Breakdown of Defensive Recruits by Sarkisian

Head coach Steve Sarkisian breaks down USC's defensive recruiting class by position group and individual recruits.

For nearly 30 minutes in the McKay Center Wednesday afternoon, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian talked about the Trojans' top-ranked recruiting class during his National Signing Day news conference.

Sarkisian spent time discussing the 2015 class as a whole and the vision he has for the program as the Trojans' depth continues to get stronger, but he also talked about the position groups and the incoming players.

Due to NCAA rules, the coaches aren't allowed to speak about individual recruits until they have signed a financial aid agreement, so other than the early enrollees this was the first time that Sarkisian (or any of the coaching staff) could talk about the players incoming this fall. Here's what Sarkisian had to say about the individual defensive recruits and their position groups:

On Defense:

- As you can probably tell, there was real emphasis put on size and speed, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
- We really tried to get more size, more length.
- At times last year, we got pushed around a little bit….We need to build a football team that has the potential to be a bully. I think this class, when you look at this defensive class especially, there’s the potential there. Now we have to develop that and we have to develop the skill sets and the mindset and all those things. But to be a really good defense, you need to be a bully. I’m not saying that in a negative tone, but when you look at really good defenses at any level, they’ve got a bully mentality. It comes from a mindset, but you’ve also got to have the physical tools to be able to do that.

On Defensive Linemen:

- You look at the front seven, all of those guys have great height. The shortest defensive lineman we recruited is 6-foot-4. They’re all 280-290-300+.
- This is a big, physical, good-looking group. Jacob Daniel, Rasheem Green, Noah Jefferson, Kevin Scott, Chrisitan Rector. All of these guys big, long, strong. I know we talk about Leonard [Williams] leaving this year, but probably more importantly, if you look at our defensive line depth chart and you look at how many seniors we have on it that are going to be leaving after this season. That’s why there was such an emphasis on the defensive line this year. That’s why we took so many in this year’s class because we know what’s going to be leaving after this season. Some of these guys will have an immediate impact on our team this year, but more importantly, these five guys are going to have a huge impact moving forward in two years.

Las Vegas (Nev.) Liberty three-star Noah Jefferson:

- I love his upside. Noah was a basketball player. He has really good feet for a man his size. He was a tight end. All of his film was at tight end and you really see his athleticism releasing off the line of scrimmage. His hands, his footwork, his body control, his ball skills and then to think, we get him now and on his official visit, he’s 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds and he’s just figuring out the game. I think this guy’s upside is just unbelievable. You know, [we’re] excited to take the physical tools and then start to shape them into a defensive lineman. There’s going to be some transition there, but he definitely has the physical tools to be a really good one.

On Linebackers:

- The linebacking corps they’re all 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 body types.
- The linebacking corps there is a little bit of a difference. We wanted taller, longer, rangier type bodies. Porter Gustin, John Houston, Osa Masina, Cam Smith. All of them for as big as they are, they’re really good athletes.

Salem Hills (Utah) four-star Porter Gustin:

- Porter Gustin was a quarterback, plays basketball, throws 90 miles per hour as a pitcher.
- He’s going to be a great leader for us. This guy’s got it written all over him. How quickly that occurs, we’ll see. I don’t think anyone would have envisioned Juju Smith being one of our leaders halfway through the year last year and that happened. Some guys have that innately and it happens quickly. Some guys it might take a year or two, but I think this guy’s got it in his blood.
- I don’t know about [Gustin playing] basketball, but I would imagine Coach [Dan] Hubbs is going to want him to be somewhat of a closer for him. He was hitting 93 on the gun last week and hadn’t thrown a baseball in about a month. He’s got a big, live arm and there’s a history here of football players going over and playing baseball. I know it hasn’t been as recent, but some really good football players have been on that baseball team over there, so I know Coach Hubbs is chomping at the bit.

Gardena (Calif.) Serra four-star John Houston:

- John Houston, a really good athlete at linebacker, great range.

Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton five-star Osa Masina:

- Osa Masina plays tailback, tight end, running back. Both Porter and Osa we’re going to look at some on the offensive side of the ball as well to potentially have a role for them there too.

Granite Bay (Calof.) four-star Cameron Smith:

- And then Cam Smith is your typical middle linebacker that I really felt like we needed on our roster. We needed a big, physical, tough middle linebacker, who can rush the passer through the A-gaps. Cam does that for us.

On Defensive Backs:

- Then even into the secondary, all of those DBs are 6-foot and/or taller.
- All four of these guys are very athletic, rangy players.

Pleasanton (Calif.) Foothill four-star Isaiah Langley:

- We’re going to look at him some on the offensive side of the ball when we get in training camp. He has the potential as a wide receiver type body, but he is a fantastic corner.

Long Beach (Calif.) Poly five-star Iman Marshall:

- Obviously, Iman Marshall is a big physical corner. Press man-to-man type guy, which is something we talked about last season, we wanted to be more physical in the secondary and wanted to play more press man coverage. I think Iman potentially gives us that down the road.
- Well he’s unique. He’s unique because he plays with a real physical style. Most corners, especially in high school, they don’t understand the physicality of the game. It’s about footwork and ladder drills and cone drills and all the stuff they do. Iman does all those things, but it’s a mentality. He’s going to line up and he’s going to get nose-to-nose and he’s going to try to beat you up at the line of scrimmage. In our conference because there’s so much of the quick little, quick game throws, the bubble screens, the hitches, all of those things that have become such a big part of college football, these big physical corners are huge for us to take those away. To be able to come up and play hard press, man-to-man and have the confidence to know that I can still cover this guy, if he goes deep. Iman has all of that. It doesn’t all just come naturally to him — this guy works his tail off — but he’s very bright. He’s got a very high football IQ. And ultimately that’s going to lead to, not only his own personal success, but it’s really going to help us as a defense.
- [on commitment video] I thought it was really cool. I thought it was well done. I don’t know if it was totally planned for 10 minutes before he was going to announce it, but all in all, I thought it was very well done.

Riverside (Calif.) Poly four-star Ykili Ross:

- Again another big, physical corner at almost 6-foot-1. But also a guy that can also play receiver. At the U.S. Army All-American game, they played him at wide receiver in that game. We’ll get a shot to look at him over there.

Encino (Calif.) Crespi four-star Marvel Tell:

- And then Marvell Tell, a really good-looking safety. What I like about him, the game I went to, not only did he play safety, but then he went out and played corner in man-to-man on the best wide receiver on the other team. So he gives us that versatility that we talked about at the safety position that we were looking for. Safeties that can play the run, be more physical, but also can play man coverage against all the spread teams we’re seeing.

And here's the entire news conference, if you are interested in hearing the comments yoursef:


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