Steve Sarkisian puts together monster first class at USC

LOS ANGELES — Wednesday was crunch time. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff were locked in.

As they sat around the team’s headquarters, something akin to a great come-from-behind victory started to unfold, with one five-star commit after another.

"It was like being in the fourth quarter of a game and maybe you’re down by 10, maybe you’re down by seven and you just play great football in the fourth quarter," Sarkisian described. "You score one touchdown, you get a turnover, you score another one and you just finish really well.

"I felt like we didn’t get outside of ourselves. We didn’t get desperate as a staff. I thought we stayed true to ourselves, continued to rely on the relationships and at the end there was a little bit of that anxiousness, a little bit of that nervous excitement and then the joy of, essentially, victory." 

The USC recruiting class went from being outside of the Top 25 in the national recruiting rankings on Tuesday to cracking the Top 10, sparked by commitments from St. John Bosco five-star offensive lineman Damien Mama, Serra five-star cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, and Long Beach Poly five-star safety JuJu Smith.

All three decisions were announced on national TV. Like the rest of the nation, Sarkisian found himself glued to the television hoping to hear some good news.

"I used to say this: ‘If you don’t know before they announce, that’s not a good sign,’" Sarkisian said. "I can honestly say today that theory got thrown right out because a few of these guys, we really didn’t know."  

In Mama, USC completes one of the top offensive line classes it’s had in quite some time. Mama joins guards Viane Talamaivao (Corona Centennial), and early enrollee Toa Lobendahn (La Habra) to make a trio that consists of some of the top offensive guards in the country. They’re joined by Loyola offensive tackle Chris Brown and Claremont guard Jordan Austin to give USC five signees on the offensive line. Sarkisian says some of the "guards" possess the ability to play tackle.

Smith is a player Sarkisian says will begin his career on the offensive side of the ball.


Meanwhile, the USC head coach couldn’t say anything about Jackson at the time of his meeting with the media because the Serra star had yet to turn in his National Letter of Intent.

Asked if the NLI from Jackson was received, Sarkisian replied, "that has not come in yet," although he didn’t seem concerned. 

In total, including the early enrollees, Sarkisian’s 2014 class includes three five-star recruits, nine four-star recruits, and seven three-star recruits, according to, making up the highest rated class in the Pac-12.

Of those three-star recruits, Sarkisian says cornerback Lamont Simmons (Jacksonville Raines) and linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (Narbonne) are players who "the sky’s the limit for."

"(If) you put it all together, this is a really complete class," Sarkisian said.