For the second time in three years, the USC assistant coaching staff is doing yeomen’s work recruiting without a head coach.
Somewhere between limbo and coaching for the next job, recruiting can appear simultaneously futile and very important. Uncertainty kills recruiting like a dash on strychnine in your salt shaker. Yet, the coaching staff continues to build relationships on the recruiting trail that could help them segue to a new job or solidify why the new head coach retains their services.
On the offensive side of the football, USC has six commits, not including Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian four-star athlete Michael Pittman and La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat four-star athlete Trevon Sidney. However, both Pittman and Sidney are being as wide receivers by the current staff.
USC presently has solid commitments from La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat four-star athlete Trevon Sidney, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat five-star wide receiver Tyler Vaughns and Glendora (Calif.) three-star quarterback Matt Fink.
Sidney and Vaughns both talked about taking official visits to other schools before and when they committed to USC last summer, but at the moment, neither has any trips set. Furthermore, both have work to do in the class room and see an opportunity to make an immediately impact at wide receiver next season.
One the theme that will become apparent on the offensive side of the football is the retention of Tee Martin s aside receivers coach. Martin has recruited extremely well at USC and turned out those high profile prospects into viable pro prospects. While Martin is linked to USC recruiting in the Southeast, he has also helped lock down Serra High School for the Trojans locally.
In fact, with the hiring of a run-spread head coach like Houston’s Tom Herman, Martin would likely be let loose on Serra quarterback Khalil Tate, who is currently committed to Arizona. In fact, Tate should be at the USC-Arizona game this weekend. USC already has the commitment of Matt Fink, who is also a very good athlete at the quarterback position and a mid-year graduate. Fink was expected to sign his early entrant financial aid papers the week Steve Sarkisian was fired.
Wait And See
Again, for the purpose of this feature, these are commits somewhere between signing with USC no matter what and those signing with USC as long as there are not drastic changes in the scheme or staff. Suwannee (Ga.) four-star wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe and Santa Ana (Calif.) four-star offensive lineman Frank Martin could be considered fringe solid commitments.
Both will take visits to other schools, but in truth, it will take a lot for Imatorbhebhe and Martin not sign with the Trojans. Martin is a long time USC fan from the Trojans stronghold of Orange County. Imatorbebhe is also originally from Orange County and his brother just recent transferred to USC from Florida.
|Josh Imatorbhebhe | Recruiter: Tee Martin | Factor: Position Coach | Status: Soft Verbal|
Elton (Pa.) four-star tight end Cary Angeline is in this category as well. While Angeline seemed like a long shot to commit to USC when he was first offered a scholarship, the 6-foot-7, 240-pound AAU basketball standout shut down his recruitment completely when he did announce his intentions to commit the Trojans. And while Angeline is still staying the course with his pledge, he also has serious questions about USC’s next head coach.
Some positions are minimally impacted by scheme, but tight ends are a dying breed in many college offenses. USC’s pro-style passing game and future plans at the tight end position were a big factor in Angeline’s decision to commit. He has stated he chose USC for reasons other than football as well, but understandably, he has no interest in playing for a team that does not utilize the position he plays.
Murrieta (Calif.) four-star offensive tackle Nathan Smith is in a different type of wait and see mode. Regardless of scheme, USC will need offensive tackles, so Smith’s concerns are based on the blocking scheme. Smith is a run-first offensive line who likes to dish out punishment rather than kick step and receive it as a pass blocker. Smith also wants to develop a relationship with his position coach. As a mid-year graduate he is concerned there will be no time for that to happen.
The defensive side of the football doesn’t have any true soft commits at present date, but the offensive side of the ball has two. Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian four-star athlete Michael Pittman and Saraland (Ala.) three-star wide out Velus Jones are both wavering from summer pledges.
