Revisiting the Reset -- Defense

With a flurry of recent commitments, there's a new recruiting reset for USC's defense...

Defensive line
USC's future defensive line started taking shape over the last month when the Trojans picked up two commitments in the 2015 class.

SCPlaybook told you a month ago to watch for the commitment of Fresno (Calif.) Clovis North defensive tackle Jacob Daniel and less than a month later, Daniel is now a Trojan.

It's hardly a surprise the Scout four-star ultimately committed to USC; he was once committed to USC coach Steve Sarkisian and staff when they were at Washington. Sarkisian sealed the deal again with Daniel (and his mother) by putting USC's academics on display, and by hiring defensive line coach Chris Wilson, who Daniel said he's hit it off with.

Daniel is Scout's No. 40 overall rated player in 2015, the No. 7 defensive tackle.

Not long after Daniel announced for USC followed Henderson (Nev.) Liberty defensive end Noah Jefferson.

Jefferson, a Scout three-star recruit, only had an offer from San Diego State before the Trojans decided to go in for the 6-foot-7 280-pound lineman. Shortly after followed offers from Arizona State and Oregon State.

While Jefferson may currently be the No. 73 rated defensive tackle in the rankings, Scout mountain recruiting analyst Doug Kimmel is raving about Jefferson's upside and his burst to the scene, which means he could be making quite the climb when the new rankings are released.

Jefferson told Scout he ended his recruitment early because he simply knew "USC was the place" for him.

So who still lurks for USC to snag on the defensive line in 2015? If the staff holds to its original plan, they'll take two more defensive linemen in the class.

The next top target is Concord (Calif.) De La Salle defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie. McKenzie, a Scout five-star, had a monster showing at the Oakland NFTC and shortly after he released his list of his top 12 schools -- in order.

The Trojans currently sit at No. 3 on McKenzie's list of favorites, behind Tennessee and Arizona.

Those close to the recruitment of the Scout five-star think his recruitment will come down to a National Signing Day decision. McKenzie was at USC's Junior Day in January and told Scout he was ‘blown away' by what he saw. Though he's on the West Coast now, McKenzie has ties to multiple programs around the country. His father played at Tennessee and his mother attended UCLA.

Can USC pencil in another Gardena (Calif.) Serra recruit? Maybe. Defensive end Rasheem Green, a Scout five-star, is still said to be leaning toward the Trojans. Publicly, Green remains neutral, but Scout has reason to believe he'll end up a Trojan by National Signing Day.

Why wouldn't USC be his future home? Plenty of his Serra teammates are currently there, including freshman quarterback Jalen Greene and freshman athlete Adoree Jackson will be arriving soon. Not to mention, Serra legends Robert Woods and Marqise Lee went to USC and former Cavalier George Farmer is still there. If Green picks anyone but the Trojans, it will come as a major surprise.

The West Coast is loaded with talent on the defensive line.

Moving south to Orange County (Calif.), there's five-star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South at Orange Lutheran high school.

Early leans have Lucier-South moving in the Westwood direction. He's made several trips to the UCLA campus and for just the first time went to USC a couple weeks ago. Lucier-South told Scout he ‘loved it' and ‘had a great time' on the visit.

So can the Trojans get the 6-foot-5 220-pound game changer to lean a little south from the Bruins? Those close to the recruitment certainly think the Trojans have a legitimate shot.

USC remains in the hunt for one of the most mysterious recruits in the 2015 class, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou defensive tackle Canton Kaumatule.

The Scout five-star and No. 6 defensive tackle has his choice of schools, but Stanford is thought to be the current frontrunner for Kaumatule, if he can qualify. His brother is a tight end for the Cardinal.

The biggest question, however, remains if he will indeed have the grades for admittance to Stanford.

A source with close knowledge of the recruitment says USC is in 'good position' for Kaumatule.

(Side note: maybe I can get Scout to send me back to Hawaii to track him down for another exclusive one-on-one interview.)

USC's defensive line coach Chris Wilson is also after Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola defensive end Christian Rector. Rector, a Scout three-star, says it's the local schools – UCLA and USC – who are recruiting him the hardest and he feels a bit of pressure to stay close to home.

Rector, 6-foot-5 225-pounds, has plenty of ties to the Trojans. Both his grandfather and mother graduated from USC. Rector told Scout he wants to make a decision before his season starts in the fall.

USC recently offered San Pablo (Calif.) Contra Costa JC defensive end Takkarist McKinley. The Trojan offer is one McKinley has been waiting on for quite some time.

So is the JC recruit a legit prospect for USC?

Absolutely. The Trojan staff remains adamant they aren't entirely high on going the junior college recruiting route unless they feel certain it is a special athlete. This has to mean McKinley is special to the USC coaches.

McKinley tells Scout he currently has visits to Texas, Arizona State and UCLA on his docket.

The Bottom Line: The Trojans locked down commitments from two great prospects in the 2015 class and by the looks of how many other top recruits they're in the mix for, this position group could be monstrous for this year's recruiting class.

Linebackers
A month ago, Scout's No. 1 middle linebacker in 2015 said he wanted to narrow his list to seven schools, including both Los Angeles schools and five others to take official visits to.

My, how things can change in a month, because now Cameron Smith is committed to USC.

Smith, 6-foot-4 247-pounds, is a Scout four-star and will be the player the Trojans look at to plug the hole that will be left when starting middle linebacker Hayes Pullard graduates after this season.

Smith almost committed to the Trojans when he picked up the offer in January at Junior Day. He decided to hold off, wanting to go through the recruiting process, but ultimately decided he knew USC was where he wanted to be.

"USC is the school I've dreamed about playing for since I was little," Smith said.

The recruitment of Salem (Utah) Salem Hills outside linebacker Porter Gustin continues to be one of the best stories in the 2015 recruiting class. Gustin moved from Idado to Utah, his film was distributed, and the result has been over 20 scholarship offers for the newly crowned Scout four-star.

So where does that leave the Trojans?

After a spring visit to campus, Gustin told Scout he ‘really, really liked' USC, adding that the offer from the Trojans was ‘really big'. USC coaches Marques Tuiasosopo, Justin Wilcox, and Peter Sirmon have visited Gustin during the recruiting period. The staff has received rave reviews from the Scout four-star.

Who will Gustin choose in the end? This will certainly be an interesting recruitment to follow as the No. 52 rated player in the Scout 100 continues to take unofficial visits all over the country.

It's safe to expect right now is that USC will be in it until the end.

The other target in the mountain region? Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton linebacker Osa Masina.

Masina, 6-foot-4 205-pounds, is a Scout four-star who Scout's Greg Biggins says ‘oozes athleticism'. He already has over twenty offers – but the Trojans are in a great position. Masina recently narrowed his list to just eight schools, including Arizona State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Wisconsin, and Utah.

Masina tells Scout that USC coaches visited Brighton High School twice during the recruiting period.

Though he just sliced his list to eight, Masina wants to cut it again to five by June. It would surprising if USC doesn't make the top five.

Getting back to that pipeline talk… how about Gardena (Calif.) Serra five-star linebacker John Houston? Houston was another Serra familiar face throughout USC's spring practices.

Houston, the No. 2 rated OLB in 2015, also remains steadfast he has no leaders – but don't be fooled. Scout has been reporting that Houston is a Trojan lean and it would be the smart move to believe USC will be in this recruitment until the very end. vAlthough Houston won't claim a leader, he says UCLA and USC are recruiting him hardest… and that his family grew up Trojan fans.

The Bottom Line:USC wants to bring in three to four linebackers in 2015. They've secured the No. 1 middle linebacker in Cameron Smith and have plenty of options to close out a strong class; a clean sweep of their top prospects seems a bit unlikely, but then again, it wouldn't be surprising.

Defensive backs
The Trojans loaded up on cornerbacks in the 2014 class and they'll try to bring in three to four more defensive backs in the 2015 class. This is the one position group whose recruiting class hasn't changed much in the last month.

They've already secured a commitment from Pasadena (Calif.) Muir cornerback Taeon Mason. Mason, who can potentially play both sides of the ball, is a Scout four-star prospect.

Mason wasted no time jumping on the Trojan offer when he received it at Junior Day in January. He told Scout he is still open to hearing what other programs have to offer, but plans to remain committed to the Trojans. The buzz around USC is that the staff fell in love with Mason's elite speed.

Long Beach (Calif.) Poly cornerback Iman Marshall. Marshall is a Scout five-star recruit, the No. 3 rated cornerback and the No. 9 rated player in the Scout 300. Marshall will have his choice of nearly any school across America… but could it come down to a West Coast battle for the talented player?

USC, UCLA and Stanford are all frontrunners for his talents. Lately, it's Marshall wearing USC gear to 7on7 tournaments while his father sports UCLA sweatshirts. But is it really Stanford the Southern California schools need to look out for? Marshall and his father say its academics that are most important.

Pleasanton (Calif) Foothill's Isaiah Langley was once listed as a receiver in Scout's database, but now the talented prospect is listed as the No. 10 rated cornerback in the nation. He tells Scout he could make a verbal commitment as soon as The Opening in July.

Recruiting Langley the hardest is California, Oregon State, Ole Miss, USC and UCLA. Interesting enough, the Trojans were not one of the schools Langley listed of those who have made multiple trips to see him during the recruiting period.

Scout four-star cornerback Dechaun Holiday picked up an offer from USC's staff when they were at Washington and that offer carried over to Southern California. The San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills product made an unofficial visit to USC during the Trojans spring practices.

Holiday recently told Scout Arizona, UCLA, ASU, and USC are recruiting him hardest. Langley says before he makes any decisions, he wants to visit a few more schools, though admits he thinks he wants to stay close to home for college.

Cornerback Ykili Ross of Riverside (Calif.) Poly recently told Scout his dad is a lifelong USC fan and it's been a challenge getting dad to open his mind about other programs, which could bode well for the Trojans with the four-star talent.

Ross said USC was one of many programs to stop by Poly during the recruiting period to check him out.

Don't expect Ross to narrow his list of offers any time soon as he continues to collect more.

Dropping back to safety, Encino (Calif.) Crespi's Marvell Tell is another target for the Trojans. He was a visitor to USC's Junior Day and also made a stop by spring practices.

Tell, a Scout four-star and the No. 3 safety, will most likely take his time making a final decision, according to those close to his recruitment. Tell told Scout he will trim his list at the end of the school year.

The Bottom Line: USC is off to a good start in the position group, identifying the speedster Mason before the rest… But the real coup for the Trojans will be landing a commitment from Iman Marshall – whose high school teammate, Juju Smith, will arrive on campus in June.

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