It was a pretty hectic recruiting year for the USC Trojans, but in the end they still landed at least a dozen recruits who will probably end up contributing sooner than most recruits at other schools. At worst it's a disappointment, but only by USC's incredibly high standards. Shotgun Spratling of Conquest Chronicles took some time to answer some questions.
1. How well do you think USC filled positions of need in this class? Are there any places they came up short?
The biggest area of need coming into the offseason was in the defensive secondary following the graduation of safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling and the early departure of Nickell Robey. With Isiah Wiley falling short academically and transferring out last year, that means USC's entire projected starting secondary coming into 2012 is no longer on the roster. USC does have some depth coming back, but it needed some star power and the Trojans got exactly that in safeties Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III. While they may not start right away, expect Cravens, McQuay and cornerback recruit Chris Hawkins to each battle for spots in the rotation as freshmen.
The one spot where the Trojans limped through signing day was on the defensive line. Once thought to have assembled one of the top defensive front line classes in the nation, that all fell apart in the days leading up to National Signing Day as Eddie Vanderdoes, Kylie Fitts, Jason Hatcher and Torrodney Prevot all de-committed. Not all was lost as the Trojans did land one of the top defensive tackles in Kenny Bigelow as an early enrollee.
2. So many five-stars to choose from. Who would you say are the three best overall recruits in this class?
Who will end up being the top three players from this class is hard to tell. Ty Isaac is a candidate, but five-star running backs (ahem...Joe McNight...cough...Dillon Baxter) have not lived up to expectations in the past, so we'll wait and see on the Illinois product. Instead, I'll go with Bigelow, Cravens and quarterback Max Browne. Bigelow has the size and tenacity to make an instant contribution ala Leonard Williams last season.
But Cravens and Browne are the darlings of this class right now. According to USA Today, they were the best players in the country on each side of the ball, garnering the All-USA Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Though USC has depth and experience at safety with Demetrius Wright and Gerald Bowman, Cravens has the potential to come in and start right away, especially with a new defensive coordinator in the mix. Could the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Browne follow in Matt Barkley's footsteps as a true freshman starter at QB? He'll have to beat out Max Wittek and Cody Kessler, but it'll be an open competition from the beginning.
3. If you were to rank USC's position in the Pac-12 recruiting hierarchy, it would be ______ because ______.
Second. Because USC signed only 12 players and UCLA did a tremendous job of filling in positions of need, particularly in the secondary. Washington and Oregon had solid recruiting classes, but the star power of USC's class is unrivaled -- five Rivals five-star players...aka more than all but two conferences.
4. The players I think will make the most immediate impact is ____________ because ________.
Su'a Cravens will make an immediate impact because he's already a physical player that is only going to get better thanks to having an opportunity to go through spring practice and offseason workouts.
5. Who are the under the radar recruits (they exist for the Trojans???) to watch for in this class who could be on the field sooner rather than later?
Steven Mitchell's playmaking ability in the return game will make him a player you don't want to take your eyes off. He's only 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, but he has that wow factor elusiveness that can change momentum in one held breath. Also, I love the mean streak that interior offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers plays with. With the center spot potentially up for grabs, Rodgers could end up working his way into some snaps, similar to how Marcus Martin took over the left guard position as a true freshman in 2011. Lastly, if the new running backs/offensive line/offensive coordinator(s) want to utilize a big back to mix it up with Silas Redd, Isaac could be the man for the job at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds.