With multitudinous scouting evaluations on young athletes at the fingertips of recruiters on the Internet, where detailed breakdowns and film footage of every top high school football player in the nation is available, it’s safe to assume a recruiter’s work is never finished. It’s extremely difficult to be the first to offer a kid anymore; and first offers, in the minds of some athletes, carry a lot of weight with them. That’s why coaches want to beat other coaches to the punch.
Thus, after an outstanding 2011 class, one gets the idea that when tapping mugs with each other after signing day, the Trojan coaches were doing less back-patting and more strategizing for the 2012 class.
For obvious reasons, the Trojan staff has to get a jump on the other schools. If the NCAA is unyielding in their decision, then only 15 new athletes can come into Troy next February. If the appeal is successful, the best USC can do is bring in 20. Either way, Orgeron and the recruiting staff must take out their scalpels and act like surgeons with every offer they extend to new kids.
As of now, here are some would-be, big-time pickups that would be solid fills for the 15 open spots, assuming SC does not win the appeal.
For the players, I’ll list the name of the player, size and hometown state. An asterisk (*) indicates the athlete has already verballed to Southern Cal.
Offensive Linemen Currently Offered
USC should be taking about four of the major stock that the West is producing.
Andrus Peat, 6'6"/280 (AZ), Vadal Alexander, 6'5"/329 (GA), Zach Banner, 6'9"/295 (WA), Freddie Tagaloa, 6'8"/300 (CA), Ronnie Stanley, 6'6"/285 (NV), Ellis McCarthy, 6'5"/285 (CA), Jordan Simmons, 6'4"/280 (CA), Max Turek, 6'6"/255 (CA).
Let’s say USC only gets those from the West. That means seven from this list, and there are still more being evaluated who are top quality and will soon receive official offers, not to mention many who will be at least 4-star quality and reside in California. Are all seven from the West who have offers going to SC? Maybe not; but then again, if, say, five in the West region wanted to claim schollies from Troy, they would not get turned away.
By the way, the O-line class of the West next year is already the best the region has seen in close to 10 years. Note: I am not including Arik Armstead, a verbal commit already, because he has expressed interest in playing on the D-line, even though he is listed as on offensive tackle on every informative site.
I am excited for the race to sign the big uglies next year. For Trojan fans, it’s got to be like racing to the candy after the piñata’s been broken.
Defensive Lineman and Ends Currently Offered
Eddie Goldman, 6'3"/290 (DC), Noah Spence, 6'4"/240 (PA), Dillon Chaisson, 6'3"/280 (NV), and *Arik Armstead, 6'8"/275 (CA).
The past two classes have been stocked with DEs and DLs; but these positions can never be saturated. So, USC could take one end and one tackle, barring that they are at least 3 to 4-star caliber players, and be fine.
Linebackers Currently Offered
Kwon Alexander, 6'2"/210 (AL), Dillon Lee, 6'3.5"/220 (GA).
Other local LBs who do not have official offers yet but are noteworthy and might be able to feather their cap with scholarship extensions from SC are Butch Pauu Servite, Salamo Piso Long Beach Poly, Matt Rowe Long Beach Poly, Hardy Nickerson Jr., Bishop O’Dowd, Jabari Ruffin Downey and Scott Starr Norco.
Linebacker is still a position of need, so taking two here would be satisfying.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends Currently Offered
Dorial Green-Beckham, 6'5"/210(MO), Avery Johnson, 6'2"/185 (FL), Thomas Jefferson, 6'0"/175 (TX), DaVonte Neal, 5'9"/175 (AZ), *Jordan Payton, 6'2"/191 (CA), *Jaydon Mickens, 5'9"/175 (CA), *Darreus Rogers, 6'2"/194 (CA), Derrick Woords, 5'11"/180 (CA).
No tight ends have any official scholarship extensions and it would be difficult under the sanctions to justify spending one on this position when we have plenty of young underclassmen on scholarship already. However, Ian Taubler from Fresno, CA is a good one at 6'4.5"/235 with 4.6 speed. Don’t be surprised if the Trojans find this one too good to pass up.
