Quoting Kiffin: National Signing Day

USC head coach Lane Kiffin talks about signing 12 players in the Class of 2012 and his plan for the future despite limited scholarship numbers.

"Exciting class that we were able to sign, fall into some different slots here, as far as roster management. Different times of guys coming in, one guy signing in at midyear ended up resigning as well. Basically at the end of the day we wanted to make sure we looked at quality players that could come in at specific needs for our team and for our roster next year and out through the next four or five years. With that we didn't reach, we had a specific plan that was targeting quality players and obviously you're not going to get them all you're going to miss on some of them. And even as we miss, be able to give us some room for next year. So really what happened was basically we gave 18 players scholarships between last January and today. And so the good thing about that, that saves us three more for next year so we can sign 18 more next year instead of getting lobsided and having to go down to 15. The class' number one need, as you go back to a year ago today, we would have talked about offensive line. We were able to add some very big offensive linemen in that, all different types of guys, but I think in general with that group, really big guys, guys that can play a number of positions there. And then I think after that you go to the two linebackers who are as good as anybody that we saw in camp. We happened to have them in camp in Jabari [Ruffin] and Scott [Starr]. And it was exciting because there's a number of very good conference-type linebackers in our camps and these two guys showed up, and they reminded us of the old days, how it was here when we had our defensive runs with our great linebackers. And then I think three touchdown makers on offense, two receivers and then the tight end in Jalen [Cope-Fitzpatrick] was exciting. Darreus [Rogers] being the guy that we felt was coming to us for a long time and with Nelson today I think that he's coming to a place that has put out some great wide receiver numbers in the last 10 years. To add those two guys, a local guy and a guy from a guy aways away, that's exciting. And then a number of other players but probably headlined by Leonard Williams. As you go down into the SEC, and you look at the number one thing down there it's obviously defensive linemen as you study drafts. And that's not really been the case out here in California. So for us to be able to go down there, into Florida, in Daytona Beach, to get Leonard Williams, a lot of credit goes to Ed Orgeron and a ton of credit to Monte Kiffin to be able to get that done. As you can imagine that's not an easy thing to do. Maybe even a harder area than probably getting Lamar out of Kentucky. So high expectations for him coming in, as well as the whole class."

(On what position Leonard Williams will play)
--"Well his size it looks that direction [of a defensive tackle] but we're going to play him at defensive end. Hopefully he can be a dominant defensive end for us. If he just gets too big and has to move inside that happens but that is not our plan for him at all now."

(On evaluating players with limited scholarships to offer)
--"We really had to, we always evaluate them in all areas, but even more than ever, we had to. There's probably some guys with bigger numbers we could have reached to, taken some risk, either from a football talent standpoint or an academic standpoint and we tried to really stay away from that. Because it's very critical for these players to stay in our program and succeed in our program, on and off the field. We can't get into a situation over the next three years, having guys transfer out or academic issues with guys. We need guys that can really stick and that can compete into a very competitive program."

--"It does make it difficult because you can't really take much risk. You can't really, kind of project some guys, as much as you'd like to. The second part from a program standpoint is you're handing away good players to your competitors. We're handing away 10 players a year and obviously those guys are probably going in our conference. So not only are they not on our roster but they're on someone else's roster. At a place like 'SC we're in the position to get a majority of the kids that we offer scholarships to. That's something that's been really difficult to deal with, too. Is you see guys go somewhere else that you know you could have got at our place."

(On the limited numbers)
--"We're just obviously taking it very serious and have a specific plan in place that we've had for a long time and a big part of that plan is what I talked about, making sure we keep kids in our program and making sure that they're doing well in our program, on and off the field. And so if we're only going to have 75, that's 10 less so we can't afford guys not to be succeeding in our program." (On the depth at running back)
--"Yeah it's just one of those years, especially on the west coast, we just didn't find many guys. We don't really have a great answer for that. Another issue with the numbers. We maybe would have reached there, took a project at running back or somebody that we didn't take to fulfill that need. So we've had some circumstances with George [Farmer] moving back, with the departure of Amir [Carlisle] that has left us in a difficult situation there."

(On whether Kiffin was surprised Carlisle left)
--"Well the only guy that really is playing the position is Jahleel [Pinner]. He would give you the potential of a big back, so we may look at that. And not having a big back on our roster right now. We were surprised with the departure of Amir, with his family moving back there it was something they felt was, something they wanted to do so we granted him that opportunity. Yeah I was surprised and disappointed. Whenever you put a lot of time into somebody into your program and you feel really good about them and they're doing things right in the program it's difficult. But at the same time too we got to make sure we're honoring what's best for the kid and his family."

(On how to prevent a transfer with loaded wide receiver depth)
--"We just always got to find the best way to utilize our players…Nelson would be a guy that could do some things, not as an every down back but could potentially do some things back there because we're going to have to find some answers with so little depth at running back. Unfortunately it's been part of the business for whatever reason of having some guys transfer, not happy with their playing time, there really isn't a good answer for that except to bench Robert or Marqise during the season."

(On George Farmer moving back to receiver)
--"We're going to leave him at receiver for the most part, during spring and potentially look at some things too. The good thing is now he has a little background at running back with the time he spent there."

(On managing a roster more than 75 scholarship players)
--"From our numbers, without getting real specific, I don't think they're probably what your numbers are showing exactly. I don't foresee it being an issue at all. We'll make sure that we're down to 75 at that point but I do not foresee it being an issue at all."

(On whether having a smaller class is advantageous to USC for next year)
--"Yeah that was part of it. I mean trust me there were a couple guys still on the board late that we were going to take, obviously, that were great players. In years before we would have had back up plans and gone to those back up plans to fill them up and those would not have been necessarily great players. And so we didn't do that in this situation. We saved those three spots so we could go add to that class next year and make that class 18 and so we're balancing out the penalty, really, is what we're doing."

(On whether Kiffin expects to bring in a player in the next week or two)
--"I don't think so. I can't comment on the few kids that are left out there but I don't foresee that happening. And once again there's a few kind of major recruits I don't see that happening and then other kids that, staying with our theme, we're going to make sure we save ourselves for next year."

(On who Kiffin expects to be an impact player)
--"I think you start with Leonard [Williams] because it's so unique. It's one thing when you watch kids on film and you see them play at a high level. All of us miss on that sometimes. They miss at the next level and you have a lot more resources to evaluate them. Fortunately we had Leonard in camp and so we were able to see him up close, how he worked and how he performed in camp. So we're excited about him. Like I said there's guys that fit in different spots here, with Gerald Bowman coming in as a safety even though our starters return. He's the number one [junior college] safety in the country. Josh Shaw coming back. He will have to win a waiver to play this season…otherwise he'd have to sit out. Morgan Breslin once again coming into a position of need, defensive end, with the loss of Nick Perry, as well. So you kind of have guys slotted all over the place, outside of just your normal high school guys."

(On whether Kiffin is worried about the depth at defensive tackle)
--"Yeah we are. I'm sure you know we lost a guy late, really there weren't many other guys that we were on at that spot. Or they went somewhere else early. So we weren't going to reach just to address a numbers need."

(On how many players he plans to redshirt)
--"It's so far away. I know last year we pushed towards redshirting because the class of 30 guys and to balance out because we knew what was coming but it's so far away. Going into spring and there's so many question marks in the spring, and then the fall once we get here. It's way too hard to tell."

(On how important signing a running back is next year)
--"Extremely important. It'll be extremely important to sign two…as we listed by need the number one need is tailback and hopefully find two different styles of tailback like we've had here before."

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