A decade worth of USC classes

Remembering the last 10 years of USC signing classes, we take a look at what we knew then and what we learned as these Trojans played their way into USC fans' hearts.

Not a head fake here but a different look.

With all the focus on finishing up the Class of 2015 and the emphasis on today, we thought it might be worthwhile to take a look back at USC's last decade in recruiting and go class-by-class with a take on each starting in 2005. For those who don't remember, today's media resources and technology make it seem like the Dark Ages a decade ago when it comes to what we knew and had access to.

And for most of these, we'll focus on a particular player or player and for all different sorts of reasons. That's been some of the great fun covering this beat. You really don't get to know these young men until they become Trojans.

Class of 2005

Brian Cushing coming across the country from new Jersey's Bergen Catholic made a big statement for that USC class ranked No. 6 in the nation by Scout.com behind No. 1 Tennessee. Seems like a long time ago. Brian would go on to become an All-American, All-Pro and all Trojan if you ever run into him some day. In a class of just 16 featuring Rey Maualuga, Patrick Turner, Kevin Ellison, Nick Howell, Kaluka Maiava and Mark Sanchez, USC had a national-best 10 Top 100 players and the most 5-star players -- six. But it was the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Cushing's determination to be a Trojan despite family hoping he'd stay closer to home that somehow made the point that USC national recruiting was here to stay.

Class of 2006

The next year, USC jumped up to No. 1 with a class of 25 featuring the likes of Allen Bradford, C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson, Shareece Wright, Anthony McCoy, Taylor Mays, David Ausberry, Stanley Havili and David Buehler.

But how about making El Gallo Negro, as he's called on the fight posters, Gerald Washington, as the guy in this class who represented USC's willingness to think out of the box for the Navy veteran turned tight end from San Jose who is now, at the age of 32, an undefeated (15-0) challenger for a heavyweight boxing title.

Class of 2007

USC's No. 2-ranked 2007 bunch may have given us the best single recruiting video moment of the decade with that hilarious live shot (at least from a USC perspective) as an LSU boosters group of some 1,000 fans watched Joe McKnight pick up the USC hat and went Bayou Bengal berserk. That's when you knew the world was changing in terms of coverage and interest in recruiting. Broderick Green, Christian Tupou, Ron Johnson, Malcolm Smith, Everson Griffen, Kris O'Dowd, Marc Tyler and Chris Galippo were in that class but the one that jumps out, even if we could never get him to talk much about it, was the workaholic, self-made son of a Trojan who taught everyone, coaches included, what it took. Rhett Ellison, shown in his Vikings gear here, was special although we didn't know it on signing day.

Class of 2008

Now this was a star-studded Trojan class you can watch on Sunday, Monday, Thursday or whenever it is the NFL plays these days. Ranked just No. 9 nationally, all this bunch did was produce Matt Kalil, Tyron Smith, Jurrell Casey, Khaled Holmes, Brice Butler, Wes Horton and the medically challenged Armond Armstead among others. One 2008 Trojan we'll always smile about -- because that was how we always saw him despite the nagging injuries he was forced to play through -- is Nick Perry. From Detroit. Nick was another national recruit who wanted SC, and like so many others in this special class, we get to watch him at the next level as he gives Clay Matthews a Trojan bud in Green Bay.

Class of 2009

Matt Barkley headed -- and we mean that in every way we can say it for his four years here -- this No. 8-ranked class that would have to contend with three years of NCAA sanctions but Devon Kennard, T.J. McDonald, Kevin Greene and Kevin Graf all made it through to the next level in different time frames as did Frankie Telfort, in another way, and Jarvis Jones, after both ran into medical issues. Frankie would make it as a student coach and NFL intern while Jarvis would have to return to Georgia where he became the nation's No 1 linebacker after USC wouldn't clear him medically.

Class of 2010

In the teeth of the sanctions came the sixth-ranked Class of 2010 and all we need to say are the names Robert Woods, Hayes Pullard, Nickell Robey and Randall Telfer who headed up that 19-man star-crossed group with Dillon Baxter, Markeith Ambles, D.J. Morgan, Xavier Grimble, Anthony Brown, George Uko, Christian Thomas, Jesse Scroggins and Dion Bailey. This class had the triumph of Robert and Nickell, the steady leadership of Hayes and Randall, the failings and/or falling away of Dillon, Markeith, Kyle, Anthony and Jesse, the early leavings of Dion and Xavier and the career-limiting injuries to D.J. and Christian. This class had it all. And it reminded us of the way things work out: Robert and Nickell are two-year NFL vets while classmates Hayes and Randall are just finishing up their senior seasons.

Class of 2011

What a lot to like about this sixth-ranked Class of 29 that Lane Kiffin managed to take while the scholarship sanctions were put off a year when USC appealed. It doesn't get a lot better than Biletnikoff winner Marqise Lee, then-17-year-old Marcus Martin, J.R. Tavai, record-breaking placekicker Andre Heidari, and still with more to come from Heisman candidate Cody Kessler along with Tre Madden and Antwaun Woods. But it was one player, Buck Allen, who didn't leave no matter how tough it got for him and had one of the great USC careers -- on and off the field. We can only wish him the same at the next level.

Class of 2012

The numbers really caught up with the Trojans this year so the 15-man class was ranked just 20th nationally. But with 6-foot-5, 265-pound semi-sleeper Leonard Williams out of Daytona Beach, the 103rd-ranked player, there was no dropoff in quality. That same tag applies to Nelson Agholor, Max Tuerk, Zach Banner and the ever-silent JC guy, Morgan Breslin. The good news here: Max has another year, Zach maybe two. Not that Big Leonard wasn't enough good news for a number of classes.

Class of 2013

Another NCAA-limited class, just 12 here, but still managed a Top 20 spot at No. 18 led by the top "athlete" in the class, Su'a Cravens, who seemed ready to go from Day 1. Justin Davis will be a mainstay at tailback with Max Browne the QB in waiting. Leon McQuay III has managed to work his way into the lineup with Chris Hawkins at times but for the most part, the second-year guys here are waiting for the chance to to step up, to get fully healthy or just to gain weight. We're talking Steven Mitchell, Michael Hutchings, Quinton Powell, Nico Falah and the Delaware duo of Khaliel Rodgers and Kenny Bigelow. Keep an eye on who makes their move here.

Class of 2014

The thing about the Class of 2014 that will make it stand alone is how many true freshmen found their ways to starting roles for a Top-25 team that won nine games and probably should have won a couple more. But more than that, several became leaders -- Juju Smith with his play and his vocal ways and Adoree Jackson just by being Adoree. The trio of freshman offensive linemen -- Toa Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama -- were as advertised, freshmen with real potential playing the toughest position in college football for a true freshman to master. Add tight end Bryce Dixon and safety John Plattenburgh to the mix and that's a heck of a contributing rookie class.

And now there's a new crew headed this way. Just watched the wall-to-wall video highlights of Ronald Jones again and all you can say is "Wow." Will the NCAA require USC to put a governor on him to keep people from making the comparison to the banished you-know-who whose name is never to be mentioned?

Although hearing how Porter Gustin recently threw a 93-mph fastball and plays above the rim at 6-4 and 240 pounds while shooting 80 percent from the line, the thought of this quarterback/linebacker growing up as we watch him just makes you smile at the possibilities.

And yet he's just one of two special athletes from Utah coming this way along with Osa Masina as natural a big linebacker as you'll ever see. How about that. USC gets the two best players in years from a state whose team the Trojans couldn't manage to beat last fall. We're saying that starting in 2015, that can no longer happen.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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