Defensive Backs Currently Offered
Tee Shepard, 6'0"/175 (CA), Shaquille Thompson, 6'1"/180 (CA), Nelson Agholor, 6'1"/175 (FL), Elijah Shumate, 6'1"/195 (NJ).
Again, notice the California talent. Wow.
Quarterbacks Currently Offered
Zeke Pike, 6'5"/225 (KY).
Notables whom USC is scrutinizing heavily and on the cusp of offering are Bart Houston from Concord De La Salle, 6'4"/201 (CA) and Marc Evans from nearby St. Bonaventure HS (CA).
USC is set for a few years at the QB spot, but that does in no way mean there’s not room for the likes of a Pike or anyone else. Any solid pickup and subpar achievement from current scholarship players at this position will always trump the “we’re full at this position” mentality.
Running Backs Currently Offered
USC is Running Back U. It would never be a recruiting season without trying to lock up the nation’s best.
Keith Marhall, 5'11"/180 (NC). This guy has 4.3 speed. Matt Jones, 6'3"/210 (FL), D.J. Foster, 6'0"/185 (AZ), Brian Kimbrow, 5'8"/160 (TN).
Instate and local notables: Byron Marshall, 5'10"/195 (CA), Jalen Moore of Bishop Amat, 5'10"/195 (CA).
Athletes Currently Offered
You’ll find these in Jaydon Mickens and the like. These smaller receivers will no doubt get looks at the corner position. So I did not separate those listed as athletes.
My Take on It
With only 15 scholarships to give, I suggest the Trojans take four linemen at least, 2-3 defensive linemen/ends, two more linebackers, one running back, one quarterback (if it’s a Zeke Pike caliber), two WRs/TEs and two DBs.
If USC wins the appeal and offers up to 20 kids, then 2012 will definitely be an awesome recruiting pillage. If not, then 15 in the amount mentioned above would make for a superb class if selected with precision.
Other important factors for the Trojan staff, I believe, are things like reestablishing and reasserting themselves in certain California regions. For example, going in and getting top-listed cornerback Tee Shepard from nearby Fresno would be a statement piece. Maybe Shaq Thompson is a heavy Cal lean already—fine. They should still lock up Fresno, as the city has been good to USC in the past. Anthony McCoy and TJ McDonald are names that come to mind.
The reason O-linemen need to be ransacked is because the West is USC territory. Letting this bevy of bigs go by would have an adverse effect in the following years, even though the number of scholarships are so few. Expect the largest percentage of offers to be consumed by the beefies. Besides, as evidenced, a school can never have too many 4 to 5-star linemen. Loading up and locking down the region at this position will be rewarding in so many ways for Troy, including gaining perception points.
This fall season will be the greatest momentum-builder in terms of the 2012 class. If USC melds all the talent into a tidal wave of domination, then the future talent will grab their boards and surf those A-frames into Heritage Hall, just like they did in those stunning 2005, '06 and '07 classes that had at least five 5-star athletes each year, along with a swarm of 4-star guys.
Once USC returns to its winning ways this fall, it will create and cement pipelines—clear and direct paths—from certain high schools that would otherwise belong to other institutions. If the Trojans want not only regional pipelines but, as they had for the early and middle part of the past decade, national pipelines, then they must show results on the field.
These wins will have a positive, influential effect, creating a buzz that rings in the ear of the up-and-coming student athletes. This buzz simply says, "USC is THE place to be.” Is the buzz no longer about Troy? It’s on the edge, teetering right now. It’s not lost totally, nor is it the salvo it used to be.
Nevertheless, once the concept of "Southern Cal being the place to be" is en vogue again, Troy becomes the default, no-brainer school where the elite 4 and 5-star kids in the West choose to spend their collegiate days.
So far, USC looks like it's in good shape to move in that direction. Then it should all fall into place and 2012 will continue to be a reloading of talent, hopefully leaving the days of rebuilding behind.