USC Trojans: USC Trojans
Jones, the No. 1 ranked running back in the ESPN 300, is a highly acclaimed 6-foot, 187-pound explosive game-changer who rushed for 2,009 yards (8.4 avg.) and 28 touchdowns in 2014.
Both are solidly committed to the Trojans, and combined with speedy Southern California product Dominic Davis (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany), they make up what is sure to be one of the top running back classes in the nation come signing day.
It's been quite awhile since any coaches at USC have spent the time and energy recruiting the Lone Star State that Sarkisian and Co. have over the course of the past year.
USC did pull in John Plattenburg out of Houston (Texas) Lamar last February, but in that case it was actually at Corona (Calif.) Centennial -- where he spent his sophomore and junior seasons -- that the talented safety first caught the eye of the Trojans' coaches. Before that, the last time USC signed a player from Texas was back in 2008 when Houston Aldine offensive lineman Daniel Campbell inked with the Trojans. Campbell failed to qualify, however, and he never played a down at USC.
So how did the Trojans reel in two running backs from the heart of Big-12 country this time around?
For Jones, it actually wasn't that difficult. USC first grabbed his attention at a young age, when he watched former head coach Pete Carroll's teams bring home victory after victory on television.
"USC has just always been one of my favorite schools," said Jones, who de-committed from Oklahoma State in mid-December before choosing the Trojans over Notre Dame a few weeks later. "I grew up watching Reggie Bush and all of those guys, so I knew I would always look at them closely."
Ware's interest, meanwhile, stems more from his desire to branch out.
"I was born and raised in Texas," said Ware, who also held offers from the likes of Florida, Ohio State and Arizona State. "I want to get out and explore the world and experience Cali life, and just have fun outside of Texas. I want to experience new things."
The turning point for both players, however, came when they were able to check out the USC campus in person for the first time. That was especially true for Jones, whose mother was initially hesitant to let her son go to school so far from home.
"My mom didn't want me to go far at all," said Jones, whose mother accompanied him on his official visit to USC in December. "But once she was able to see it for herself, she said that she'd be a fool for telling me not to follow my heart. That official visit was big. I was always sold, but for her, that's what did it."
Ware took his official visit to USC in September, but it was following his earlier unofficial visit for the Rising Stars Camp last July that he made up his mind.
"When I first went out there this summer I really liked the whole environment and the players' and coaches' attitude about football," Ware said. "I could really tell that they were passionate about football, and I knew that was the place that I wanted to be."
Set to arrive on campus early this summer, Jones and Ware, in addition to Davis, all appear to possess the talent to vie for immediate playing time, especially with the recent announcement by last year's leading Trojans' rusher, Javorius Allen, that he will forgo his senior season at USC to enter the upcoming NFL draft.
But the Trojans also still have a pair of talented veterans returning at the position in junior Justin Davis and fifth-year senior Tre Madden. That, coupled with the fact that this year's crop will also have each other to contend with, means that competition will be the name of the game come fall camp.
But that concept doesn't bother either Texas running back. In fact, both Jones and Ware are more excited about the idea of playing each other, as well as Davis, than anything else.
"I love competing and working for it," Jones said. "I don't look at it like those guys are my rivals or anything. I think we can really complement each other. Back when USC was rolling, they would have different running backs with different styles that they would go to, and I think that's what we're doing in this class."
That's something that Ware, who was a part of deep tailback group at Cedar Hill, knows about first-hand.
"At Cedar Hill, my junior year, we had three running backs, and my senior year it was me and Denvre Daniels," Ware said. "When you have that much talent, you can rotate the running backs and wear the defense down. I like that. We can inflict a lot of damage."
And with that trademark Texas confidence, Ware and Jones are determined to do everything they can to ensure that they're more than ready to do their part in making that idea become a reality -- and sooner rather than later.
"We're going to bring that Texas flavor to Cali," said Ware. "We're going to show everybody how it's done."
Here's a look at how programs in the Pac-12 are faring on the recruiting trail heading into national signing day on Feb. 4.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1
Who they have: The Wildcats hit it big with their top two commitments in ESPN 300 offensive tackle Keenan Walker and ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Anthony Fotu. Arizona also will add four-star tackle Cody Creason, three-star tackle Harper Sherman and three-star guards Alex Kosinski and Nathan Eldrige to the offensive line. There are a number of skill players on both sides of the ball, including running backs Orlando Bradford and Darick Holmes Jr., cornerbacks Shun Brown, Anthony Mariscal, Samuel Morrison and Dane Cruikshank, wide receiver Cedric Peterson and athletes Antonio Parks and Brion Anduze.
Who they want: There aren't many spots left in this class for the Wildcats, but there are a few important names left on the board. The wide receiver spot could see another addition with Jaylinn Hawkins, though rival Arizona State will put up a fight there. Arizona also will look to continue its run of success in Louisiana, as teammates Arthur McGinnis and Darrell Clark (New Orleans/Warren Easton) are two of the top prospects left for the Wildcats, as well as teammates of Arizona commit Kendal Franklin.
To read the rest of our Pac-12 recruiting class breakdowns, click here .
The NCAA has announced a proposed agreement that would restore Penn State's wins that had been vacated as part of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and Haden was asked if he thought USC deserved a similar reconsideration in punishment related to the Reggie Bush case.
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Here's a rundown on the opportunity each will find waiting for him at his respective position when USC spring ball opens in March:
Wide receiver: Whitney
Primary spring competition for playing time: Darreus Rogers, George Farmer
There is already a leg up for Whitney coming in as a junior college player, who is a veteran with a little more experience and therefore more prepared for a quicker transition. The fact he could fill a role as a "big" receiver in the USC passing game is also a major factor in his favor, both Whitney and fellow incoming JC receiver De'Quan Hampton (who will arrive in the fall) are 6-foot-4 and Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian made a specific point of saying he was looking for taller receivers in this class. Sarkisian was at USC when the Trojans used big targets such as Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett as physical matchups on bubble screens and in the red zone. You can expect Whitney to get his shot to fill a similar role this spring.
Offensive line: Edoga
Primary spring competition for playing time: Khaliel Rodgers, Jordan Simmons, Chris Brown
Part of the intrigue for Edoga this spring will be to see if he ends up at tackle or guard. There had been a lot of talk early in the recruiting process about tackle, but when Chuma has been in all-star settings he seems to be getting a lot of work at guard so that's where we will project him for spring. It's hard to imagine him coming in and beating out either of the incumbents in Damien Mama or Viane Talamaivao, but he should certainly have the opportunity to establish himself as the "next man up" at either spot. Rodgers had a flash as a starter but didn't show enough to say he would be that guy, Simmons has been injured too much to know for sure on his status and Brown has potential as a redshirt last season. Edoga has a quickness and athleticism that should allow him to get in that mix right away.
Inside linebacker: Smith
Primary spring competition for playing time: Michael Hutchings, Lamar Dawson, Olajuwon Tucker
Smith is a thumper who is headed for the middle linebacker spot vacated by Hayes Pullard. The fact he is here for spring will allow him to compete in the open position battle and the coaches will want to find out quickly if he is a player they think they will be able to count on in the fall, so he will get plenty of reps. Hutchings has been the primary back-up to Pullard for two years and would appear to have the inside track, while Dawson has starting experience as a player who will be coming back from missing a year due to injury. Tucker was behind Will linebacker Anthony Sarao last fall but could get a look as well.
Primary spring competition for playing time: Max Browne, Jalen Greene
It's an ideal learning situation for Town to come in and watch Cody Kessler for a year while adapting to the new level of play. Assuming there is no situation like the Ohio State Buckeyes faced this season, Town can look forward to a redshirt year spent developing physically and mentally to get ready for the competition to replace Kessler next spring.
Offensive line: Hemsley
Primary spring competition for playing time: Nico Falah, Jordan Austin
There might not be a player with more potential for upside in this class. Hemsley is simply a mountain of a man at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds with the athleticism of a basketball forward, which is what he was known for until recently when he made the decision to stick with football full-time. The fact he is still relatively new to the game, and played at a small-school level of high school, means the ability to get on campus early could pay dividends to help get the development process started as soon as possible. Roy will likely begin his career as a left tackle.
"This was a tough decision for me,” Allen said in a statement released by the university. “I went home to Florida and talked it over with my family. I am proud to have been the first one in my family to have gone to college, and I've been blessed to say I played football in college. Now I'm ready to take it to the next level. Every kid dreams of this moment.”
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The verbal commits came from running back Ronald Jones (No. 56 overall in ESPN rankings), safety Marvell Tell (No. 100 overall) and safety Ykili Ross (No. 282 overall).
Jones added a long 58-yard touchdown run shortly after his announcement to attend USC at the start of the Under Armour game, and he is a good-sized back who brings legit speed. USC prospects Iman Marshall and John Houston also stood out during the game, with Marshall even making plays on special teams in addition to solid work at cornerback, and Houston offering a strong physical presence at inside linebacker.
The Army game might well have been a USC recruiting infomercial for all the positive coverage Trojan recruits received in the game. There were the verbal announcements from Ross and Tell, who should come in and provide immediate (and much-needed) depth at the safety spot. Tell had a big hit in his own red zone while Ross actually did most of his work on offense as a receiver.
The Trojans also had a pair of quarterbacks in the game with Sam Darnold and Ricky Town. Each player threw a touchdown and did enough to represent themselves well. On defense, it was a pair of USC linebacker prospects who shined the most with Osa Masina and Porter Gustin doing their best Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing impressions. Both players were talked about during the broadcast as being likely headed to USC, which would be welcome news by Trojan fans if it happens.
The weekend concluded with the Semper Fidelis game and good performances from USC commits Tristan Payton and Noah Jefferson. Payton had a pair of touchdown catches while Jefferson, who was playing along the interior of the defensive line for the first time, had a sack and an impressive play to chase down a ballcarrier.
With the three verbal commits over the weekend the Trojans now have 21 verbal commits, and a class that is ranked No. 8 in the nation by ESPN .
QB: Sam Darnold, Ricky Town
RB: Ronald Jones, Aca'Cedric Ware, Dominic Davis
WR: De’Quan Hampton, Isaac Whitney, Tristan Payton
TE: Tyler Petite
OL: Chuma Edoga, Cole Smith, Roy Hemsley, Clayton Johnston
DL: Jacob Daniel, Noah Jefferson, Christian Rector
LB: Cameron Smith
DB: Isaiah Langley, Taeon Mason, Ykili Ross, Marvell Tell
The next big official visit recruiting weekend for the Trojans will be Jan. 16 with the following players currently scheduled to be on-campus:
USC currently has 11 verbal commits who are ranked among the top 10 players in the country at their position:
Sam Darnold (No. 4 QB-PP)
Ricky Town (No. 7 QB-PP)
Ronald Jones (No. 5 RB)
DeQuan Hampton (No. 1 JC WR)
Isaac Whitney (No. 5 JC WR)
Tyler Petite (No. 4 TE-Y)
Chuma Edoga (No. 3 OT)
Cole Smith (No. 5 OC)
Cameron Smith (No. 9 ILB)
Isaiah Langley (No. 7 ATH)
Marvell Tell (No. 6 S)
Among the remaining prospects on the Trojans' wish list are several players also listed among the top 10 nationally, including:
Rasheem Green (No. 5 DT)
John Houston (No. 2 ILB)
Iman Marshall (No. 2 CB)
Porter Gustin (No. 8 ATH)
Osa Masina (No. 10 OLB)
It's too bad college football, unlike major league baseball, doesn't allow a closer. The USC Trojans could sure use a Craig Kimbrel or Kenley Jansen at this point.
What an entertaining and frustrating Holiday Bowl proved beyond all else, is that after 13 games under Steve Sarkisian they still don't know how to close.
They allowed a very average Nebraska team to come from 18 points down to almost make it feel like Arizona State all over again. Only when Nelson Agholor -- a wise insertion, by the way -- batted away the last Cornhusker pass could Trojans fans sigh with relief.
So what exactly did that wild 45-42 San Diego adventure actually mean in the whole context of Sarkisian's first season?
Not much. It only showed us again what we already knew. This is a 9-4 team of supremely gifted players and alarming little discipline. It is a team that can run up points faster than Adoree Jackson runs past opponents. Yet it is a group with all the killer instinct of an Adam Sandler.
