USC Football Recruiting: Five Needs to Address in the 2018 Class

Sep 23, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes running back Zack Moss (2) runs the ball in the first quarter against USC Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith (35) at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 23, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes running back Zack Moss (2) runs the ball in the first quarter against USC Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith (35) at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The wheel never stops turning for USC football recruiting. Here’s a look at five big needs to address in the 2018 recruiting class.

Though USC filled plenty of recruiting holes in the 2017 class, including major additions on the offensive and defensive lines, there is always more work to be done on the recruiting trail.

Every year new departures means new needs as the cycle of college football keeps on rolling.

With that in mind, here’s five needs that USC must address in the 2018 recruiting class:

Linebacker

It’s a good thing the 2018 class is strong at linebacker because USC still needs replenishing despite adding pieces at the position in 2017.

As a junior, Cameron Smith will be eligible to leave for the NFL after this coming season. His potential departure could be a blow for the inside linebacker position which remains a depth concern.

The Trojans brought in Tayler Katoa and Levi Jones this year but additional reinforcements are needed with Jordan Iosefa and John Houston standing as the only other inside linebackers on the roster.

USC has an offer out for four-star inside linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu out of Claremont. A hit on the No. 2 ILB in the class would be a quality addition to a haul which already features help at outside linebacker with four-stars Raymond Scott and Bo Calvert also committed.

That’s not to mention Serra-product, Merlin Robertson, a four-star OLB who is certainly on the Trojans’ radar.

USC wide receiver Michael Pittman during practice at Howard Jones Field.

USC wide receiver Michael Pittman during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)

Wide Receiver

Even after losing JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers, Isaac Whitney and De’Quan Hampton following the 2016 season, the Trojans have a bevy of receivers on the roster. They took five in last year’s class to help stock up. But even still, it should be a position of emphasis for USC’s recruiting efforts.

The newly signed Joseph Lewis and Randal Grimes help, but the aforementioned five will all be draft eligible after the 2018 season, including five-star hauls Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns. Both of whom are expected to compete and likely win starting jobs this upcoming season.

Deontay Burnett also only has two years of eligibility remaining, and that’s if you assume he doesn’t opt for the NFL, based on his size as a slot receiver.

Now, factor in that arguably the two most attractive local prospects in the 2018 class are receivers at prominent USC pipelines: five-star Jalen Hall at Hawkins, and four-star Amon-Ra St. Brown at Mater Dei.

Getting both would be a gigantic re-bolstering of the Trojans’ receiving corps, but even one would be a coup for Tee Martin and Co. Plus, USC already has a commitment from four-star Manuel Allen out of Corona Centennial.

Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans running back Ronald Jones II (25) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. The Trojans defeated the Sun Devils 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans running back Ronald Jones II (25) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. The Trojans defeated the Sun Devils 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Running Back

Much like the receivers, USC is fully stocked at running back. Now. But that could change pretty quickly. You can pencil starter Ronald Jones as an early entrant to the 2018 NFL Draft. If Aca’Cedric Ware has a productive junior season, it’s possible he could be primed to follow along.

While both Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr will have three years of eligibility left going into 2018, look for the Trojans to take at least one back in the next recruiting cycle.

Don’t be surprised if they have to go out of state. California has only one 2018 running back currently rated as a four-star in the 247Sports Composite: Maurice Washington, of Oak Grove High School in San Jose. USC has yet to offer him a scholarship.

Instead, the Trojans have targeted IMG Academy five-star T.J. Pledger, Ohio’s Jaelen Gill, and Miami’s James Cook, who is currently committed to Florida State, where his brother Dalvin Cook starred.

It’ll be tough sledding for USC on all three, especially since the trio all hail from regions close to national power houses. Then again, Clay Helton’s staff just pulled linebacker Levi Jones out of Austin, with Texas not even having a hat on the table.

USC defensive lineman Rasheem Green during practice at the LA Coliseum. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)

USC defensive lineman Rasheem Green during practice at the LA Coliseum. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)

Defensive End

USC stocked up on defensive tackles in the 2017 class, but that doesn’t mean their needs on the defensive line are totally resolved.

Rasheem Green will hold down the starting job at defensive end for at least one more year, but the lineman could be on his way to the NFL after the completion of his junior season this year.

Christian Rector showed promise in 2016 but he is the lone DE on the roster with any experience. Kevin Scott, a redshirt sophomore, was ineligible for the Rose Bowl due to academics so his status going forward is in doubt.

That may leave incoming freshman Jacob Lichtenstein as the only other defensive end available when 2018 comes around.

Unfortunately, California isn’t renown for producing defensive ends so the Trojans will likely have to look out of state to find another body at the position.

USC has offered four-star prospects like Greg Emerson out of Tennessee, Max Wright out of Texas or Tyreke Smith out of Ohio, but it’ll be a fight to get any of those to head west for California.

Feb 1, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Greg Johnson announces that he will sign with USC at Augustus Hawkins High School. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 1, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Greg Johnson announces that he will sign with USC at Augustus Hawkins High School. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback

At this moment, USC’s cornerback depth is sufficient, with the likes of Iman Marshall, Jack Jones, Jonathan Lockett, Ajene Harris, Isaiah Langley and Keyshawn Young filling out the roster. Plus, the Trojans have added two cornerbacks in the 2017 cycle, Greg Johnson and Je’Quari Godfrey.

All that said, now is not the time for USC to rest on its laurels when it comes to the cornerbacks.

As byproduct of USC’s top-notch recruiting of the cornerback position over the last few years, the Trojans must always stay ahead of the cycle of probable early departures.

Adoree’ Jackson started the trend in 2014, and now he is off to the NFL after three seasons. Iman Marshall is expected to follow suit after the 2017 season. Then it will likely be Jack Jones’ turn to turn pro after his junior campaign in 2018.

That alone would make it wise for USC to keep the cupboard full by pursuing CBs for this recruiting cycle, but the concern is compounded by the possibility of Young moving to receiver or Johnson moving to safety at some point, on top of Lockett’s impending graduation.

Four-star cornerback Marcus Johnson committed to the Trojans in December of 2016 and there are other highly-rated DBs within USC’s grasp, including four-star Olaijah Griffin of Mission Viejo and Isaac Taylor-Stuart of San Diego.

This article originally appeared on