Pittman committed to USC as a wide receiver and that is where this current staff planned to play him. However, with Sarkisian gone, Pittman wants the new blue print for where he will play and how he will be used by USC. That won’t happen until a new head coach is hired and Pittman is a mid-year graduate. Thus, UCLA, the school Pittman de-committed from to go to USC, is now back in the picture.
|Michael Pittman | Recruiter: Martin & Tuiasosopo | Factor: Position Preference | Status: Soft Verbal
Jones committed to USC sight unseen over the summer. Attending the Rising Stars Camp last June, Jones still wasn’t 100-percent certain about his commitment, stating “I’m pretty stuck on USC, but you never know what’s going to happen in the future.”
Growing up a Gator fan, Jones’ stock is rising in Southeast Region. Offered a scholarship by Oklahoma this week, the only way Jones stays committed to USC is if Tee Martin is retained. However, even if that does happen, Jones may still end up at Florida, Ole Miss or even Alabama. He will unofficially visit Tuscaloosa this weekend.
With Jones and Pittman wavering, USC is doing what it has done since Peter Sirmon has taken over as recruiting coordinator. The Trojans are proactively going after addition wide receivers and letting the cards fall where they may come signing day. One reason why USC has strung together two excellent recruiting classes is because they haven’t been afraid to pursue plan B while still pursuing plan A.
At the wide receiver position, USC offered a scholarship to Coconut Beach four-star wide out Binjimen Victor last week. USC is also still pushing Citra (Fla.) wide receiver Freddie Swain, who will likely still officially visit Los Angeles Nov. 28. While some Trojan fans have been critical of the staff’s over-recruitment of wide receivers, as the process plays out, they may be happy USC stacked the deck with options.
|Binjimen Victor | Recruiter: Tee Martin | Factor: Distance | Visit: TBD
USC has five wide receiver commits, and are poised to sign four-to-five when the dust settles. The Trojans only has five underclassmen on the roster at receiver, with Juju Smith-Schuster draft eligible after next season. So this is a position that USC needs numbers at regardless of scheme. If USC were to implement a more pass heavy scheme, an Air Raid style offense usually carries 12-15 scholarship wide receivers on the roster.
USC currently has 17 scholarship offers out to wide outs in the 2016 class, so come January, there could be a tremendous amount of turnover at this position. USC has recruited a player like Corona (Calif.) four-star wide out Javon McKinley since the spring, but all of that could change in the blink of an eye with a new head coach.
When Lane Kiffin was hired by USC in 2010, the Trojans had stopped recruiting five-star wide out Markeith Ambles after May Evaluations. But Kiffin had a relationship with Ambles at Tennessee and pushed to recruit him at USC. Todd McNair, who recruited Ambles on Pete Carroll’s staff and for Kiffin, had to go back to Atlanta to re-recruit the much-maligned receiver after cutting off contact with him in May. Simply put, USC is one of the few football programs that can pivot in recruiting quickly and successfully.
|Devin Asiasi | Recruiter: Marques Tuiasosopo | Factor: Position Preference | Visit: Jan. 22
In addition to cultivating more options at wide out, USC still wants to sign two tight ends in the 2016 class. Tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo has proven to be one of the more relentless recruiters nationally, and he already has the commitment of Cary Angeline. Tuiasosopo also has officially visits slated for Philadelphia (Pa.) four-star tight end Naseir Upshur and Concord (Calif.) four-star tight end Devin Asiasi. The question is, will USC’s next head coach use tight ends in his offensive system?
Tuiasosopo is showing his value beyond recruiting helping coach the quarterback position with Clay Helton now head coach. Both Tee Martin and Tuiasosopo have that ability, and that versatility makes it easier for the future head coach to retain each. But as positions go, our in-line tight ends have been shelved by many college offense. Upshur, who is currently committed to Florida State, is an interesting prospect because he is more of an H-back than a traditional pro-style tight end.
Scheme, relationships, and credibility will be the three main factors that either put USC among the nation’s top five or six recruiting classes or outside the top 10. With 14 committed players to date, USC is currently rated No. 17 nationally by Scout. With 21 rides available in 2016, blue shirts are still a possibility so long as USC stays under the 85 scholarship total. Buckle your seatbelt USC fans.