's two greatest needs in this year's class. In Dawson the Trojans got one of the very best. He was rated 45th overall and number three in his position; shows quick K&D recognition skills vs. the run; is a tough downhill player, capable of beating blockers across the line and into the backfield. Dawson has excellent ball skills and could be a difference-maker by intercepting passes and scoring rather than just falling to the ground. His overall athleticism will allow him to play more than one of the linebacker positions at the next level. He runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds.
Grade: A+. He fills an immediate need. If he can learn Monte Kiffin's scheme quickly, I expect him to see a lot of early playing time and compete for a starting role by mid-season if not before.
Absecon, New Jersey, Holy Spirit HS
Ht: 6'1" Wt: 220 lbs
Where he fits in best: Stanford's loss is USC's gain. Sarao was committed to Stanford until Jim Harbaugh decide to take over the Sanf Francico 49ers. Sarao then switched his allegiance to USC, and Trojan fans should be overjoyed that he did. Sarao reminds us of another USC linebacker out of New Jersey, Brian Cushing. It seems like Sarao was born for the weakside linebacker spot. Besides having the ideal size, he runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds and does a 3.97 shuttle. He has a well developed upper body but may need to put on some weight to play the strongside spot.
Does he fill a need: He will give Monte Kiffin the option of putting a linebacker on running back or slot receiver in coverage. He can turn and run with most back and has the power to power and speed to jam receivers or backs at the line of scrimmage. He may not play immediately as he learns Monte Kiffin's schemes. He may even redshirt while he puts on some extra weight so he can go every down.
Grade: A-. Remember a few years ago, when USC got Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga in the same class? History may just be repeating itself in Sarao and Dawson.
Strongside defensive end
Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills HS
Ht: 6'3" Wt: 260 lbs
Where he fits in best: After the offensive line and linebacker, the defensive line is the next position that the Trojans needed to bulk up, and they certainly have with Greg Townsend, Jr, the son of a former NFL defensive lineman. Townsend looks like the prototypical defensive end. He is tall and well-built with long arms and has the frame to add even more bulk. He is solid versus the run, and will prove to be an effective pass-rusher coming off the edge.
Does he fill a need: He has the ideal body to become a strongside defensive end/defensive tackle hybrid. He has the speed and strength to be effective against the run and to pressure on the quarterback. Townsend was the 46th rank overall and fifth at his position. He squats 405 pounds and has a 32-inch vertical.
Grade: B+. Townsend has the ability and determination to play early. Ed Orgeron competed with TCU and Miami to land Townsend.
San Diego, California Point Loma
Ht: 6'2" Wt: 269 lbs
Where he fits in best: Heyward moved around the line in high school playing inside and outside as well as from a "two"-point stance at times and will probably fill the same role at USC. He may lack ideal weight for a defensive tackle right now, but he has a long, thick frame and can fill out more in the weight room. Heyward was ranked 94th overall and number six at his position.
Does he fill a need: Definitely. He adds depth and versatility to the Trojans defensive line for the future. He may redshirt this season, but look for Heyward to be a force on defense over the next few years.
Grade: B+. Ed Orgeron and Joe Barry competed against Arizona, Oregon and San Diego State to land Heyward.
Woodland Hills Taft HS
Ht: 6'1" Wt: 315 lbs
Where he fits in best: Rivals.com said: "He (Woods) is built like the trunk of a California Redwood from head to toe." So imagine a thick redwood whirling around like a tornado. That is what makes Woods so disruptive and hard to contain - his massive powerbase and his motor always running. Woods will eventually be an interior force for the Trojans.
Does he fill a need: Not yet, but give him a year or two of working with Ed Orgeron, and Woods will be a future mainstay in the middle for the Trojans.
Grade: B+. A good move to bolster the defensive line in the future. Woods had offers from most Pac-12 schools along with Florida and Tennessee.
Gardena, CA Junipero Serra HS
Ht: 6'2", Wt: 205 lbs
Where he fits in best: And now onto the skill positions. Lane Kiffin said the Farmar is the most likely to see immediate playing time this fall. Farmer, a premier playmaker on offense, follows his former Serra teammate Robert Woods from the 2010 class. Woods wound up starting at wide receiver for USC and was the Trojans' top receiver. Farmer is even faster than Woods and more physically imposing.
Does he fill a need: Actually, if anything, the Trojans are pretty well set at the receiver position. However, Farmer gives USC one more weapon and will definitely see his share of playing time lining up on the other side of Robert Woods and also as a punt returner.
Grade: A. Besides USC, Farmer, a future all-American, had offers from over a dozen schools including Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida and Michigan.
Gardena, California, Junipero Serra
Ht: 6'1" Wt:187 lbs
Where he fits in: While Lee has the speed, lateral movement and athleticism to fill any of the skill positions, he will most likely play safety or corner at USC. Adding a little more muscle mass will add more pop to his tackling and help him break simple arm tackles as a kick returner.
