The USC Trojans have a lot to offer prospective recruits — a brand new football facility opening in August, a chance to be part of program’s stellar traditions, a very good shot at the NFL and, of course, that inviting Southern California sunshine — but thanks to the ongoing NCAA sanctions, the actual scholarships are in short supply.
The Trojans have served their two-year postseason ban, but for the next three years, they’ll be limited to just 15 scholarships in each recruiting class. (The normal limit is 25.)
USC is making the most of the few scholarships available; they’ve received 10 verbal commitments for the class of 2013, and each player is a four or five-star recruit.
They managed to land next year’s top-ranked safety, quarterback, and running back, and they’ve even pulled in two four-star recruits for the class of 2014 with the recent commits of linemen Jordan Poland and Toa Lobendahn.
Here’s a look at the 2013 verbal commits to date:
Su’a Cravens (S; 6’1″, 210)
Cravens has been one of the Trojans’ biggest wins of the recruiting class. The five-star recruit from Murrieta Vista, Ca. is among the top 15 players in the nation at any position. In high school, he plays on both sides of the ball, and as a junior last season, he had 100 tackles, 11 sacks, and 3 interceptions in addition to 673 rushing yards, 339 receiving, and 19 total touchdowns. He has the athleticism and the experience to play just about anywhere USC needs him, but he’ll likely end up at safety.
Max Browne (QB; 6’5″/ 210)
When Browne committed to USC, the Trojans’ incredibly talented quarterback pool got even more crowded. Current starter Matt Barkley is in his last season, but behind him, redshirt sophomores (and former five-star recruits) Cody Kessler and Max Wittek have been waiting for their shot.
Browne, from Sammamish, Wa., is the top-ranked quarterback in his class. He plans to follow in the footsteps of Barkley, Kessler and Wittek and graduate high school early, so he can enroll at USC for the spring semester. This means he’ll technically count against the 2012 scholarship class, freeing up another scholarship for the next year, and it will also give him a jump start on learning the playbook so he can compete for the starting job with Kessler and Wittek from day one.
Kylie Fitts (DE; 6’4″ / 241)
Like Max Browne, Fitts plans to enroll at USC midyear, but while Browne will face a tough battle to snatch the starting QB job from one of the players already on the roster, a starting role might be Fitts’ to lose. USC’s starting defensive ends Devon Kennard and Wes Horton will graduate after this season, and the only other player on the roster with considerable experience heading into this year is Kevin Greene, a redshirt junior.
Since Fitts is enrolling midyear and will be on campus for spring camp, he might not be too far behind current freshmen Greg Townsend, Jr. and De’Vante Wilson and junior college transfer Morgan Breslin, depending on how much work they get in 2012.
Ty Isaac (RB; 6’2″/ 215)
The addition of top-ranked running back Ty Isaac will give a much-needed boost to the thinning ranks at Tailback U. Injuries and transfers have taken a toll on the position that can be one of the most physically taxing, and as a result, the Trojans have just three scholarship backs in 2012. (One, Curtis McNeal, is in his senior season.)
USC desperately needed some fresh legs on their backfield’s roster, so Isaac should have a shot at seeing the field as a freshman.
Justin Davis (RB; 6’0″/195)
Davis’ commitment, coming soon after Isaac announced his decision, gave USC two of the top running backs west of the Mississippi. Isaac is from Joliet, Ill. while Davis, who is ranked in the top five running backs by both Scout and Rivals, is a Stockton, Ca. native.
Davis received 20 offers from BCS programs, but fortunately for USC, he chose to stay closer to home. As a high school junior last season, he ran for 2600 yards and 39 touchdowns. He’ll need to add some bulk to survive at the next level, but USC hopes Davis and Isaac will usher in the next wave of superstar Trojan tailbacks.
Kenny Bigelow (DT; 6’3″/ 320)
Bigelow is, well, pretty big. And powerful. And he comes with a lot of stars (four or five, depending on who you ask).
The tackle from across the nation (Elkton, Md.) was the first member of the 2013 to commit to USC, back in November. He’s the high school teammate of David Sills, the USC quarterback recruit of 2015 who made headlines when he received a scholarship offer from USC as an eighth-grader.
Bigelow is on track to make plenty of headlines on his own at USC. He was a standout at May’s Nike Camp in Baltimore, and he has already been invited to play in the 2013 Under Armour All-America game.
Chris Hawkins (S/CB; 5’11″ / 175)
Hawkins had offers from most major programs, and while it was rumored that USC might lose him to Stanford, Hawkins was just the second recruit to commit to USC for 2013, following the L.A. Nike Camp. Hawkins, from Rancho Cucamonga, was the defensive back MVP of the camp; he didn’t allow a single reception in 1-on-1 drills.
Hawkins is excited to play for his hometown team, and while he’ll need to get stronger to compete against Pac-12 wide receivers, at 5’11″, he seems to be in the mode of current Trojan Nickell Robey: what he lacks in size, he makes up for with his style of play.
Eldridge Massington (WR; 6’3″ / 205)
Wide receiver is one of USC’s strongest and deepest positions (just not during this spring’s practices) and it looks to continue that way for a few more years, as the Trojans have verbal commitments from three highly-ranked receivers for 2013. Massington, out of Mesquite, Tx., could be the next Marqise Lee. The current USC star just completed a successful track season for the Trojans, and Massington is also a standout track athlete with a 100-meter dash time of 10.52 seconds.
The first of the three WRs to commit to USC, Massington has an uncommon combination of size and speed that could turn him into another special receiver for ‘SC. (The rest of the country clearly agreed – he turned down 24 other schools when he committed to USC.)
Steven Mitchell (WR; 5’10 / 180)
The four-star recruit from Mission Hills, Ca. is the 15th-ranked wide receiver in the nation, according to Scout.com. He doesn’t have Massington’s size, but the coaches and scouts were impressed with his footwork and his explosiveness. USC offered him a scholarship after watching him at a camp in early June, and he accepted almost immediately. The Trojans will likely try to use him as a slot receiver.
Sebastian LaRue (WR; 5’11 /185)
Another local recruit, LaRue is the most recent addition to USC’s Class of 2013. Praised for his speed and his hands, LaRue, from Santa Monica, is ranked as a four-star wide receiver (10th nationally) but he plays on both sides of the ball in high school. As a junior, LaRue had 60 catches for 949 yards and 18 touchdowns, and on defense, he had 36 tackles and four interceptions.
He’s on the smaller size and may need to grow into playing time, but with four returns for touchdowns last season, he could see the field much sooner on special teams. With one of the Trojans’ top returners, Robert Woods, still suffering the after-effects of offseason ankle surgery, it’s too bad LaRue has to wait until 2013 to enroll; it might be nice to have an experienced returner like him as an option on kickoffs and punts this season.