Wednesday was a big day for the USC Trojans. They closed with a top five recruiting class, picking up big commitment after big commitment on National Signing Day.
Unsurprisingly, head coach Clay Helton was excited. He even told the media he had missed us to begin his signing day news conference.
"National Signing Day has become a great experience," Helton said. "It's made for TV. I've been watching it since 4 a.m. today and It's been absolutely awesome, but as a coach, you can't get necessarily caught up in the stars or the rankings. I think primarily you have to look at the holes that you need to fill and the needs that you need.
"The fact of the matter is that we had a successful season last year, but at the end of the day, USC is about winning championships here. We finished third in the country, but our ultimate goal is to finish No. 1 and to do that we had to meet some needs right from the get go in this class."
With the 18 recruits that signed National Letters of Intent, to go along with the five class of 2017 players already enrolled, USC did just that.
Helton talked for nearly 25 minutes at the McKay Center about the Trojans' 2017 recruiting class during his National Signing Day news conference. Because of NCAA rules, this was the first time that Helton (or any of the coaching staff) was allowed to speak about the position groups and specifically about the individual players that signed on Wednesday.
Here's what Helton had to say about the offensive player groups and individuals:
On Offensive Line:
- It starts up front. Losing two tackles on the year in Zach [Banner] and Chad [Wheeler], along with Damien [Mama] going out early to the NFL. We really felt like we needed to really bolster that group. To bring in Andrew Vorhees, who is already here on campus, and to add Austin Jackson, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Brett Neilon, we really feel like that group is an especially talented group that can come in and help us. They have the physical and mental maturity that can come in and compete right off the bat.
- You look right now and you lose two offensive tackles and a guard that have played here for a long time. What a great opportunity to compete right off the bat whether you are an interior player or a tackle and I think that's intriguing to guys. I remember the year that we had to put Viane [Talamaivao], Toa [Lobendahn] and Damien out there and how well they executed. If you are the best player, you're going to go out there. Now it's our job as coaches to develop them in a hurry.
On Skill Players:
- Skill wise, I love USC. It attracts the best skill in the country. You look at the West Coast and there's a plethora and we decided to stay kind of right here at home.
- When you're talking about skilled athletes. I think that's one of the great sells at USC. You talk about from 2001 on. From Carson to Matt Leinart, John David Booty, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Cody Kessler, all these great quarterbacks that have been here. That tradition is just going to keep going on whether it's Sam Darnold, Matt Fink, Jack Sears. Those are really, really talented kids that can spin the ball. I think that's one of the things that tight ends and wide receivers and even running backs understand. There's always going to be a quality quarterback that can get me the ball when I'm open.
San Clemente (Calif.) four-star Jack Sears:
- We had one quarterback from San Clemente. We decided to get two and he's special also. We're so glad that he's here and here as a midterm.
On Running Backs:
Fontana (Calif.) Summit five-star Stephen Carr:
- One of the more complete backs in the country. -- an every down back. 210 pounds right now, very physical runner, extremely effective catcher out of the backfield and great pass protector. An every down back that is truly elite.
- Really, when we saw Stephen early, was just so excited about him being not only a big back at 210 pounds, but also an every down back. You look at him running between the tackles...excellent. You look at him on outside run plays...excellent. Unbelievable out of the backfield. He's as good a receiver as he is a running back some times. When you spread him out, when you've watched the tape, he's amazing. Then with that physical structure and that physicality, he's excellent in pass protection. He's a guy that you don't have to pull off at any point in time. Plus, having getting to know him, having talked some football with him...incredibly football instinctive. His football maturity and football IQ is off the charts. Very, very good talent. He was one that we knew today we couldn't let get away because he's special.
- I actually told him, whether he ends up being this or not, he reminds me a little bit of Ezekiel Elliott -- how Ezekiel is that every down guy. Elliott does an unbelievable job out of the backfield. Now, he's got a long way to go before he is that. He's not a finished product, but he has those qualities. He has those traits that you don't have to pull him out on any down.
On Wide Receivers:
- We lost four really, really big men when you look at us wide receiver wise last year on the outside. We saw that ahead of time and you saw some kids that we signed last year that had great size. We add two more in Joseph Lewis and Randal Grimes. Two special, special players on the West Coast that we hope will come in and create immediate impact.
- I think they're going to be given the opportunity to compete right now and we expect them to do great things here, whether that's Day 1 or 101. They were brought here for a reason. One of the things when we looked at it, and thank goodness we looked at it two years ago -- what was going to happen losing a De'Quan Hampton, an Issac Whitney, a Darreus Rogers and a JuJu Smith. Those are four big men. Fortunately, we signed some outside receivers last year that could help us. They redshirted last year and then bring in two, again, big men. Joseph Lewis 213 pounds right now and just a grown man. Then you look at Randal Grimes sitting there at about 207 right now at 6-foot-3. You know you're talking about two big targets that can go up and have great high ball skills and be easy targets for Sam and the rest of our quarterbacks. I thought it was imperative to get them. We really worked extremely hard to bring those two kids in and we'll have to develop them really fast as well as the other young wideouts that are already on campus. They're going to have to really step up like a Deontay Burnett did for us last year. There'll have to be some kids that step up in a hurry.
- This year, Hawkins had two elite talents in Joseph and in Greg [Johnson].
On Tight Ends:
On the overall class:
- We're very, very proud of the young men that we're bringing into our Trojan family. Not only are they extremely amazing talents, but these are incredible people and with amazing families. That's what I took away in the recruiting process of going from home to home and being able to meet these families. That's what we sell: Faith, Family and Football. I think that family aspect, whether it's our coaches with our wives and our children, them coming together and seeing how genuine this group is, I think really carried over to this group. It felt natural.
And here's the entire news conference, if you are interested in hearing Helton's comments yourself: