Yes, new head coach Lane Kiffin and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron staged a closing drive that yielded a fifth-place final team ranking with Scout.com and a No. 1 finish with another service.
And, yes, there are a ton of future stars among the class held together through yeoman last-minute efforts by Kiffin and Orgeron. But, there also are some sizable holes, principally on the defensive side of the ball, where the team was most vulnerable during a 2009 season that was the least successful since Pete Carroll's squad in 2001.
This was a team that was by upended early in the season by a Washington team that finished the year with a record under .500, and was humiliated by the offenses of Oregon and Stanford. It couldn't even hold off a a final drive by a mediocre Arizona team with few major offensive weapons.
So, shouldn't Carroll and his recruiting coordinator son, Brennan, have concentrated on filling defensive holes when putting together strategy for the 2010 class of prospects? The best guess here is – there was no grand strategy of any sort, no focus, no recognition that a major effort was required to stabilize a defense that was an embarrassment to the program.
It required a major effort by Kiffin and Orgeron to salvage what was possible to salvage for the defensive line – five-star tackle George Uko from Don Antonio Lugo in Chino and four-star junior-college end Marquis Jackson, who had committed to UCLA. Good in quality, bad in quantity, especially given the urgency of the situation.
There's no way defensive end Ronald Powell of Moreno Valley, rated the No. 1 player in the country in some quarters, would have gotten away from USC and gone to Florida if Kiffin and Orgeron and been on the job a month earlier.
The Trojans got two linebackers, Hayes Pullard of L.A. Crenshaw and Glen Stanley of Eastern Arizona JC, but they needed at least four to bolster a corps that is full of holes. Two back surgeries have robbed middle linebacker Chris Galippo of the mobility he once possessed, and there is a question whether the former Servite star and most valuable defensive player of the prep Army All-America game will ever regain the form he displayed prior to the surgeries.
Look for major changes in focus and execution from those now in charge of the recruiting program, which once dominated the college scene. Yes, Pete Carroll was a ``rock star'' who headed the parade and did a marvelous job of persuading prep athletes that USC was the USC of old.
But now the ``grunts'' will be out there in front and, please believe me, they know what they are doing. They are going to seal off California, principally Southern California, from out-of-stage interlopers and make the battle a local one.
Consider the competitive advantage they possess against competition from other California Pac-10 schools – 11 national championships to one for the other three (UCLA, Stanford and Cal), and more All-Americans, first-round National Football League draft choices and college Hall of Famers than the other three combined.
Add to this a university climbing quickly in prestige, and a business community that controls the southern California scene and offers more post-football employment opportunities to athletes when they graduate.
Happy days are here again? Why not?