Gerard Martinez |

USC Rising Stars I: Top Performers

Changing their summer camp schedule in 2017, USC combined their skills and linemen camps to make a Rising Stars Camp in early June.

The USC Rising Stars Camp Sunday was a battle for reps and space as much as it was a showdown of top prospects. 

With more than 850 campers cramming into four sports fields, the first edition of the Rising Stars Camp was the largest in school history. From that talent pool, there were top performers from most position groups. 

Bryan Addison | Gardena (Calif.) Serra | Four-Star | Athlete

Addison was the top overall player at the Rising Stars Camp Sunday. While he started off the camp coasting through drills as a defensive back, Addison turned it up on offense and defense when the competitive periods began. Addison had two interceptions and some tremendous receptions as a wide receiver. Having been the best safety in California on the seven-on-seven circuit this spring, it was hardly a surprise seeing him make play-after-play Sunday. USC had been recruiting Addison more as a safety this spring, but he showed Sunday that he can legitimately be a threat as a wide out

Michael Ezeike | Ontario (Calif.) Colony | Four-Star | Tight End

Although he is rated as a tight end at 6-foot-5, 220-pounds, Ezeike was perhaps the most dominant wide receiver on the field Sunday. Ezeike made some very tough catches over defensive backs in one-on-one drills, but was also very smooth in general throughout position drills. He even went so far as to play some defensive back just to show off his athletic ability. In most years, Ezeike gets a scholarship offer from USC on the spot after his performance Sunday. However, signing two tight ends in 2017, the Trojans have other needs which may keep Ezeike on ice. Even if USC takes a tight end in the 2018 class, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly four-star Camren McDonald and Missouri City (Texas) four-star Mustapha Muhammad are both potential options as well. Muhammad unofficially visited USC Saturday and had a great trip. 

Chris Murray | Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei | Three-Star | Guard

The competition level among the offensive and defensive lines was decent. Among that group, Murray had his way dominating almost every rep he took in one-on-ones. Murray has a serious nasty streak and ragged dolled some of his opponents Sunday. Highly competitive, he almost got into a fight with a fellow offensive lineman over reps. In addition to the early draft departure from Damien Mama, USC will lose three interior offensive linemen after this season. Murray isn’t the most flashy offensive guard in term of athleticism, but his quickness and physicality are as good as any offensive lineman in the state. 

Devon Cooley | Buena Park (Calif.) | Four-Star | Wide Receiver

Cooley has been a standout during the seven-on-seven circuit since February. He took as many reps as any receiver in attendance Sunday and looked his smooth gliding in and out of his routes. However, from a recruiting standpoint, Cooley may have done himself a disservice by not getting additional looks as a safety. USC will only take two wide receivers in this class unless more rides become available with attrition. Cooley has the height and length USC covets in their defensive back recruits, but he marketed himself solely as a wide receiver Sunday. 

Kobe Pepe | Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco | Defensive End

For the second time this spring, 2020 defensive lineman Kobe Pepe flashed some serious potential. While St. John Bosco had several notable upperclassmen in attendance Sunday, Pepe stole the show. Like he did at the Braves College Football Showcase last month, Pepe was in the offensive backfield in the blink of an eye. On a handful of reps, he beat his blocker before he could execute his kick step. At 6-foot-1, 270-pounds, Pepe is still a bit of a tweener, but no defensive lineman at the camp was more explosive off the snap. He outplayed his more highly regarded teammate Sua'ava Poti Sunday. 

Ralen Goforth | Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco | Linebacker

Like Pepe, Goforth has been tremendous this spring. The brother of former UCLA safety, Randal Goforth, Ralen is just as instinctual, but in a bigger package. Goforth remains without a USC scholarship offer, but that could change soon. With the ability to play inside or outside linebacker at 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, Goforth brings added value to the table with his versatility. 

Gerard Martinez |

Maninoa Tufono | Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou | Linebacker

Tufono is another very good linebacker in the 2019 class. Tufono received some special attention from USC linebackers coach Johnny Nansen Sunday. With his 6-foot-3 frame and upside, it would be a surprise if USC didn’t offer Tufono a scholarship sooner rather than later. Chances are USC will bring in a very good class of linebackers for the class of 2018, so they will have to get ahead of the curve in recruiting against their depth chart come 2019. 

John Jackson | Gardena (Calif.) Serra | Three-Star | Wide Receiver

Although Jackson got a mixed bag of passes during competitive periods, he still managed to show off his route running and hands in position drills. As mentioned with Devon Cooley, USC doesn’t have many receiver scholarship offers to give out in the 2018 class, so while Jackson has had his fair share of good outings this spring, he may not have that defining attribute which brings the Trojans to the table. Both Jackson and Cooley won MVP honors as wide outs. 

Jeremiah Criddell | Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) | Cornerback 

Criddell didn’t take a ton of reps Sunday, but he did show flashes of his athletic ability and instincts during one-on-ones. He did gamble and get caught reaching on occasion, but he was one of the few defensive backs who showed the ability to take chances and make them pay off. With another year to develop, Criddell should round out into a viable target for USC in the 2019 class. 

Adam Plant | Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman | Three-Star | Defensive End

Plant won one of the defensive line MVP’s, and while the Arizona commit had a solid day, it’s hard seeing him fit into the grand scheme of things for USC in 2018. Plant has long arms and moves well as a 4-3 strongside end from a three-point stance, but when the Trojans’ coaching staff had him take a couple of reps inside the tackles, it signaled he would be more of a project for USC. He doesn’t have the agility or flexibility to play outside linebacker in a 3-4, so Plant would have to eventual grow into a down lineman in the Trojans’ system. In a class of 25, USC might be willing to make that move. In a class that may not break 20 signees, it's much less likely. 

Jacob Isaia Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman | Three-Star | Center

Although he is projected as a center in college, Isaia played offensive tackle exclusively during the one-on-one period of the camp. This isn’t uncommon as coaches want to put offensive linemen in uncomfortable positions to expose their weaknesses in such evaluation opportunities. However, Isaia plays right tackle for Bishop Gorman, so he was far from uncomfortable Sunday. Isaia won a majority of his reps fairly easily and proved to be one of the quicker prospects in pass-pro situations. That quickness does come at the expense of size. Isaia is on the small side, and at present date, USC has their sights set on Temecula (Calif.) four-star Justin Dedich as a center prospect. Top Stories