It will be interesting to see how all that translates into 2015, but if you're asking what grade Sarkisian deserves after his first season as USC's head coach, I'd probably waver somewhere between a B-minus and a C-plus.
Let's get one thing straight, by the way: Nebraska is not the best team the Trojans played this season, as Sarkisian tried to tell us the other day. It is not even close. The Cornhuskers' defense contains more open space than the San Diego Zoo, and while tailback Ameer Abdullah is a great player, quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. wouldn't even rank among the top half of the Pac-12's passers.
Yet take away those two spectacular plays by the electric Mr. Jackson -- the 98-yard kickoff return and 71-yard reception -- and USC probably loses the game.
How does that happen? Well, primarily because the penalty-infested Trojans weren't playing much defense, themselves. Sure, Leonard Williams was his usual menacing self, but in a basic set with few, if any, blitzes, there was little resistance to a Nebraska offense that was able to roll up 525 yards.
Defense should be Sark's priority going into 2015. He needs to get more involved with it. He needs to let the players know he cares about that side of the ball, too.
It is probably too much to ask for him to give up his cherished play-calling duties on offense, but there is still a real danger of this becoming a one-dimensional football program, and that is certainly something Sarkisian doesn't want.
As usual, it's a lot more fun to discuss the Trojans' offense. If Agholor bolts early for the NFL, as is generally expected, it will leave a definite void. The guy has been a tremendous go-to receiver.
Now that we know quarterback Cody Kessler won't be joining him in leaving early, it isn't a huge cause for concern, especially when it seems so obvious now that Jackson, the freshman All American cornerback, needs considerably more playing time on offense. Jackson and fellow freshman JuJu Smith should be involved in plenty of exciting plays in the next few years.
It might not be quite so easy to replace tailback Javorius Allen, whose 152 yards the other night pushed his total to 1,489 yards for a truly exceptional junior season. Justin Davis is a good, young back with a flair for the big play, but he has yet to prove he can consistently pound for the crucial yards the way Allen did. Maybe Tre Madden, who was once ahead of Allen on the depth chart before getting injured, will handle that role.
One thing that might help is to have the tight end take on a more prominent role in the offense, and there were hints of that finally happening in San Diego. Freshman Bryce Dixon caught 4 passes for 44 yards, including a 20-yarder for a touchdown.
The happiest part of USC's San Diego experience is that it had to enhance recruiting. Getting that kind of exposure on a nationally televised stage can only help when it comes to luring four and five-star athletes, especially those from out of state.
In the end, though, what really happened in the Holiday Bowl is that Sarkisian's Trojans opened up a big lead and then barely hung on to beat another less-than-impressive opponent.
What it felt like, more than anything else, was a USC version of Groundhog Day.
SAN DIEGO -- Notes, quotes and anecdotes from Qualcomm Stadium after the USC Trojans (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12) defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-4, 5-3 Big Ten) 45-42 in the National University Holiday Bowl on Saturday.
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian comments:
The assessment: “First of all, I’m happy for our team. You know, we’ve been through a lot this year. We’ve had a couple just excruciating losses, and to come out tonight and win at the very end, we’ve laid a good foundation in Year One of where we’re headed as a program. Our future, and I’ll say it again, is ridiculously bright.”
On the final Nebraska Hail Mary: “We’ve been through it! We got JuJu (Smith) and Nelson (Agholor) on the field. Nelson made a heck of a play to go attack the football. At the end of the day, I mean, you can only get burned so many times, I guess. So, let’s just get the ball on the ground. That’s kinda what I was hoping for.”
On the 2014 season: “First of all, it was a total success. We won nine games, and we were Holiday Bowl champions. I don’t change. Every day I wake up and I drive down the 110 freeway to come to work and I embrace the opportunity you have to be the head football coach at USC.”
Nebraska interim head coach Barney Cotton comments:
The assessment: “I think (USC) was everything we thought they would be. They were physical and skilled, a big-play offense and a physical defense. I thought it was a good battle out there. It could have gone down and went either way by the end. I was proud of the way our guys fought back, and it was a heck of a football game.”
On the game’s pace: “We just wanted to play fast. We took what they gave us. We would like to run the ball effectively, but on the other hand, a lot of those passes were run-pass options.”
