Trojan targets getting open

USC will have two current commitments at The Opening Finals this year, which is the lowest total number of Trojans represented at the event to date. However, like most every year, USC will also have more than a dozen other prospects placing the Trojans among their top five favorite college choices going into the 2017 season.

The lack of representation for USC may speak for the football team’s current state, or it may speak to the current state of recruiting. USC had five commitments going into The Opening Finals at this time last year, but that included Mique Juarez, Dalein Hayes and Melquise Stovall. None of those players signed with the Trojans in February.

In total, 167 athletes will compete in NIKE Combine testing, a seven-on-seven tournament and position drills Tuesday through Thursday. Linemen will also go head-to-head in helmets and shoulder pads, which is a unique drill to The Opening Finals.

All players are divided up into six teams, Alpha Pro, Fly Rush, Hypercool, Lunarbeast, Mach Speed and Vaporspeed. Fly Rush will have the most Trojan targets for USC fans to watch for.

[THE OPENING FINALS FULL TEAM ROSTERS]


FLY RUSH TARGETS
RB Stephen Carr WR Joseph Lewis DB Bubba Bolden
LB Addison Gumbs LB Baron Browning DB A.J. Terrell

Featuring Fontana (Calif.) Summit five-star running back Stephen Carr and Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman four-star safety Bubba Bolden, Fly Rush also has two intriguing uncommitted prospects.

Nebraska and Arizona have monopolized the headlines in the recruitment of Los Angeles (Calif.) Augustus Hawkins five-star wide receiver Joseph Lewis, but USC will be among his favorite schools until signing day. Lewis is one of the more accomplished seven-on-seven players at The Opening, so he should have a good showing.

UCLA was consider the early leader for Hayward (Calif.) Stellar Prep four-star linebacker Addison Gumbs, but since the spring USC, Washington and Nebraska have given him enough to think about that he pushed back his original commitment date in June. Gumbs could make a college decision in Beaverton (Ore.) next week, but has not set an exact date for an announcement.

MACH SPEED TARGETS
DB Salvon Ahmed DB Jaylon Johnson DB Grant Delpit DB Darnay Holmes

Team Mach Speed has several cusp Trojan recruiting targets, including former USC commit Amari Rodgers. Now committed to Clemson, the Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic four-star wide out is the son of current USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin. The main targets to watch for will be at defensive back.

Kirkland (Wash.) Juanita four-star athlete Salvon Ahmed missed the Rising Stars Camp this summer, but USC is still considered among the favorites in his recruitment. The same goes for Fresno (Calif.) Central four-star cornerback Jaylon Johnson. Both defensive backs are powerfully built and give Mach Speed a good deal of versatility in their secondary.

Calabasas (Calif.) five-star cornerback Darnay Holmes joins the group. Holmes had all but eliminated USC from consideration earlier in the year, but recently brought the Trojans back into the mix after an unofficial visit to campus. Grant Delpit, formerly of Houston (Texas) Lamar, has now moved to Bradenton, Fla. to play for the IMG Academy. He also raved about his unofficial visit to USC last spring, but his move into SEC country makes him an even tougher pull for the Trojans.

LUNERBEAST TARGETS
QB Jack Sears RB J.K. Dobbins DB Maleik Gray
LB Anthony Hines LB Dylan Moses DB Shaun Wade

Last year, Lunerbeast was stacked with USC commits. This year, Lunerbeast has a few USC hopeful targets. Of the group, San Clemente (Calif.) four-star quarterback Jack Sears, La Vergne (Tenn.) four-star safety Maliek Gray, Plano (Texas) East five-star linebacker Anthony Hines and Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian four-star cornerback Shaun Wade have all unofficially visited USC.

Brandenton (Fla.) five-star athlete Dylan Moses is another IMG transplant, who still has USC in his top five favorite schools. Truth be told, if USC landed any prospects from team Lunerbeast, it would be considered a pleasant surprise at present date. Most see Sears going to UCLA now and every other player on the Lunerbeast roster is committed elsewhere except Hines.

VAPORSPEED TARGETS
QB Tua Tagovailoa RB Najee Harris TE Trey McKitty

Antioch (Calif.) five-star running back Najee Harris is one of the few repeat Opening Finals participants. Harris was good last year, but figures to be a more prominent star for Vaporspeed this year. Harris recently unofficially visited USC for the Rising Stars Camp. While he did not participate in the camp, the Trojans coaching staff spent the morning session hanging out with him. Harris remains committed to Alabama, although it’s clear that pledge is tenuous.

The other notable prospect for Vaporspeed is Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis School four-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Also committed to Alabama, Tagovailoa remains in contact with USC weekly and there is a very good chance he officially visits Los Angeles before the recruiting process is finalized.

Tagovailoa has had good showings and mediocre ones over the past two years. The seven-on-seven passing tournament and subsequent position drills will test Tagovailoa extensively. Whether he can display consistency in his decision making and mastery of the short to intermediate passing game remains to be seen. If Jack Sears does commit to UCLA, Washington or another school other than USC, all eyes will be back on Tagovailoa.

ALPHA PRO TARGETS
WR Jalen Hall DB Marco Wilson DB Patrick Surtain

Los Angeles (Calif.) Augustus Hawkins five-star wide out Jalen Hall has been ranked by Scout as the No. 1 player at his position in the 2018 class. That’s a huge honor, and while Hall has played alongside Joseph Lewis his whole high school career, he now will get an opportunity to shine on his own. Can he show the type of dominant ability a 6-foot-5 wide out needs to in order to hold on to his lofty ranking? We will see.

Joining Hall will be another top end 2018 recruit. Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage five-star Patrick Surtain is a tall, lanky cornerback who fits exactly what USC defense coordinator Clancy Pendergast wants in his secondary. Surtain has USC among his top choices, although pulling him out of the South will be very difficult.

USC does have a few angles to work in his recruitment, and there is a possibility he makes an unofficial visit to Los Angeles in the near future. However, like Shaun Wade and other high end Florida talent USC is recruiting, Surtain won’t be advertising his interest in the Trojans when it matters.

That segues into the recruitment of four-star cornerback Marco Wilson. Another prospect from American Heritage, a high school USC running backs coach Tommie Robinson once coached at. Wilson made it out for the Rising Stars Camp in June. Many believe Wilson will end up a Florida Gator, but the Trojans have had good success recruiting against Florida in the recent past. That is particularly true when it comes to Plantation (Fla.) athletes, although Leonard Williams and Quinton Powell both went to Mainland High School.

Linemen Challenged and Questioned

The Opening Finals will also host several offensive and defensive linemen recruited heavily by USC. Pensacola (Fla.) Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood may be committed to Alabama, but his interest in USC has been high all spring. Leatherwood attended the Rising Stars Camp in June, spending the whole week in Los Angeles. 

On the offensive line, USC will continue to pursue new Ohio State commit Wyatt Davis. The biggest question about the Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco product this week is whether he will prove he can play offensive tackle or will move inside on the offensive line. Jackson (Tenn.) University School offensive tackle Trey Smith is another player USC has offered a scholarship to, although with a girth of offensive line talent out West, may not need to pursue much longer.

On the defensive line, USC is hot on the trail of South Jordan (Utah) Bingham four-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele. Of the prospects participating in the linemen challenge this week, Tufele is probably the most important prospect on the Trojans' hot board. Tufele was dominant at the Opening Oakland Regional, but his one-on-one matchups this week will be more difficult in full pads. Las Vegas (Nev.) Arbor View four-star defensive tackle Greg Rogers paired with Tufele at the Opening Oakland Regional in May, but struggled to assert his will in the same fashion. Rogers' stock could be in question, so a good performance this week may impact how hard the Trojans and others schools recruit him going forward.

USC is also among the top college choices for Virginia Beach (Va.) Frank W. Cox four-star defensive end Jordan Williams and Houston (Texas) Episcopal five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. Many consider Wilson the top prospect in the nation. Wilson is expected to unofficially visit USC in the coming weeks.


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