When I volunteered to write this piece, I never imagined that this recruiting season would be one for the ages. It is obvious to those that follow recruiting and for those that read this site, both premium and open, that Garry has done an excellent job keeping us informed and as up to date as possible. It is now less than 24 hours till LOI's can be officially signed, and few if anyone knows exactly what USC's class will look like.
First, I want to commend coach Pete Carroll and his hard working staff for a tremendous effort. They have worked diligently to find and secure the very best talent available to help rebuild the football program at USC. They have made it obvious that they will only offer players that meet their criteria, regardless of a kid's ranking in any number of the now infamous recruiting services. When all the dust settles, this class will be very good, and with some real luck it will be a superb class.
However, despite the high number of Dream Teamers and the like that we may secure, I personally feel that there remains one potentially serious weakness in the class. It does not appear that SC will land as many big guys on the line as I would have hoped.
At this time, it is anyone's guess where highly sought after Oliner Winston Justice will sign. Everyone seems to have some thoughts, but this one will likely be a surprise till it is over. I hope we get the kid because he has a huge upside, but if we don't, we simply have to move on. We can count on the following linemen: Fred Matua, Kyle Williams, and Chris Doyle. If all academic issues are met , we can also count on Manuel Wright and Van Brown. As of the latest rumors, we might also get Marcus Smith. It seems to me that the quality is there , but after landing zero Oliners last year and after losing Woolridge, Williams, and Goodsen prematurely, and with the graduation of Lonnie Ford and Ryan Nielsen, we are falling short in the number of linemen needed. Obviously, this is just my opinion, but it certainly means that we must secure a nonstop stream of linemen each and every year for the foreseeable future.
There will be commentaries ad infinitum concerning each and every new kid that SC signs, so I will not attempt that here. Instead I think it is more enjoyable to point out trends. Such is the case with running backs. This is a huge year in CA for talented backs. At this time, much to my amazement, it is not inconceivable that USC will be totally shut out in their pursuit of star tailbacks. Neither Lorenzo Booker nor Hershel Dennis is a given to come to SC, though we might still get one or the other or even both. So does this mean that the staff goofed? Who is to say? I personally think that tailback is not a crucial position this year, at least in terms of need. I will once again state that we need the big guys to open the holes and linebackers and db's to help stop the other guys. I have no doubt that there are always guys on this team and available who could excel at tailback if called upon. I don't hesitate to state for one minute that if we don't get Dennis or Booker, but we do somehow land and eligible Darnell Bing, we lose nothing! I also feel that if by some chance we were to need a real fast shifty runner, we could use Justin Wyatt and not lose a step. I have no doubt with his athleticism and speed he could do about anything we would need from such a player.
Let's not forget to commend SC for finding Oscar Lua and securing his commitment very early on. He was not on the immediate horizon, yet now he is a real blue chip kid who is likely to play football and baseball at USC. I love the fact that we went after Nunn, Urquhardt and Van Brown and apparently have gotten three JC kids that are very likely to start or contribute immediately. I have often felt that it makes little sense bringing in JC kids if they are unlikely to contribute. Haven't we all seen enough of that, especially when it comes to JC oliners in the past decade? We needed a bigtime punter and we got the very best, a kid who excels on the field and in the classroom. Coach Carroll and his staff have gone head to head with Stanford and have come away with a huge recruit named Brandon Hancock. This guy may prove to be as valuable as any other single recruit, especially when it comes to establishing the running game.
For the first time in a very long time, SC recruited nationally and won some heated battles and came close (though 2nd does not really count, or does it?) . We got Dominique Byrd from MN, Kyle Williams from Texas, a potential super in Mike Williams from Florida, and the latest rumors are that we got Mike Ross from Florida and we are in it with Patrick Watkins up to the very end. We were close on Dickey and that inroad into Florida might help in years to come, especially if we start to win on the field.
All told, with or without Justice, Watkins and Aaron Miller, this season's recruiting has been a big success. It will be almost uncanny if we somehow land two or three of these kids. I just hope that in future years, we are heavier on the interior linemen and it would be nice to have a full allotment of the "big uglies" to choose from when the coaches pick their two deep. Fight On and let's hope that things get better and better over the next 24 to 48 hours.