USC Football Recruiting Class Superlatives For 2017

Jul 14, 2016; Hollywood, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Clay Helton during Pac-12 media day at Hollywood & Highland. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 14, 2016; Hollywood, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Clay Helton during Pac-12 media day at Hollywood & Highland. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 USC football recruiting class finished with a bang on Signing Day. Here’s the superlatives for the Trojans’ completed haul.

There were high hopes for the 2017 USC football recruiting class with hats on the table for six highly-touted prospects on Signing Day.

When those six each picked the Trojans in turn, it was clear that USC had landed a special class, one which would go on to finish in the Top 5 nationally.

Here’s a run down of superlatives for the 2017 class:

Biggest Surprise – Marlon Tuipulotu

Last year it was the cloak-and-dagger steal of running back Vavae Malepeai from Oregon during the final days of the recruiting period.

This year, USC’s biggest surprise grab came just a bit earlier, as the Trojans pulled off the shock flip of longtime Washington commit Marlon Tuipulotu a week before Signing Day.

The four-star defensive tackle had been all Huskies. He was committed to a head coach with a policy against pledges taking official visits to other schools. Yet USC managed to entice Tuipulotu on an unplanned official visit during the penultimate weekend of recruiting and saw him officially announce his decommitment from UW by Monday.

Adding to the suspense? Tuipulotu was expected to enroll early in Seattle after graduating at the end of his school’s winter quarter. The problem was, USC’s deadline to enroll was the same day as Independence High School’s final day finals.

The Trojans and Tuipulpotu managed to get all the necessary paperwork signed and settled just before the deadline and had the player enrolled on Monday.

As far as recruiting stories go, it was a wild one. Making it even better is the fact that Tuipulotu was a much-needed addition to the 2017 class, helping it go from good to great over the course of a weekend.

Best Announcement – Levi Jones

Since four-star linebacker Levi Jones was scheduled to announce his commitment at 5:55 a.m. in the Pacific timezone, Trojan fans could be forgiven for missing it. But it was a good one.

Live on ESPNU from Westlake High School in Austin, Jones thanked his family and coaches then stood and revealed a Florida Gators t-shirt under his jacket. The crowd cheered, but the recruit wasn’t finished.

“Ya’ll better chill,” he could be heard saying as he removed that shirt with a Florida State Seminoles t-shirt underneath. But again it was a fake out.

Jones pulled off the FSU colors to show the cardinal and gold of USC and then gave a “Fight On” to confirm his pick. He was ready to join the Trojans.

The commitment troll made waves on Signing Day, but Clay Helton revealed later during his Signing Day press conference that he had been clued. Just before he came on air, Jones texted Helton to say he was a Trojan.

It’s a good thing too because according to Helton, “He saved me from a heart attack.”

An honorable mention goes to Josh Falo, whose Bleacher Report-produced Haka video was a unique way to commit.

Best Name – Bubba Bolden

The 2017 class featured players with generic names like Greg Johnson, Levi Jones and Austin Jackson.

As always, there were a few packed full with letters like Marlin Tuipulotu, Erik Krommenhoek and Jacob Lichtenstein. And tricky spelling hurdles to remember like double Es for Andrew Vorhees and a single L for Randal Grimes.

Not to mention nicknames for Joseph “Jody” Lewis and “Jay” Godfrey, which may go the way of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who arrived at USC as John Smith.

Plus a pair of hyphenated names for Isaiah Pola-Mao and Alijah Vera-Tucker.

But the best name of the bunch belongs to Las Vegas safety Bubba Bolden.

On the one hand, it’s unique. There were only four Bubba’s in the 2017 recruiting class  — all of them hailing from SEC country.

On the other hand, the Bolden surname should make for some fun wordplay once the safety gets on the field. We can’t wait for the chance to throw out a line like, “Bubba emBolden’s USC’s safety group.”

Most Needed – Jay Tufele + Marlon Tuipulotu

Bringing in Marlon Tuipulotu set USC’s defensive line class up to be great, but finishing on Jay Tufele elevated the group into elite status.

Given USC’s needs in the defensive front, landing one potential instant contributor would only help patch the hole. Adding two fills it.

There’s no more wondering how the Trojans will replace Stevie Tu’ikolovatu. The answers are sitting right there.

