Gerard Martinez |

USC May Evaluation preview

USC coaches are hitting the road this week, and to follow up on our May Evaluation War Room report, we look at the questions coming up on the recruiting trails for the Trojans.

Although it’s still April, the May Evaluation Period has begun for high school football recruits nation wide. USC will be scouring the country to find 24 players to sign in the 2017 class. 

USC currently has approximately 43 scholarship offers out to offensive prospects for 2017, while the Trojans have already offered scholarships to 64 defensive prospects. With more than 100 scholarship offered in the 2017 class before the May Evaluation Period, it’s hard to see USC making the next month and a half about finding additional prospects. 

Instead, the evaluation period will most likely be about weeding out targets and prioritizing the recruiting board. In today’s world of college football recruiting, scholarship offers are little more than a icebreaker for prospects with good film or a lot of hype. A scholarship offer is flowers on a first date rather than a marriage proposal. 

With that said, USC fans eagerly await the process playing out as plots and subplots thicken like stirred oatmeal over a stove. As the Trojans new coaching staff hits the road seven assistants at a time, some questions about the 2017 class will be answered while more may be raised. 

Will USC sign a scholarship fullback?

In January, team sources were convinced that the fullback position would be eliminated from the Trojans offense moving forward. However, after pursuing several walk-on options at the position and moving walk-ons on the roster to fullback, it appears USC could very well be in the market for a fullback. 

Two issues exist when recruiting fullbacks. First, that position is going extinct in most high school offenses, which means USC will have to project some running backs and linebacker targets as potential fullbacks in college. 

Two, while USC did use some two back sets in spring practice, it’s clear most of offensive coordinator Tee Martin’s scheme will rely on running the football out of the shotgun formation. Thus, the fullback position is more of a specialty position for USC. With needs at defensive line, inside linebacker and cornerback, it may be difficult to pull the trigger on a specialty player that is only on the field for 10-percent of the offense’s snaps. 

Fullback may be a position that is marginalized with long snappers and kickers. Players at these positions can be targeted with scholarship offers while others earn them as a walk-ons. Reuben Peters was an inside linebacker at USC that has now moved to fullback. His development may warrant a scholarship before USC wants to recruit that option out of high school. 

USC also signed Mililani (Hawaii) four-star running back Vavae Malepeai last February. While Malepaei has been viewed strictly as a running back for USC, he is a bigger running back at about 6-foot, 210-pounds. There is the potential that he develops into a Malaefou Mackenzie or Stanley Havili type of fullback for USC down the line. 

Of the prospects available in the 2017 class that could play fullback for USC, Irvine (Calif.) Woodbridge running back Connor McBride has the frame and tape that is intriguing enough for an evaluation. There’s always the potential that a tight end like Roseville (Calif.) four-star Jimmy Jaggers or Los Alamitos (Calif.) two-star Drew Platt are brought in at a H-Back role. 

Will USC lose Tua to the Tide?

Since last fall, USC’s No. 1 recruiting target at quarterback this cycle has been Honolulu (Hawaii) four-star Tua Tagovailoa. However, after an unofficial visit to Auburn, Ole Miss and Alabama, some sources have been adamant that Tagovailoa will end up committing to the Tide. 

Tagovailoa has been viewed by some close to his recruitment as a silent commitment, but such pledges are only as good as the paper they’re not written on. One coaching source in the SEC implied that Tagovailoa’s family wants to move within driving distance of Tua’s college choice. 

The price of living in Alabama is much more affordable than in Los Angeles, which Tagovailoa’s father would mention in an interview after the family trip to the Deep South. While USC may be confident in still landing Tagovailoa, there is enough buzz about him ending up at Alabama to raise further questions about quarterback recruiting for the Trojans. 

Who would USC recruit if Tagovailoa spurned them for Alabama? Las Vegas (Nev.) five-star quarterback Tate Martell was someone USC was recruiting before he made a commitment to Texas A&M. Martell recently re-opened his recruitment stating that he will still take all five of his official visits next fall. 

USC could pass on taking a quarterback this cycle, but with freshman Matt Fink looking a long ways away from contributing and sophomore Jalen Greene potentially moving back to wide receiver, the Trojans would leave themselves vulnerable if Max Browne or Sam Darnold were to get injured. If Browne were to transfer this summer, USC would be forced to take a quarterback in 2017, while praying Darnold stays healthy this season. 

The quarterback position has some decent depth locally in 2017 as well. San Clemente (Calif.) quarterback Jack Sears, Calabasas (Calif.) quarterback Tristan Gebbia and Newport Beach (Calif.) quarterback Chase Garbers are just a few names holding scholarship offers from multiple conferences. 

So… is USC done recruiting wide receivers? 

At present date, USC does look like the destination for Corona (Calif.) four-star wide out Tyjon Lindsey. But there’s an interesting sub plot to his recruitment already developing. Well, there are actually a few, but the most pertinent is the numbers game USC is playing with at receiver. 

USC told Lindsey and other recruits at their junior day that they were only taking two wide outs in the 2017 class. USC had a commitment from Mobile (Ala.) three-star wide receiver Marlon Williams at that time and last weekend obtained the commitment of Las Vegas (Nev.) Desert Pines three-star athlete Randal Grimes

USC recruited Grimes as a wide receiver and that is the position he prefers to play. Now, at 6-foot-5, 210-pounds, many project Grimes to play tight end or outside linebacker in college. USC could have just recruited him as an athlete, but with Grimes going on record about playing wide receiver, it raises questions about the Trojans still pursuing Lindsey and Los Angeles (Calif.) five-star wide receiver Joseph Lewis

Granted, while Lindsey is listed as a wide out by Scout, USC has been recruiting him in a quasi Adoree Jackson role for their offense. So in essence, Lindsey may be the one who blurs the line as to how many wide receivers USC is actually taking in 2017. Perhaps the answer to where Grimes plays will be found in how USC recruits the tight end position moving forward. The Trojans are aiming to take two tight ends in 2017 and have eight scholarships out at that position not counting Grimes. 

Will less become more in Florida?

As stated, USC WILL likely decrease the number of players they are actively recruiting in May. USC has roughly 32 active scholarship offers out in Florida, but a vast majority of those offers were made based on film or word of mouth. 

Speaking to a few sources in Florida, once the USC coaching staff gets eyes on the majority of prospects they’ve offered scholarships to, the weeding out process will begin. That is both from a talent evaluation standpoint and a signing percentage standpoint. 

USC is recruiting players like Pembroke (Fla.) five-star cornerback Stanford Samuels III very hard, but our sources say he is a lock to go elsewhere. On the other hand, there are players in Florida who may seem like reaches but end up proving to be more attainable. 

Lauderdale (Fla.) four-star safety Daniel Wright confirmed this week that he plans on attending the Rising Stars Camps at USC in June. Those unofficial visits can separate the pretenders of the contenders when it comes time to schedule official visits later in the year. While additional scholarship offers may still go out to Florida prospects, expect the number of active recruits in the state to be between 12-18 instead of 25-30. 

How many commits will USC have by September?

Who cares? As we’ve seen in year’s past, early commitment means as much as early scholarship offers. It is projected USC will have seven to 10 commitments by the time the season rolls around, but kids commit only to simultaneously announce that they will take all five of their official visits in one fell swoop. 

If USC only wins seven games next season, the class will be reduced to a core group of early entrants and a scramble for last minute local options to fill out the 24 available spots. If USC wins 11 games, the staff will pick and choose needs from the best players still available nationally on their board. 

Summoning the skills of Youree Dell Harris and her translucent ball of predictions, USC’s pre-season class should be solid. Corona (Calif.) four-star wide out Tyjon Lindsey, Roseville (Calif.) four-star tight end Jimmy Jaggers, Bellflower (Calif.) five-star offensive lineman Wyatt Davis, San Diego (Calif.) three-star linebacker Sampson Niu, Hayward (Calif.) four-star linebacker Addison Gumbs and Santa Margarita (Calif.) three-star center Brett Neilon could all end up Trojans before September.

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