USC's first big recruiting weekend

USC hosted five official visitors and dozens of unofficial visitors at the Coliseum last Saturday for their victory over Notre Dame. With the contact period underway and bowl preparations looming, the Trojans hope to create momentum on the recruiting trail with a big commitment.

It was a good weekend on the field and on the recruiting trail for the Trojans this past weekend.

USC dismantled traditional rival Notre Dame 49-14 in front of an intriguing group of official visitors at the Coliseum. All five of the Trojans' official visitors came from out of state, with Honolulu (Hawaii) three-star defensive end Mika Tafua already committed to BYU.

Tafua officially visited Oregon earlier this year, and the Ducks have had a lot of success recruiting Hawaii with Heisman candidate quarterback Marcus Mariota as their bell cow. USC came into the picture for Tafua more recently, with Trojan assistant coach Johnny Nansen as his lead recruiter.

Tafua is being recruited by USC as a linebacker, although he told Scout Sunday that the coaching staff wanted him to replace graduating senior J.R. Tavai. Although Tavai was moved to SAM linebacker when Jabari Ruffin tore an ACL in fall practice, his natural position is rush end.

Tafua is 6-foot-3, 235-pounds with the type of frame that could carry 260-pounds. Although he left Los Angeles still committed to BYU, Tafua noted that he committed during his sophomore year. As of now, his verbal commitment to the Cougars is considered soft.

As a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints, Tafua has expressed a desire to go on a Mormon Mission immediately after graduating high school, while USC would prefer he postpone that mission. He will also require shoulder surgery at the end of the year, although his injury is said to be minor. Tafua will host Nansen on an in-home visit Wednesday and discuss the prospects of his mission and recruitment with USC further.

USC also hosted Montezuma (Ga.) four-star linebacker Roquan Smith on his first official visit of the year. Smith, who is being recruited by USC as a WILL linebacker at 6-foot-2, 205-pounds, is a departure from a majority of the players USC has targeted at the linebacker position this recruiting cycle.

With the Trojans running a three-man front defensively, recruiting bigger linebackers has been an obvious priority for 2015. Smith is a more traditional 4-3 linebacker with great coverage skills and speed. However, with Su’a Cravens developing a hybrid role within the defense, Smith could bring similar ability to the fold.

This was Smith’s second trip to Los Angeles as he unofficially visited USC and UCLA over the summer. He said Sunday that he enjoyed his time back in Southern California and was still planning a return trip with a visit to Westwood. As of now, Georgia is considered the frontrunner for Smith, although Florida could be a player for his commitment once a new coaching staff is hired. Auburn and LSU are other schools vying for official visits.

Jefferson (La.) four-star cornerback Donte Jackson is another Southern recruit that officially visited USC this past weekend. Jackson was hosted on his trip by USC freshman two-way star Adoree Jackson. The Louisiana native is being recruited by USC in the same capacity Adoree Jackson was out of high school.

As the reigning Louisiana state 100 and 200-meter champion, Jackson spoke to USC defensive backs coach Keith Heyward about playing cornerback and then wide out and special teams for the Trojans next year. USC’s lack of depth in the secondary has intrigued Jackson throughout the recruiting process and will be the key in the Trojans having a puncher’s chance at landing his commitment. Coming into the trip, Georgia and LSU were his long time favorite college options — with UGA thought to be a slight leader. Although he now lists USC with the Bulldogs and Tigers as his top three, the Trojans will be considered little more than a dark horse for the remainder of his recruitment. That, quite frankly, would be the only way they could steal him away from the South.

Manassas (Va.) four-star defensive tackle Tim Settle made it to USC Friday after canceling several other official visits he had scheduled earlier in the year. Sources say Settle has a lot of work to do in the classroom to get qualified for next fall, but at 6-foot-2, 340-pounds, he is a behemoth talent at a position of need for USC. Thirty-four defenses are rarely successful without huge, space eating nose tackles in the middle.

Coming into the summer, Settle’s options were plentiful, and USC did not make his original list of favorite schools, which was 12 deep at the time. As those options dwindled along with his GPA, his list of favorite schools transformed and he gave USC a second look. That second look resulted in a official visit this weekend.

The feeling is Settle would rather stay closer to home, but USC may be the only major program wiling to take a gamble on him qualifying. It’s a big gamble, as USC’s academic standards are a notch above several other schools who have already opted out of Settle’s recruitment because of his current standing in the classroom.

Settle has already officially visited Oklahoma State and he plans on officially visiting Washington State some time in the near future. Virginia Tech also remains a factor in the race for his signature.

Salt Lake City (Utah) five-star linebacker Osa Masina was by far the official visitor USC fans were most excited to see this weekend. While Tafua, Jackson, Smith and Settle are all highly touted players, USC has more history with Masina as a recruit.

Early on in Masina’s recruitment, the assumption was that Utah would be the team to beat because his brother played there. Stanford was also considered to be a major factor in his recruitment at one time. As summer approached and Masina eliminated the Utes, rumors swirled that UCLA was suddenly the frontrunner for his commitment.

Coming into this weekend’s official visit to USC, it was Arizona State that was supposedly holding serve for his signature. However, Trojan assistant coaches Peter Sirmon and Marques Tuiasosopo have worked tirelessly to keep USC relevant in Masina’s eyes. Watching Masina walk into the Coliseum Saturday, it was very apparent that the tradition and prestige that is USC football isn’t lost on Osa or his family.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Masina and his family have a lot to say about USC. Photos and smiles were abundant during the pregame and postgame festivities of the Trojans blowout win over Notre Dame. Perhaps foreshadowing events to come, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian even took photos with Masina on the sidelines before the game.

Masina has yet to go on record about his trip to USC this past weekend. It was his final official visit of the recruiting process and he clearly needs time to decompress. However, sources close to his recruitment indicate that when Masina does reveal his thoughts on USC, the wait for Trojan fans might be worth it.


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