USC Football: The Last Sanctioned Recruiting Class

The National Signing Day dust has settled. USC finished out their last sanctioned class in a strong fashion. There were few surprises, as all those who were committed ended up signing. Then the three of the top four California recruits finished off the Trojans’ day with a bang.

Steve Sarkisian, in his first year as head coach, managed to bring in the rank #10 recruiting class despite the scholarship restrictions. That restarted the streak of bringing in top 10 classes after the hiccup last season. The 2013 class was the first time since 2002 that USC had a recruiting class outside of the top 10. This year, Sarkisian went 14 for 14 for fall recruits and returns USC to recruiting form.

The only non-SEC schools to finish in the top 10 are Florida State, Ohio State, and USC.

Here is the breakdown of the class, courtesy of Rivals.com:

Spring            
Name Position City, State School Height Weight Rank
Claude Pelon DT Mesa, AZ Mesa C.C. 6’5″ 285 4 stars
Don Hill DE Boise, ID Timberline B 6’3″ 240 3 stars
Toa Lobendahn OL La Habra, CA La Habra 6’3″ 290 4 stars
Jordan Austin OL Claremont, CA Claremont 6’5″ 267 3 stars
Jalen Greene QB Gardena, CA Junipero Serra 6’3″ 195 3 stars
Fall            
Name Position City, State School Height Weight Rank
Lamont Simmons DB Jacksonville, FL Raines 6’2″ 185 3 stars
John Plattenburg DB Houston, TX Lamar 5’11” 187 3 stars
Uchenna Nwosu DB Harbor City, CA Narbonne 6’2″ 185 3 stars
Olajuwon Tucker DE Gardena, CA Junipero Serra 6’4″ 225 4 stars
Bryce Dixon TE Ventura, CA St. Bonaventure 6’4″ 230 4 stars
Ajene Harris ATH Los Angeles, CA Crenshaw 5’11” 170 3 stars
Jonathan Lockett DB Santa Ana, CA Mater Dei 5’11” 172 4 stars
Malik Dorton DE Bellflower, CA St. John Bosco 6’3″ 227 3 stars
Rahshead Johnson WR Long Beach, CA Cabrillo 5’11” 175 4 stars
Chris Brown OL Los Angeles, CA Loyola 6’6″ 285 4 stars
Viane Talamaivao OL Corona, CA Centennial 6’3″ 300 4 stars
Damien Mama OL Bellflower, CA St. John Bosco 6’5″ 360 4 stars
John “Juju” Smith DB Long Beach, CA LB Poly 6’1″ 207 5 stars
Adoree’ Jackson ATH Gardena, CA Junipero Serra 5’10” 172 5 stars

USC filled areas of great need at corner and receiver.  Many of these players can be played both ways and can contribute to special teams.

The first signee of the day, Lamont Simmons, measures to be 6’2″, making him the tallest cornerback on the roster. The Florida native supposedly has 4.4 speed and will hopefully make a big impact like most of the Florida players on the roster. If his speed is as good as advertised, he could become a nasty matchup for opposing wide receivers. Sarkisian has gone on record to say he will try him on defense to start.

John Plattenburg is another corner for this class. He also played running back in high school. He will be the only scholarship player from the state of Texas. Sarkisian wants him to start out on defense.

Cornerback signee, Jonathan Lockett, hails from Mater Dei like former quarterback, Matt Barkley. Since Lockett has played as a receiver, his ball tracking skills and catching ability should help him get interceptions. Understanding how a receiver plays will also help him defend one. Like Plattenburg, Sarkisian will start him out on defense first.

Rahshead Johnson is another player with two possibilities. Much like Lockett, he has played receiver and corner in high school. The difference is that Johnson intends to continue being an iron man in college. As a result, he could fill two positions of need. Sarkisian said that he will start out on offense.

Ajene Harris could also figure to be a cornerback. He is listed as an athlete since he has played both quarterback and corner in high school. Having another corner who has played on both offense and defense is a great asset for USC. However, Sarkisian said during his press conference that Ajene would start out on offense.

Adoree Jackson is the highest rated player in the state and #6 in the nation according to Rivals. The 5-star is another athlete that can play corner or receiver and looks to make a large impact. However, his recruitment ran into some issues that were not resolved until later in the night. Due to the nature of recruiting rules, Sarkisian could not talk about his future involvement during the press conference.

Other positions on defense were not as sore of a need, but still welcomed on a weary roster.
John “Juju” Smith is the second of the two 5-star recruits. Sarkisian said on ESPN that he would start out playing offense because of his ball skills. However, depending on how the roster shakes down, he may play safety.

Uchenna Nwosu can become a Dion Bailey type player at USC. He played safety in high school, but USC is looking to play him at linebacker. Bailey led the team in tackles in 2011 and interceptions in 2012 before moving back to safety. Hopefully Nwosu can be as productive.

Olajuwon Tucker was listed as a defensive end on Rivals, but as a linebacker by USC. Sarkisian hopes that his versatility will be useful in defending all the different types of offenses in the Pac-12.

Malik Dorton is a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid type. As Morgan Breslin and Devon Kennard have run out of eligibility, he could fit right into the rotation.

Tight end was also a position of need for the Trojans. With Xavier Grimble declaring for the draft, USC only had two scholarship tight ends left in Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick. Even though the team had Grimble last season, they had to convert quarterbacks, offensive tackles, and defensive ends as substitutes at times. The signing of Bryce Dixon helps maintain the tight end depth. In addition, he has been catching passes from 2015 quarterback commit Ricky Town. The connection could prove useful in the future.

The offensive line, which has been lacking in depth the last few years, gets some fresh faces that could help out.

Chris Brown already looks to be about the right size to be a starter at tackle. Although he is shorter than Chad Wheeler, he is heavier than Wheeler’s listed weight of 275. If he gets the playbook down quickly, he could have a chance to make an early impact at tackle or guard.

Viane Talamaivao also looks physically ready to start and Sarkisian has said as much. He is projected to be a guard.

Damien Mama is also listed as an offensive guard. Unlike Talamaivao, Mama is the #1 ranked guard prospect in the nation and is the #4 overall in California. At a weight well over 350 pounds, he is large, but is still quite mobile for his size.

The 2014 class shaped up to be a good one in spite of everything that has happened to the USC football program the past couple of years. Now Sarkisian must translate this success to the field.

With signing day finishing off the way it did, the 2014 college football season cannot start soon enough.

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