Does he fill a need: There is always a need to have one of your very best athletes at the safety or corner spot, and Marqise Lee is that very special athlete. The Trojans may use him on special teams as a kick returner this season and wait for him to pick up Monte Kiffin's defensive scheme before inserting him in the defensive backfield. They can also use him on offense as a third-down receiver or in the wildcat formation.
Grade: A-. Defensively, Lee has the skills to become a difference-maker and had offers from most the Pac-12 schools as well as Michigan and Florida.
Sunnyvale, California Kings Academy
Ht: 5'10" Wt:181 lbs
Where he fits in best: Look for Carlisle to play in the backfield or line up in the slot. He is an all-around athlete and could very well make Trojan fans forget about losing DeAnthony Thomas. Carlisle runs the 40 in 4.43 seconds. He benches 230 pounds and has a 37-inch vertical. On, by the way, he is a smart kid, too. He has a 4.0 GPA and, like Anthony Sarao, he was a Stanford commit until Jim Harbaugh went to the NFL.
Does he fill a need: Just like the wide receiver position at USC, the running back spot is well stocked. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for an athlete with the versatility and skills of Carlisle. I expect him to redshirt to give him time to build up his size and strength to develop into a fulltime back.
Grade: B+. A great signing for the future. You can thank Jim Harbaugh for this one.
Santa Ana, California Mater Dei HS
Ht:6'1", Wt:186 lbs
Where he fits in best: Another in the line of Trojans from Mater Dei, Blackwell is an athletic prospect with a great deal of upside. He possesses terrific size and open field running ability and he also displays very good straight-line speed for his size. He is used as a go-to, big play guy with long arms and great hands and 4.4 speed.
Does he fill a need: The Trojans are well stocked at wide receiver for now. That will give Blackwell the time to add some muscle and get stronger so he can become a more physical run-blocker. More size and strength will also help him in battles for jump balls.
Grade: B. Another good signing for the future, Blackwell can also see action as a kick returner as well as a receiver. The talent is definitely there. Cal, Florida State, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Tennessee all thought so.
Tallahassee, Florida Lincoln HS
Ht:6'1" Wt: 210 lbs
Where he fits in best: USC is developing a pipeline between Los Angeles and Tallahassee, Fla. Running back Javorius “Buck” Allen has become the third player to sign with USC from Tallahassee’s Lincoln High. Allen joins fellow Lincoln products T.J. Bryant and Jawanza Starling on USC’s roster.
Does he fill a need: Although the Trojans are well stocked at running back, they are short on that big back who can get the tough yards. Allen has a good frame along with 4.44 speed. Putting on a little more muscle, Allen could become an Allen Bradford type back.
Grade: B. A good prospect for the future and well thought of by a lot of schools in the SEC and the ACC including Auburn, Georgia and Florida State.
Mission Viejo, California Mission Viejo
Ht: 6'0" Wt: 215 lbs
Where he fits in best: Madden is a rugged linebacker with a muscular, athletic frame but on the shorter side at 6-foot. and needs to add bulk and strength to his frame. He is instinctive and has a terrific nose for the ball. He has great lateral movement, something that USC was lacking at the linebacker spot these last two seasons.
Does he fill a need: He could. The fact that he has played quarterback and running back will help him prepare for games. He could be an impact player as a freshman because he has speed and really knows the game of football. The staff definitely wants to add depth to the linebacking corps and Madden could get to see a good deal of playing time.
Grade: A-. Madden could just be the diamond in the rough of this recruiting class.
I did not have time to do write ups on the entire 22-recruit class. But here's a list of the other recruits who sent in their LOIs today...
Defensive tackle, Bakersfield, California. Liberty HS; Ht:6'3"; Wt:280 lbs; 40:4.9 secs; Bench Max: 415; Shuttle: 4.4; Vertical:28 inches
Offensive Guard, Crenshaw HS(CA). HT 6'3"; WT 351 lbs. A dominant run blocker, capable of getting movement when blocking "2" technique defenders. Has the size and athleticism for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition. Needs some off-season conditioning
Fullback/Defensive TackleRedondo Beach, California Mira Costa HS Ht:6'2" Wt:260 lbs. Tavai has been a dominant force for Mira Coasta High School the past two seasons.
Weakside defensive endCorona, California Corona HS Ht:6'4" Wt:230 lbs40:4.7 secs.,Vertical:30 inches. GPA:3.1, SAT:930. At the college level he will likely fit best at defensive end and need to play with his hand on the ground.
Weakside defensive endHuntington Beach, California Edison HS Ht:6'1" Wt:230 lbs40:4.6 secs, Bench Max:315, Squat Max:425, GPA:3.24. Charles Burks already felt at home at USC, having committed to the school in October.
Cornerback Moreno Valley, California Rancho Verde HS Ht:5'10" Wt:165 lbs40:4.62 secs,Shuttle:4.13verified,Vertical:42 inchesJ
Wide ReceiverMoreno Valley, California Rancho Verdev HS Ht:6'3" Wt:237 lbs40:4.6 secs, GPA:2.8
The class also includes Punter Kris Albarado (Lake Charles, La./St. Louis) and Cornerback Isiah Wiley (Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western CC). Wiley was originally supposed to be an early entree but has decided to enroll this summer.