For nearly 25 minutes in the McKay Center Wednesday afternoon, head coach Clay Helton talked about the USC Trojans' top five ranked recruiting class during his National Signing Day news conference. He spent time discussing the 2017 class as a whole and his hopes for this group.
Due to the NCAA's restrictions, Wednesday after the school had received players National Letter of Intent was the first time that the coaches were allowed to speak about individual recruits that will be summer and fall entrants. Here's what Helton had to say about the individual defensive recruits and their position groups:
On the Overall Recruiting Class and Day:
- What a great day to be a Trojan. One of the things I've learned in my seven years here is what a very, very special product that we have at USC when it comes to recruiting...Young men and women are built and really trained to be professionals both on and off the field, not only their four years here, but what they're going to do their next 30, 40, 50 years. That message I think transitions over to not only young people, but obviously they're families and it's something in my seven years that I have really grown fond of and really appreciate the product that we have to sell.
- I think the success that was had over the last eight games, including the Rose Bowl, including that ninth victory in a row, really added fuel to that fire of consistency that this is a program on the rise and it's something that kids wanted to be able to come to...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.
- I really felt going into this class, you looked at how much West Coast talent is out there and you wish you had more than 23 scholarships to be honest with you. We really felt there was so much West Coast talent year after year that we really could focus on staying home this year. You look at the 21 of the 23 recruits and they're right here from the West Coast whether it was California, Utah, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, American Samoa, Alaska and then going out. When we go out for national talent, they have to be special. We went to Texas and we went to Florida and we got two what we felt are really special kids to come into our family.
- I've always said this is a players' game. Coaches are nice, but players are better. It's about the men that you surround yourself with, especially in the player category. Players win games...You're only going to win games by the players that you bring in and then the leadership that you put around them. Fortunately, we've surrounded ourself with good leadership and the coaching staff that we have, that we've been able to acquire, been able to keep and now you see the talent coming in also.
- When you look up and you're signing a Jay Tufele out of Utah. That's the No. 1 player in the state of Utah. You get two great players out of Arizona in Austin Jackson and Isaiah Pola-Mao. I think they're one and two in that state. Marlon [Tuipulotu] from Oregon. Bubba [Bolden] from Vegas. Randal Grimes from Vegas. You look at those surrounding states. Alaska. American Samoa. We really pulled from right here at home where not only they're going to be able to play in a very comfortable environment, but their families are going to be able to watch them too. That's important.
On Defensive Linemen:
- I've always felt that championships are won by big men and playing great defense. Starting on defense, when you lose a Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, you know that you're going to have to bring some big men in and to have a Marlon Tuipulotu come in, a Jay Tufele, a Brandon Pili, a Jacob Lichtenstein and to bring a great edge rusher in with Hunter Echols, we really felt we bolstered that defensive line group in this class.
- I think it's been well documented on the defensive line that we have been thin and there creates another opportunity to compete, so we're going to be counting on some big men.
- Three really talented linebackers in Levi Jones, who is really a great, versatile player who cane truly play SAM, MIKE or WILL. Juliano Falaniko, Tayler Katoa is going to add to a good linebacker group.
Austin (Texas) Westlake four-star outside linebacker Levi Jones:
- Very few times in my 22 years have you not known that you've got a kid. There's only been a couple. Adoree' Jackson comes to mind as one. I didn't know which way [Jackson] was going. Levi saved me from a heart attack today. I felt pretty good last night. I knew we were in a battle with some really fine universities, some good coaching staffs and then right prior to him going on TV, he texted me and said, 'Coach I'm a Trojan. Love ya and I can't wait.'
- [Did he tell you about three-shirt reveal?] No, he did not. I'm going to tell you, thank god he texted me, I would have had a heart attack right there. It was very entertaining. Thank goodness he allowed me to know.
- A really special secondary. I thought two elite corners in Je'Quari Godfrey, who brings a lot of length to the position and then one of the more special players that we thought were in the country in Greg Johnson.
- I'm going to bed tonight and thank the lord for the two safeties. What two special young men. To come on the same trip, the same recruiting weekend and look at each other and say, 'Hey, let's go do something special together.' A lot of times in recruiting kids get caught up in depth chart or egos. They wanted to come to USC. They wanted to do something special. They said 'let's come do it together.' I can not think of two special, two more special young men not only the West Coast, but the country to be able to come help us win championships.
Citrus College (Calif.) long snapper Damon Johnson:
- The last guy, I hope this is the only time I ever say his name because that's usually a good thing. But you have to be able to invest in your special teams. I don't know if any of y'all know who Zach Smith is, but for four years he was perfect in all his snaps. We've invested in that position again by bringing Damon Johnson in. Hopefully, he'll be perfect too for four more years and you won't hear his name again.
And here's the entire news conference, if you are interested in hearing the comments yourself: