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USC 2016 Recruiting Class Grades

USC signed five receivers, but did the Trojans answer all their offensive needs in the 2016 class? We break down each position by grade.

Quarterback: Needed 1 || Signed 1 || Grade: B-

Early in the 2016 recruiting cycle, we questioned whether USC really needed a quarterback in this class. However, with Max Browne eligible to transfer this summer without penalty as a graduate, the staff was right to move quickly to offer scholarships to Shea Patterson and K.J. Costello. 

The mistake Steve Sarkisian made was giving each quarterback the ultimatum of first come, first serve on their commitment. The Trojans ended up striking out on both Patterson and Costello, eventually offering Matt Fink a scholarship. Fink is not your prototypical USC pocket quarterback. Style wise, his athleticism is as much of a strength as his arm. Although Fink isn’t cat-like quick, he does have impressive top end speed if he finds a crease in the defense. That is an important part of his game as his passing skills are unrefined and he won't stretch the field with his arm strength.


In more than a decade, the Trojans haven’t fielded a quarterback with less than a four-star rating coming out high school. Both Garrett Green and Jalen Greene would eventually move from quarterback to wide receiver. Fink is also not the gregarious front-man for the program USC fans have become accustomed to in recent years. Fink is quiet and avoids media attention, so it will be interesting to watch his development at USC on and off the field. Development is a key word with Fink as he will need time before being able to contribute as a passer for the Trojans.

 

Running Back: Needed 0 || Signed 1 || Grade: A

Technically, USC did not need to sign a running back in the 2016 class, but no Trojan fan will turn down stealing an Army All-American running back from Pac-12 rival Oregon. At the 11th hour, the Trojans nabbed Mililani (Hawaii) four-star tailback Vavae Malepeai away from the Ducks, giving USC an immediate replacement for departing senior Tre Madden. 

Signing three tailbacks last year in Dominic Davis, Aca’Cedric Ware and Ronald Jones II, this gives USC five solid options in the offensive backfield with a stacked class of running backs for 2017 on the horizon. Malepeai, although a combo back at 200 pounds, has the ability to put on some weight and become more of a power back for the Trojans. 

But that should take away from his great all-around ability as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. Malepeai has all of the intangibles of vision, work ethic and intelligence to be a great player for the Trojans as a tailback. That will be needed as USC is eliminating the fullback position from their offense this season.

If there’s any downside to signing Malepeai, it is that it came in place of bringing in another defensive tackle or inside linebacker. But by the last weekend of the 2016 recruiting cycle, there were no players at either of those positions that USC could have signed that were on par with Malepeai talent wise.  

Wide Receiver: Needed 4 || Signed 5 || Grade: A+

Oh how USC fans love to debate wide receiver recruiting. While some Trojan fans would like to have seen USC use those scholarships at other positions, this is a good example of the coaching staff being cognizant of the two-year recruiting cycle. While USC didn’t lose any receivers in 2016, they will lose three, if not four receivers in 2017. That’s including the draft eligible Juju Smith-Schuster.

Having one or two wide outs contribute as freshmen wouldn’t be a big deal, but no program wants to be in the position of having to possibly start multiple freshmen. This was the year to stack up on wide outs in California and that’s what USC did. Now the coaching staff will have a year with the 2016 class before having to depend on them for major minutes. 

USC signed an assortment of wide outs. Tyler Vaughns is the smooth possession receiver who lacks top end speed, but has uncanny ball skills and tremendous hands. Michael Pittman is the jumbo athlete of the group. While some projected Pittman to play linebacker or tight end in college a year ago, his senior season reinforced his talents as a wide out. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Pittman really could contribute on either side of the football in many ways. 

The same can be said for Trevon Sidney. Although he will start out on the offensive side of the ball, Sidney’s lack of production as a receiver his last two years at Bishop Amat leaves the door open for him to possibly get a look at cornerback. 

Josh Imatorbhebhe and Velus Jones are the two out-of-state signings at wide receiver. Both players come in to USC somewhat overlooked regionally, but both offer unique abilities to this group. Imatorbhebhe has the power build of Smith-Schuster, but actually has much better top-end speed. Jones speed and quickness was demonstrated at the Trojans Rising Stars Camp last summer. 

While this class is heavy on possession receivers, Jones has the ability to separate from defenders down the field. Although Keyshawn Young is expected to start out playing cornerback at USC, there is the possibility he also gets a look on the offensive side of the football due to his short area quickness and speed.

Tight End: Needed 2 || Signed 1 || Grade: B

USC set out to sign two tight ends in the 2016 class and came out with one. The good news is that Cary Angeline is going to be a player who can do some damage at that position for years to come. At 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, Angeline is a good basketball player who played a lot of wide receiver for Downingtown East. He has deceptive speed and a massive catch radius. 

The bad news is that USC doesn’t return any dynamic tight ends on the roster and will be forced to make due for the time being. Tyler Petite played well in his first year as a true freshman, and Taylor McNamara has another year to be an unsung hero in goal line passing situations. So USC will have to do more with less losing out on several tight end prospects in the 2016 class. The most notable miss was Concord (Calif.) De La Salle tight end Devin Asiasi. Granted, with Asiasi’s size, he may end up being a bigger miss as a defensive linemen at Michigan.  

Offensive Line: Needed 2 || Signed 3 || Grade: A

USC has recruited well on the offensive line the past two cycles, so 2016 was really a bridge year to add depth. The Trojans pick up two good offensive tackles, which are always hard to find, and another top guard. Lawrenceville (Ga.) four-star offensive tackle E.J. Price was plucked out of the Southeast on signing day. At 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Price was one of the first prospects USC offered a scholarship to in the 2016 class. 

Price has great feet to go with a truly nasty streak as a run blocker. Price could play right or left tackle, giving USC three deep at either position in 2016. 

The other offensive tackle will be Nathan Smith. One of the most highly sought after offensive tackles on the West Coast, Smith is a bit underdeveloped physically to play immediately, although his January enrollment will give him a chance to see a college weight room six months ahead of the rest of the freshman class. Certainly, Smith is no worse off than Chad Wheeler, who came to USC at 250-pounds out of high school. Whether Smith has Wheeler’s knee bend and athleticism remains to be seen. 

Frank Martin II wants to play offensive tackle at USC, but is projected to play on the interior. Another big body at 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, Martin II will be a nice asset in the run-blocking department for USC whether he is playing on the scout team or on Saturday’s next season. Taking an extra offensive linemen in this class shows that Clay Helton wants to reinforce the trenches at USC with a more power-run based offense. 


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