Critically, the defensive line duo also strengthened USC while weakening the Trojans’ competition in the Pac-12.

Tuipulotu was a Washington commit and Tufele was always expected to sign with Utah. That’s a Pac-12 South rival and a direct competitor for the Pac-12 title who will be without potentially elite playmakers up front for the next three or four years.

Biggest Upside – Brandon Pili

Players of Brandon Pili’s size don’t grow on trees. Certainly not on the west coast.

At 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Pili has the necessary size to fit in as a nose tackle in Clancy Pendergast’s 5-2 scheme, taking up space in the middle with the explosiveness to reset the line of scrimmage.

Of course, Pili is a project. He moved to Westview High School in Portland, Oregon for greater exposure than he could find in Alaska, where he played through his junior year.

But that means he hasn’t been playing against quality opposition and will have to learn how to cope against players who stack up to him physically.

Pili will need time to develop into the player USC hopes he can become, but that player is the potential anchor for a championship side.

USC’s success in finishing the season on a nine-game winning streak with a Rose Bowl victory was built on the back of Stevie Tu’ikolovatu’s growing dominance — all the way to winning Rose Bowl MVP honors.

But Tu’ikolovatu didn’t start out there. He walked on at Utah and served as a back up for years before getting his shot at USC. His rise was a story of patience. If USC has patience with Pili, the ending could be the same.

USC defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze during practice at the LA Coliseum. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)

USC defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze during practice at the LA Coliseum. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)

Best Recruiter – Kenechi Udeze + Johnny Nansen

The one-two punch of Kenechi Udeze and Johnny Nansen helped USC pull in the best defensive line class in recent memory.

Udeze, the Trojans second-year defensive line coach, and Nansen, USC’s primary Polynesian connection, combined to pull in four-star talents Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele, along with three-star prospects Brandon Pili and Jacob Lichtenstein.

And that number could be bolstered even further if three-star defensive end Terance Lang follows through on his commitment to USC and grayshirts, joining the Trojans at the start of 2018.

In a year when the Trojans needed to hit it big on the defensive line with major depth concerns to tackle, the duo delivered with an out-of-the-part home run.

The importance of Tuipulotu, Tufele and Pili has already been stated, but even Lichtenstein and Lang have the potential to become valuable contributors for the Trojans down the line.

In that sense, the coaches landed a group of additions perfectly balanced on polish and potential, with instant contributors for now and developmental projects for later.

Apr 12, 2016; Calabasas, CA, USA; Calabasas High Coyotes coach Casey Clausen (left) talks with defensive back Darnay Holmes (11) during practice. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 12, 2016; Calabasas, CA, USA; Calabasas High Coyotes coach Casey Clausen (left) talks with defensive back Darnay Holmes (11) during practice. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Worst Miss – Darnay Holmes

USC had the chance to grab the top-rated cornerback in California for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, but struck out when it came to five-star Darnay Holmes.

Worst of all, the Calabasas product ended up with a UCLA hat on his head.

Holmes committed to UCLA at the Army All-American game after a week of buzz suggesting that he might be on track to pick the Trojans.

However, when the time came, Holmes went with the Bruins, leaving USC to look elsewhere at the cornerback position.

The Trojans ultimately landed four-star athlete Greg Johnson on Signing Day and flipped three-star Cal commit Je’Quari Godfrey shortly after Holmes was out of reach. However, neither of those compares to the elite prospect who will be playing his football for hated rival UCLA.

Best Get – Stephen Carr

USC’s longest-held commit is also the best prospect in the class and the biggest get for the Trojans in 2017.

There was concern surrounding Carr leading into Signing Day, after he took official visits to Oregon and UCLA in the final weeks of the recruiting cycle. That concern was heightened by the fact that he had softened his commitment a year earlier.

However, when the time came, Carr sat at a table surrounded by cardinal and gold Trojan logos on Signing Day and scratched his signature for USC.

There were other bigger positions of need in Troy than running back, but Carr gives the Trojans a truly elite running back for Ronald Jones II to pass the baton to when he inevitably leaves for the NFL after his junior season.

And Carr comes in as a more complete back than Jones from the start, with the size to power through for the tough yards, speed to break away, catching ability to serve as a threat out of the backfield and proficiency blocking which will allow him to stay on the field for every down.

This article originally appeared on