Trojans No. 1 class 'exactly as expected'

It took a lot to get to this point, Sark said of USC's big, deep, rangy, fast and physical No. 1 recruiting class, but in the end, it played out perfectly.

Well played, Steve Sarkisian, well played.

That's the way a USC coach gets it done. Cool, calm, collected, happy as can be the way that things turned out with Wednesday's No. 1-in-the-nation signing class.

But that No. 1 thing was more a byproduct, just the way Sark says -- and as his mentor Pete Carroll always preached about the way the NFL should be a byproduct of team success in college. Recruiting rankings are nothing more than that -- something that says you have a chance.

And a team. And now Sark has the team, after two recruiting classes and a full one following three years of NCAA sanctions, to maybe get it done. Or as the multi-talented Porter Gustin seemed to decide, to be in the national championship hunt the same as the Ohio State team he turned down to come to Troy.

'What a great day for our program," Sark opened, then added this footnote for a timeline much more than that: "With recruiting you have a year."

You don't get here without starting the process a year ago when everyone was excited about the 1-2-3 finish of Adoree Jackson, Juju Smith and Damien Mama even though Sark admitted that class "wasn't perfect."

This one, however, may not be perfect but Wednesday's haul of 14 players plus two blueshirts to be named later (Clayton Johnston and Deontay Burnett), well, it's pretty special.

How about 12 of's Top 100 players. You know how many Pac-12 teams it takes to get the next 12 Top 100 guys -- five counting UCLA (six), Oregon (three), Arizona State (one), Washington (one) and Stanford (one).

They address all the issues: size, speed, physicality, numbers and competitiveness with large athletic linebackers; big, tall, 300-plus pound defensive linemen with room -- lots of room -- to develop; rangy receivers, a couple of them; a 6-foot-6 tight end who can catch the ball; versatile cover corners who are "rangy," there's that word again, and 'physical" -- we're talking about you "Biggie" . . . and multitalented.

Porter hasn't thrown a baseball in months and got it up to 93 the other day after basketball practice where the 6-4, 245-pound quarterback/linebacker plays above the rim and shoots 80 percent from the line. Could he start in all three sports here? Baseball, for sure, Sark said. The kid's a closer.

And Osa Masina, how often do you get a 245-pound linebacker who played tailback in high school and can stop-start and change directions on a dime. And just the way Adoree did last fall, look for each of them to get some run on offense.

The numbers -- and the freshman athletes -- made USC do it last season and they figured out how. Now they can do it because they want to and it's the smart thing to do.

But that only happens with the right recruits. And as you look down the line at the 26 of them, you have to think that for this program at this time, these are the right recruits. USC owns Southern California and pretty much the whole state for starters. The breakdown -- 19 Cali kids to seven out-of-staters -- is just that way it should be for USC, Sark says.

"When we get on a plane," he said, the thinking is they're going to look at a kid "who could be a first-round NFL draft pick." And so they think it is with these guys.

So for Porter and Osa and offensive tackle Chuma Edoga from Georgia and Texans Ronald Jones and Aca'Cedric Ware, the hat is on you guys. And for those who like home run hitters, how about the under-the-radar Jones.

How can that be? Under the radar? The kid some say is the best running back in Texas and in the nation? "The steal in this year's class," said one expert on speed and prospects we won't ID here. But Jones just may be.

If you do nothing else to catch up on this year's class, watch the Jones highlight tape. It's amazing. He has an extra gear. And he will not get caught from behind. By anyone. Sound familiar? It should. USC hasn't had a Ronald Jones for quite some time. He'll keep defenses honest. Don't believe me. Look for yourself.

"These guys will win a lot of football games," Sark said. "Some will contribute right away."

And "they'll have 29 practices to get ready for Arkansas State," Sark said of the 21 not arriving until the summer. "It's our job to get them ready."

And if Sark can follow the pattern he and his coaches used to put this class together, the calm decision-making that went into it, the relationship-building that matters more than anything, the competing all out because you know you have a better product, he'll have a chance.

"It turned out exactly how we thought it would," Sark said. And now it's "back to work," as Cody Kessler tweeted, at 6 a.m. Thursday with the current players knowing there will be a couple of dozen new guys nipping at their heels.

And not just the players. "We have to put our best effort on the field every week," Sark said "We didn't do that last year."

They weren't physical enough to run the ball in the fourth quarter or make the big stop late. They just weren't tough enough when they had to be. "We had some holes in our game," Sark said.

"We need to build a team that has the potential to be a bully," Sark said. Signing four inside D-linemen who average 6-foot-5 and 314 pounds helps there.

It especially should help in 2016 after the top five returnees next fall depart and with Alabama as the opening opponent. Just one example, Sark said: Noah Jefferson.

He's 6-6, 330 pounds, a former basketball player turned tight end with quick feet and maybe unlimited potential but with a way to go. His dad, Ben, played for Maryland and then in the NFL for Cleveland, the LA Raiders and Indianapolis. And now here he is.

"I love his upside," Sark said, "his upside is unbelievable."

In this class, in this year, Noah does not appear to be alone on this Trojan football ark.

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