USC Football Recruiting Class: Under-the-Radar Players From 2017

The 2017 USC football recruiting class includes some under-the-radar prospects who could develop into key players for the Trojans down the line.

The ink is dry on the letters of intent and the documents required are now safely faxed as USC football formally putting a seal on the 2017 recruiting class.

And as fans of the men of Troy bask in the warm afterglow of yet another Top 5 class, it is time to look beyond the glitz of the many marquee players to those who may not be quite as heralded.

Nestled securely in the background of this outstanding class are several players who may not have the star attraction of the many four- and five-star prospects coming to the land of Troy but may wind up being just as valuable to USC in 2017 and beyond.

Tayler Katoa | Linebacker

Supremely athletic, Layton, Utah’s Tayler Katoa comes to USC as a “do it all” athlete who played a variety of positions for his high school team but will play linebacker for the Trojans.

Possessing excellent size at 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, Katoa has the lateral speed to shut down the opposition sideline to sideline and the strength to shed blocks for containment.

An instinctual player, Katoa will now focus on defense and the sky is the limit for young Tayler as he learns the nuances of the position.

An early enrollee but likely redshirt in 2017, Katoa will bulk up a bit more as he looks to fill a prominent role in 2018 and beyond.

If Katoa does see the field in 2017, it will likely be on special teams where his athleticism will create havoc for USC’s opponents.

Damon Johnson | Longsnapper

How in the world could a 2-star prospect not only make this list but also a list for the most likely to see playing time in 2017?

Yet that is the circumstance for longsnapper Damon Johnson who will attempt to fill the shoes for the now departed Zach Smith, whose greatest claim to fame is that Trojan fans never heard his name associated with errant snaps.

Johnson, who is a top-notch snapper, will see the field from the get-go and if he can replicate the anonymity of his predecessor, Clay Helton and company will be to have spent the scholarship on the specialist.

Brandon Pili | Defensive Tackle

While Jay Tufele and Marlon Tuipolotu grabbed all the headlines as high profile defensive tackle signees, Portland, Oregon tackle Brandon Pili just might wind up being the best of them all.

Prior to finishing his prep career in Oregon last year, Pili played in relative obscurity in Alaska dominating lesser known competition as a 6-foot-4, 310-pound beast in the trenches.

Though raw and very likely to take a redshirt in 2017, Pili has the size and athleticism to be a force for the Trojans in the future. Defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze—who recruited Pili—must be salivating at young Brandon’s immense potential.

Juliano Falaniko | Linebacker

Speaking of toiling in obscurity, Pago Pago, American Samoa linebacker Juliano Falaniko is yet another player who just oozes potential.

At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Falaniko was athletic enough to play multiple positions for his high school team including wide receiver.

Possessing great lateral speed and excellent football instincts, Falaniko is raw and will likely get a redshirt in 2017 but linebackers coach Johnny Nansen will get to mold a player who can make a big difference in 2018 and beyond.

Je’Quari Godfrey | Cornerback

Defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Clancy Pendergast loves tall corners and at 6-foot-2, Je’Quary Godfrey certainly fits the bill.

Coming from prep football royalty at Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd high school, Godfrey—a former Cal verbal commit—was swayed to flip to USC after a recruiting visit on the weekend of Jan. 13.

Though only rated a three-star prospect, Godfrey’s size—and yes, potential—made him a must get for USC in the 2017 class as he was the Trojans’ only corner in the class prior to the commitment of Greg Johnson on LOI signing day.

Coming off of a knee injury which ended his senior season, Godfrey will have the luxury of time to hone his skills as a likely redshirt prior to seeing the field of play in 2018.

Just missing the cut for this article are defensive end Jacob Lichtenstein, offensive lineman Jalen McKenzie and tight end Erik Krommenhoek, all players with tremendous upside.

Unless you are Alabama, most top recruiting classes sprinkle in three-star prospects among their four and five-star recruits and for USC in the 2017 class, this is also true.

The trick for these programs—and certainly for USC—is to make the most of these lower-rated prospects and this will be the case for the Trojans in this year’s class.

Fortunately for the men of Troy, they have a lot to work with these under rated prospects and if things go right, no one will remember what star designation these players carried as prep players as they excel in their college careers.

And that will put a smile on the faces of those who follow the cardinal and gold for sure.

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