LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26: The USC student section celebrates during the game between the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. USC won 50-0. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Southern Cal's class is short on numbers but long on quality, and Matt Barkley's return could mean more focus at critical positions.
Despite heavy sanctions from the NCAA, Southern California's recruiting fights on. The Trojans are only able to offer 15 scholarships this season, but can actually fit a few more because a few kids will enroll early and count toward the class of 2011 (the incoming class is the class of 2012). With limited 'ships, every player USC offers is very, very good.
Barkley's return means that USC is not forced to take a quarterback in this class. Huh? Let me explain. Aside from Barkley, USC has a red-shirt sophomore and two red-shirt freshmen at quarterback (eligibility for 2012 season). That's a recipe for a transfer. If Barkley left, and one of the remaining quarterbacks transferred, USC would have been stuck with only two scholarship quarterbacks. No team wants to have only two scholarship quarterbacks, and USC would have needed to use one of its limited scholarships on a quarterback when it didn't want to. Barkley's decision prevents that.
And since USC doesn't need to take a quarterback this season, it will be able to offer a lot of potential playing time to a quarterback it takes in 2013. USC doesn't really need any help recruiting quarterbacks, but the potential for early playing time at SC should help the Trojans to attract one of the top quarterbacks in the country next cycle. Some of those include California kids like Hayden Rettig and Johnny Stanton, and Max Browne of Sammamish, Wa.'s Skyline High School.
Elsewhere, USC is bringing in the beef, with a total of six linemen already committed. They include:
- Jordan Simmons, a massive (6'5" 325) offensive guard out of Encino, Ca.'s Crespi Carmelite High School, with offers from all the BCS powers
- Max Tuerk, a long tackle (6'5" 285) from Rancho Santa Margarita, Ca.'s Santa Margarita Catholic High School
- Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, a tall blocking tight end (6'4" 261) out of Rocklin, Ca.'s Whitney High School
- Pio Vatuvei, a defensive linemen out of Patterson, Ca.'s Patterson High School
- Chad Wheeler, a lineman out of Santa Monica High School
- Defensive end Morgan Breslin, of Walnut Creek, Ca.'s Diablo Valley College
And USC could still bring in several more bigs. The Trojans are in the hunt (though not necessarily in the lead) for:
- Andrus Peat, a 6'7" offensive tackle out of Arizona
- Zach Banner, a massive offensive tackle from Washington
- Kyle Murphy, an offensive tackle out of California (thought to be a Stanford lead)
- Defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy of California
Almost all of the above listed commitments and targets are rated four or five stars by the major recruiting services. Again, USC is bringing in quality.
It should also be noted that there is a chance USC could get back in the conversation with lineman Arik Armstead, arguably the top player in the country. Armstead's brother plays for USC, and there is some dispute between Armstead's family and the school over how the school handled Armstead's injury.
But the quality of this class is not limited to the lines. The Trojans have already signed the nation's top JUCO safety in Gerald Bowman (think Taylor Mays), and athlete (likely linebacker) Jabari Ruffin, a 6'4", 230-pound hitter from California. Four-star Scott Starr is in the fold as well.
USC already has tremendous skill position players on offense. This class is about getting bigger and stronger as a team, specifically on defense. Depth is most needed on the lines because the positions encounter contact on every play. It's difficult to accomplish with limited scholarships, but so far the Trojans have tackled the challenge head on.
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