Quarterback: Needed 1 || Signed 1 || Grade: A
At the beginning of the 2017 recruiting cycle, USC did not need a quarterback. Having signed Matt Fink last year, the Trojans were three-deep at the position. However, when Sam Darnold was named the starter over Max Browne in September, the staff assumed correctly that Browne would transfer. At the time, Sears was committed to Duke. As former San Clemente quarteback, Sam Darnold led USC to a turnaround story and eventual Rose Bowl win, Sears was leading the Tritons to a CIF Championship run.
Sears would pass for 2,600-yards and 37 touchdowns with only six interceptions while winning a state title. He would also run for another 1,135-yards and nine touchdowns. Sears gives USC another dual-threat option at quarterback, which has proven to be a vital attribute in the Trojans' offense with Sam Darnold at the helm. Sears fits USC's offensive system well, and nestled between Darnold and 2018 five-star quarterback prospect Matt Corral, his enrollment last month spaces out the depth chart perfectly.
|Jack Sears||6-3, 200||No. 7||Quarterback|
Running Back: Needed 1 || Signed 1 || Grade: A
USC is still in good shape at the running back position after signing Dominic Davis, Aca’Cedric Ware and Ronald Jones II is 2015. Last year, the Trojans nabbed four-star Vavae Malepeai away from Oregon. The Ducks tried to repay the favor by stealing Fontana (Calif.) five-star running back Stephen Carr away from the Trojans late in the process, but USC held strong. Carr is another all-around talent with the ability to make an impact in both the running game and passing game. He replaces graduating senior Justin Davis who acted as the Trojans' most effective runner inside the tackles.
Carr fits in perfectly with the Trojans offense. While he will have to improve his pass blocking skills, Carr has the ability to carry the load as a true freshman if injuries required it. Otherwise, he immediately becomes one of the Trojans better receivers out of the offensive backfield. Whether it be out of two-back sets or in the slot, Carr can contribute to the offense in unique ways that may even give the Trojans offense some new wrinkles. Very few running backs capable of carrying the football 25 times a game can also be used situationally like Carr can.
USC flirted with a two-back class, and with only four running backs on the roster going into spring football, it's not like the Trojans couldn't have used the added depth. However, signing a running back in addition to Carr would have taken a spot away from a defensive lineman. Good interior defensive linemen are much harder to come by than running backs, so while USC may still lack a true power back, the tradeoff for defensive tackles is of greater benefit.
|Stephen Carr||6-0, 205||No. 3||Running Back|
Wide Receiver: Needed 2 || Signed 2 || Grade: A
USC loses Juju Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers, Isaac Whitney and De'Quan Hampton this year, so there is an argument for the Trojans needing to sign more than two receivers in the 2017 recruiting cycle. However, recruiting wants and needs tend to be evaluated by coaches as a two-year process. USC signed five wide receivers in 2016, including five-stars Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns. There are also rumors that defensive backs Keyshawn Young and Isaiah Langley may get a look at the offensive side of the football in spring practice.
Without any personnel position changes, USC still has 10 wide receivers on the roster. What they get out of the 2017 recruiting class is quality. USC loses size in Smith-Schuster, Rogers, Whitney and Hampton, so they sign 6-foot-3, 200-pound five-star Joseph Lewis and 6-foot-4, 210-pound three-star Randal Grimes. Lewis is expected to make an immediate impact in the absence of Smith-Schuster and Rogers specifically. While he doesn't have the veteran savvy or strength of either Smith-Schuster or Rogers, Lewis may have a better combination of natural receiving skills and athleticism.
Grimes split time playing wide receiver, quarterback and safety in high school, so his lack of fundamentals could result in a redshirt. Having said that, Grimes is one of those rare wide receivers that shows good agility in the open field despite his 6-foot-4 frame. With four years in the program, Grimes' production should be higher than Hampton and Whitney's combined. His ranking does not speak to his potential once he focuses on one position.
|Joseph Lewis||6-3, 200||No. 2||Wide Receiver|
|Randal Grimes||6-4, 210||No. 64||Wide Receiver|
Tight End: Needed 2 || Signed 2 || Grade: A+
USC set out to sign two tight ends in the 2016 class and came out with one. The Trojans couldn't fall short again and expect to be an offense that can run two tight end sets with any amount of consistency. Fortunately for Clay Helton, USC was able to close out with one of the best tight end combinations in the country on signing day. USC loses Taylor McNamara this year to graduation, but return Daniel Imatorbehebhe and Tyler Petite. Both players have starting experience. The Trojans were also able to redshirt Cary Angeline.
Angeline, who should also compete for playing time this season, may be the most naturally gifted receiver of the group. With the addition of Josh Falo and Erik Krommenhoek from the 2017 class, USC not only has more personnel options, but a scout team capable of giving their starters a good look at two tight end formations in practice. Falo comes in as one of the more dynamic downfield threats catching the ball, while Kommenhoek offers physicality and reliability in the passing game. The two compliment each other well, but more importantly, the compliment the physical upgrade Helton is attempting to proceed with offensively.
|Josh Falo||6-5, 230||No. 7||Tight End|
|Erik Krommenhoek||6-5, 240||No. 31||Tight End|
Offensive Line: Needed 4 || Signed 5 || Grade: A+
USC has recruited well on the offensive line the past three cycles, including last year where the Trojans signed three offensive linemen when they only needed two. However, one of those players, freshman E.J. Price, transferred from USC last fall. They also lost starting guard Damien Mama a year early to the draft and redshirt freshman Nathan Smith to a post-season knee injury. But Clay Helton has shown that he will over recruit the trenches if the talent pool permits it.
This cycle, USC made the brilliant move to take an additional offensive lineman with an advance scholarship. With the 2017 class so deep in talent at offensive line, and the 2018 class looking average at best, USC took with Jalen McKenzie as an advanced scholarship. McKenzie counts toward the 2018 class but will be put on full scholarship at USC in August. McKenzie is projected to play right tackle, although he showed off his versatility coming off an ACL tear as a junior by playing center this past season.
Losing Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner at offensive tackle, USC also went out and signed two of the region's best in Austin Jackson and Alijah Vera-Tucker. Jackson is a no-brainer at left tackle. A great athlete with long arms and good feet, Jackson is playing around 290-pounds, which should give him enough bulk to compete for a starting job next fall. Vera-Tucker doesn't have the frame or wingspan of a prototypical offensive tackle, but he has the best film of any player USC signed this cycle regardless of position. Vera-Tucker could compete at any one of the five offensive line spots.
USC also gets Brett Neilon at center and Andrew Vorhees as a guard or offensive tackle. Vorhees was a mid-year graduate, so he will be on campus for spring football in March. The Trojans lose plenty of experience with the departures of Mama, Wheeler and Banner, but they should have enough depth and talent to bring along another stellar freshman class along gradually.
|Austin Jackson||6-5, 290||No. 5||Offensive Tackle|
|Alijah Vera-Tucker||6-4, 295||No. 18||Offensive Tackle|
|Jalen McKenzie||6-6, 310||No. 32||Offensive Tackle|
|Brett Neilon||6-2, 280||No. 4||Center|
|Andrew Vorhees||6-6, 295||No. 48||Guard|