There are still three weeks until National Signing Day, when the full class of Trojan recruits will be locked in with their letters of intent, but four players from the USC football recruiting class of 2017 are already on campus and ready to join the team.
USC welcomed linebacker Tayler Katoa, quarterback Jack Sears, offensive tackle Andrew Voorhees and longsnapper Damon Johnson to the Trojan Family on Wednesday.
Katoa is a three-star prospect out of Layton, Utah. A versatile athlete, Katoa played quarterback in high school but projects as a linebacker at USC.
The Trojans will look to make use of his quarterbacking instincts and game intelligence on defense, where a thin linebacking corps could use instant contributors.
Sears is not expected to see early playing time, but he is an important piece of the 2017 class. A four-star quarterback, Sears was Sam Darnold’s back up at San Clemente and looks like the heir apparent to the Trojan quarterback, who could leave after the 2017 season.
Enrolling early will give Sears the chance to get his feet wet in college while he waits for his opportunity to fight for a starting job once Darnold departs.
For Vorhees, a three-star offensive tackle, the opportunities may come sooner than expected. USC is replacing both starting tackles in 2017. While it remains unlikely that Neil Callaway will turn to a freshman, the open competition could create a chance for the Kingsburg-product if he hits the ground running this spring.
If not, the ability to settle in and learn as much as possible during the extra semester could help Voorhees secure a starting spot down the line.
Johnson, meanwhile, is a rare addition to a recruiting class — a scholarship longsnapper.
His scholarship is not unprecedented at USC though. In his first stint as the Trojan special teams coach, John Baxter awarded scholarships to specialists like kicker Andre Heidari, punter Kris Albarado and long snapper Peter McBride.
The two-star recruit and five-star longsnapper was supposed to join USC ahead of the 2016 season as a preferred walk on but couldn’t qualify for the spot academically. He spent the fall at Citrus JC and was offered a full ride for the 2017 class.
With longsnapper Zach Smith graduated, Johnson should be expected to come in and take over right away.
Now that the early enrollees are official, it’s time to buckle up for all the twists and turns of the recruiting roller coaster as the rest of the class is compiled.