New USC coach Lane Kiffin might have his detractors, but nobody questions his ability to recruit.
Kiffin, with only a few weeks on the job, continued the good work of Pete Carroll in that regard, getting a signing day commitment from offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, rated as the No. 1 recruit in the nation by Scout.com.
There were a lot of comings and goings throughout the transition of the coaching change, but when the dust had mostly settled, USC's class was ranked No. 5 by Scout.com.
"We didn't want to reach," Kiffin said. "We didn't want to see players come off the board and lower our standards. We know what it's taken here before to win at an extremely high level, and we know what type of players that takes. And very often as you see coaches come into their first year, they reach just to make an impression, just to sign a certain number of kids, and I was proud of our staff for not doing that."
The star power is alive and well at USC, which is bringing in six five-star prospects.
"I think we have high standards for all our players, especially our freshmen as they come in," Kiffin said. "Mike Williams came in here and caught 81 balls, 14 TDs as a freshman, and we've seen it before, and we expect those guys to do these things."
All in all, it was quite a good start for Kiffin.
--OL Seantrel Henderson, Saint Paul, Minn. -- He's not officially on the 19-player signing list because he is waiting to sign until there is possible resolution with an NCAA investigation into the program. He can sign as late as April 1; after that, he can sign scholarship papers. The nation's top offensive lineman -- and the top recruit -- is 6-foot-8, 301 pounds.
--WR Kyle Prater, Maywood, Ill. -- Already enrolled at USC after graduating early and earning all the major All-America honors. He is rated the nation's No. 4 overall prospect by Scout.com. The 6-5 wideout caught 64 passes for 1,151 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. With Prater, Robert Woods and Markeith Ambles, USC has all kinds of potential at the wide receiver position for sophomore QB Matt Barkley.
--RB Dillon Baxter, San Diego -- Baxter was the EA Sports Mr. Football USA and the Max Preps National Player of the Year, in addition to many, many honors. He was a quarterback, receiver and running back at Mission Bay High School, and he could be the best playmaker in the entire national recruiting class. He is enrolled at USC, and the coaches will get to tinker with his position flexibility in the spring, as he could see time at running back and receiver. "He could do both," coach Lane Kiffin said. "You can run him; you can put him in the Wildcat; we can move him around."
--DT George Uko, Chino, Calif. -- At a position of need for USC, Uko comes in as Scout's No. 25 recruit in the nation. He had 91 tackles, including 15 sacks, as a senior at Don Lugo High. He could at least provide depth as a freshman.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "All that means is we've got some talented players. We've got a lot of work to do to coach them, to develop them. As you see five-star players sign around the country, it's not about their stats, it's how you develop them." -- Coach Lane Kiffin, on recruiting rankings.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 LOOK AHEAD: Even before the upheaval of coach Pete Carroll leaving for the Seattle Seahawks, USC figured to be picked second in the Pac-10 behind Oregon. The Ducks have more experience than USC coming back, and the Trojans have many questions to answer beyond Lane Kiffin's coaching abilities. USC lost six senior starters, and three players early to the NFL -- leading WR Damian Williams, RB Joe McKnight and DE Everson Griffen. DT Jurrell Casey (nine tackles for loss) and DE Nick Perry (eight sacks) should be forces up front, and the starting linebackers, led by Malcolm Smith (72 tackles) and Chris Galippo (70) return intact. Much will depend on the maturation of QB Matt Barkley, who will be surrounded by flashy new skill players. USC opens at Hawaii, playing a 13-game regular season.
SPRING SNAPSHOT: Freshman Dillon Baxter will try to make a dent in the running back rotation, which features Allen Bradford, C.J. Gable and Marc Tyler, among others. While Ronald Johnson and Brice Butler figure to be the top two receivers, early enrollee Kyle Prater gets an early start on the playbook in the spring and could be a factor. One of the key issues will be developing depth on the defensive line and at linebacker. The Trojans fell a little short in recruiting in bringing in more depth at linebacker, signing junior college transfer Glen Stanley and high school senior Hayes Pullard. "We did think we needed more people there to create more competition," Kiffin said.
--DB Marshall Jones, who missed last season because of a neck injury, has been cleared for spring ball.
--Junior CB Shareece Wright, who was academically ineligible during the regular season, started in the Emerald Bowl and figures to hold down that spot in 2010.
Don Lugo DL George Uko is a big part of USC's 2010 recruiting class.
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