USC signs star-studded class, also loses a few
Although Southern California signed another loaded recruiting
class Wednesday, the Trojans were left lamenting the talent that
USC formally added 13 players on national signing day, including
seven elite prospects who already enrolled last month as freshmen.
The recruiting class is even smaller than the limits imposed by
NCAA sanctions, which are still hampering the Trojans’ recruiting
efforts through next season.
”If you’re only going to sign 13, our top 13 are better than
anybody else’s top 13, and I don’t think anybody can argue that,”
coach Lane Kiffin said.
Yet even while lauding another class stacked with five-star
recruits, Kiffin acknowledged he didn’t get everybody he wanted,
losing players to a combination of the Trojans’ NCAA problems,
their awful 2012 season, Kiffin’s own job uncertainty and the usual
caprices of teenagers choosing colleges.
”When you go big-game fishing, you’re not going to get a lot of
them, but you’re going to get some really good guys,” Kiffin said.
”They’re the cream of the crop – impact players.”
Kiffin and star recruiter Ed Orgeron led the effort to ink
several high schoolers ranked among the nation’s best at their
positions, including quarterback Max Browne, defensive lineman
Kenny Bigelow and safeties Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay III.
They’re already enrolled at USC along with defensive back Chris
Hawkins, tailback Justin Davis and receiver Darreus Rogers, a
signee from last February who needed a year to get eligible.
USC added six incoming freshmen Wednesday, headlined by elite
offensive lineman Nico Falah from nearby Bellflower, Calif. The
group also includes tailback Ty Isaac, receiver Steven Mitchell,
offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers and linebackers Michael Hutchings
and Quinton Powell.
”We think that these players can come in right away and help
us,” Kiffin said. ”Probably a couple of them will start. We
obviously have some holes to fill. We’ve been on them for a long
time. It’s not a ton of guys, but I don’t feel like we reached,
either. We took players that are able to perform at this
Falah’s commitment to the Trojans apparently wavered late in the
process, but he stuck with USC – unlike cornerback Jalen Ramsey,
defensive end Jason Hatcher, defensive end Torrodney Prevot, safety
Max Redfield and defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, who all
committed to USC earlier in the recruiting process before heading
”As you look at college football recruiting, commitment means
less and less,” said Kiffin, who left Tennessee for USC three
years ago after 14 months in charge of the Volunteers. ”It’s kind
of not cool anymore to be an early commit.”
Kiffin cited several reasons for the Trojans’ recruiting losses,
including their ”really bad season” featuring USC’s fall from the
preseason No. 1 ranking to a 7-6 record and an ignominious loss to
Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Kiffin realizes his own job
uncertainty put doubt in recruits’ minds, given the criticism he
received from fans and alumni for the performance of a team
featuring Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and a
”We didn’t help. You go 7-6 and finish the way we did, it’s not
going to help our energy,” Kiffin said. ”It gave other schools
more time to catch up to us and pass us in some cases.”
Although the Trojans cited their scholarship restrictions as a
factor in many of last season’s woes, cutting into the depth that
was exposed during their late-season fade, Kiffin elected not to
sign less-heralded players to fill out the USC roster after those
big names decommitted. Kiffin won’t stop looking for late recruits,
but USC apparently won’t fill its five available scholarships.
The Trojans’ small class has an added benefit, however: USC can
sign 20 players in 2014, five over its NCAA-mandated limit in the
final year of severe scholarship restrictions.
”We just made a decision that we’d rather have those spots for
next year and sign 20 next year,” Kiffin said.