Class of 2007 . . . 10 years later

Thanks to an extraordinarily well-reported story by The Washington Post's Rick Maese, we can take a look back a decade after the national recruiting class of 2007 signed to great fanfare. It didn't turn out the way many of us, and the signees, expected. Here's a look at the 10 Trojans who came to USC as a big part of that class. We'll look at their story here.

So whatever happened to . . . what's-his-name, you know the guy?

How often we've heard that, especially when it comes to recruits from the good old days. But whoever actually goes out, even in this day of Google, and tracks them all down.

Well, The Washington Post did. Reporter Rick Maese tracked down nearly every single one of the Rivals.com's Top 100 from the 2007 class, one that USC's Trojans dominated with 10 Top 100 players and a final team ranking of No. 2 behind only Florida, something trumpeted on USCFootball.com, a member of the Rivals network then,

But before we get into the USC details, how about some of the overall findings in Maese's story, which we strongly recommend you read here. It's an outstanding example of what great newspapers can and should do.

Here are the numbers Maese found. A mere 39 of the 100 were drafted by the NFL. USC didn't quite make that four in 10 standard. Just three of the Trojans in the 2007 Top 100 class heard their name called.

But four Trojans were among the nation's top 11 prospects, five of the top 17. An amazing performance for a USC class whose 4.22 star average was far and away the best in the nation and only one above 4.00.

And in what seems like a prehistoric time, Alabama finished No. 10 in the nation with Michigan (No. 12), Oklahoma (No. 14), Ohio State (No. 15) and Clemson (No. 16) all relegated to the second 10 in team rankings.   

A total of 20 are still in the NFL this season and seven made the Pro Bowl. One of those -- Everson Griffen -- is a Trojan.

Four are dead -- including one Trojan -- Joe McKnight, the No. 2 player in the nation that year, who was shot and killed tragically in a road rage incident in his native New Orleans last month.

Only a third of the Top 100 earned degrees at the school where they signed although for these Trojans, it appears that more than half have earned their USC degrees.

And yes, there were some very famous names in this class, Maese notes, who have ended up in very different places. No. 28 Cam Newton won the Heisman and was an NFL MVP. No. 54 was Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant. And No. 66, Aaron Hernandez, is in prison for life for murder.

And one of them, a USC favorite whose No. 1 ranking maybe should have been a tipoff about this class, was from Southern California on his way to Notre Dame -- quarterback Jimmy Clausen. If that wasn't an uh-oh moment, it should have been. Just one stat for Clausen's NFL career that Maese reports. He started 14 games in six seasons throwing twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.

Here are the USC 10 with italicized profiles from The Washington Post followed by our comments. 

2. Joe McKnight, RB

"A fourth-round pick by the Jets in 2010, McKnight struggled to find a steady role in the NFL. He spent 2016 in the CFL and was killed in December in an apparent road-rage incident."  The real tragedy of that class for the USC family and the McKnight family. A young man whose life so often came close to living up to his promise and then something always seemed to happen that took him in the other direction. Sad beyond belief. 

6. Everson Griffen, DE

"The Vikings' fourth-round pick in 2010, Griffen has twice made the Pro Bowl and has started 48 games in seven seasons." Gifted beyond belief, but an athlete not many Trojan fans were sure could stay on the path to becoming a Pro Bowl player. Much credit to EG for doing so.

8. Ronald Johnson, WR

"A sixth-round pick in 2011, Johnson bounced around to a few teams but never caught an NFL pass. He tried the CFL and spent last season in the American Indoor Football League." One of our favorite people to come this way, the first RoJo just didn't quite have the skill set to make it at the next level, especially those hands that betrayed him on that would-have-been-game-winning catch at the end of the Notre Dame game in 2010.

11. Chris Galippo, LB

"His college career was slowed by injuries, and he lost his starting job as a senior. According to a LinkedIn profile, he worked at a drug and alcohol treatment center." This was the star-crossed class and Chris was the poster boy for it. Before his several back surgeries, the Chris Galippo in high school all-star games was a middle linebacking beast beyond belief. Pretty remarkable effort by Chris to keep playing the way he did with a back in the shape his was in.

17. Marc Tyler, RB

"Tyler never heard his name called in the 2012 draft. He signed a free agent deal with the Packers but didn't last long." But for that 2011 team that finished so strong, Marc provided much of the drive carrying the ball behind Matt Kalil and Rhett Ellison. But the personable Tyler never seemed to have a handle on his weight -- or his injuries.

Next, in one of the longer and more interesting profiles in the story, comes USC's Kris O'Dowd, the No. 29 prospect overall. Here it is:

29. Kris O’Dowd, C

O'Dowd suffered his share of injuries in college — shoulder, knees — but still felt he had done enough to impress NFL teams. His life always had been pointed toward a football career, and he had hoped to hear his name in the first round of the draft, maybe the second. But all seven rounds passed, and O'Dowd never heard his name called . . . “I remember just sitting there, my dreams totally crushed,” he recalled. “It turned out I failed an MRI at the combine.” He had earned his bachelor’s degree in three years at USC but still had no Plan B. “I had been focused completely on football. I put all my chips in one pile, and I busted,” he said. “I fell on my ass.” A year-long depression followed. He leaned heavily on a network of USC alumni but went through seven months of interviews before securing a job offer. He used the same ambition and work ethic from his football days to rise up the ladder. He now splits his time between Los Angeles and Dubai, is a partner with an international cryogenics company, in addition to working with a truffle farm in Italy and a telecommunications cloud company.“It took me a while to restructure myself, physically, mentally, confidence-wise,” Dowd said. . . . “Football was something I was good at, but it wasn’t who I am,” he said. “I’m meant for something special in this world, and I’m really looking forward to whatever that is."

The first true freshman to start at center for USC, it did appear that the brainy O'Dowd was on his way. And then one injury after another took him down. And it was tough for Kris, who had to find his way without the game. That he did, that he fell back on his USC education and network to work his way out of it, and is now well on his way is the way we can only hope these stories always end.

 44. Aaron Corp, QB

"Stuck behind Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley, Corp transferred to Richmond after three seasons. After failing to catch on in the NFL, he turned to coaching and is on the staff at Norfolk State." A badly handled transition in the Pete Carroll Era cost pretty much everybody involved for the quarterback to follow Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and John David Booty. Tough spot for Corp, who was under terrific pressure but not in the talent class of those who came before him, or after, to step into.

 48. DaJohn Harris, DT

"Harris tried the Arena League after failing to stick with an NFL team. He returned to school to finish his public policy degree and was recently pursuing his master's in social work at USC, according to LinkedIn." We're happy for DaJohn and the way he's continuing his education. The Serra alum and Inglewood resident had to overcome the late diagnosis of a small hole in his heart that kept him out of the Combine before making it as one of two rookies on the Titans before moving on to the Redskins and then the Arena League.

75. Martin Coleman, OL

"Coleman battled injuries but lasted five years at USC. He never caught on in the NFL but in 2013 earned his degree in American studies and ethnicity." The Huntington Beach lineman had all the tools and none of the good fortune to be able to use them. One of those All-Airport-Team guys who if only his health could have been as good as his body looked in uniform.

92. Marshall Jones, DB

"Jones played four years at USC and earned his degree in public policy. He is now an investment associate with a commercial real estate brokerage firm." The Oaks Christian grad from Agoura Hills never quite got to the level he'd been projected but he was on the field between corner and safety in four of his five years thanks to an injury redshirt he was granted. Had really forgotten he was a Top 100 player but happy to see his success after football.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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