On field position: “Well, we did have good field position. We did get some points off it, but we should have got more points out of it. But you’re playing against a good defense, and, you know, when you look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game, I think we were better executing.”
More notes and anecdotes:
Key to victory: The Trojans held off a Nebraska Hail Mary on the last play of the game to defeat the Cornhuskers 45-42 as Trojans All-Pac-12 wide receiver Nelson Agholor switched to defense to bat away Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s final pass attempt.
The offensive explosion: The Trojans scored 45 points against the Huskers on Saturday. Prior to the Nebraska game, the Trojans were averaging 35.1 points per game.
The offensive coordinator: On the Trojans' big win, USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton said, “This was a fabulous win and we played our hearts out. When the offense struggled, the defense picked us up. We needed offensive balance tonight. We couldn’t be one-sided. (Tailbacks) Buck Allen and Justin Davis did a great job.”
No decision: After the game, Agholor announced in a quick interview he had not decided whether to head to the NFL. He said he still had time to make an informed decision.
Defensive issues: The Trojans defense allowed 42 points to the Huskers on Saturday. Prior to the Nebraska game, the Men of Troy were allowing 23.8 points per game.
Defensive MVP: Trojans All-American defensive tackle Leonard Williams was named the Holiday Bowl Defensive Player of the Game. Afterward, Williams said, “It felt great to be honored as that and seen as that from my peers and coaches and teammates as the defensive player of the game. I don’t give myself the respect of earning that award, I give it to all my guys that I was out there battling with and have fun with.”
Offensive dominance: The Trojans had 515 yards of total offense against the Huskers on Saturday. Prior to the Nebraska game, The Men of Troy were averaging 452.8 offensive yards per game.
Holiday Bowl records: The 79 points scored in the first three quarters is a new Holiday Bowl record, as well as the 38 combined points scored in the third quarter. Also, with 12 penalties in the game, the Trojans tied four other past Holiday Bowl teams.
An individual record: Adoree' Jackson’s 98-yard kickoff return was the longest in Holiday Bowl history, breaking the old record of 93 yards by Victor Ike of Texas in 2000.
The end zone flip: After Jackson’s 98-yard touchdown return in the first quarter, the USC true freshman did a front flip into the end zone. Jackson said, “What was going through my mind is actually my dad called me before the game and he told me to do something for him, and that’s pretty much what I was doing is something for him because he wasn’t able to make the game. That’s what was going through my mind, give him something.”
Cotton on Jackson: Regarding Jackson, Cotton said, “He’s an explosive guy. If you don’t wrap up early, it’s too late to wrap up late.”
Defensive issues: Against the Huskers on Saturday, the Trojans defense allowed a total of 525 yards. Prior to the Nebraska game, the Trojans were allowing 398.2 yards per game.
A linebacker’s take: Regarding the Nebraska offense, Trojans junior linebacker Anthony Sarao said, “They run a great offense. They force you to read it and they’re physical. Their running back (Ameer Abdullah) really keeps his feet moving, not like most college backs.”
Rush hour, Part 1: Against the Huskers on Saturday, the Trojans rushed for 194 yards. Prior to the Nebraska game, the Men of Troy were averaging 158.2 yards rushing per game.
The Buck stops here: On his 44-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, USC's Javorius “Buck” Allen (152 rushing yards in the game) said, “I told (receiver) George Farmer I was going to score earlier and Coach Sark called the play. I went here and then went there, but I could feel the last 3 yards that one of their guys was behind me as I was getting into the end zone. The offensive line did a great job. This young line is going to be great.”
The red zone: The Trojans were 3-of-3 in the red zone while Nebraska was 6-of-7.
Stopping Gregory: Trojans true freshman offensive left tackle Toa Lobendahn was matched against Nebraska star defensive end Randy Gregory and held his own. Lobendahn said, “I just tried to move my feet. He’s a great player who will be in The League.”
Rush hour, Part 2: Against the Huskers on Saturday, the Trojans defense allowed 144 net yards rushing. Prior to the Nebraska game, the Men of Troy were allowing 132.5 rushing yards per game.
Counting the house: Saturday’s announced attendance was 55,789.
Passing the test: On Saturday against the Huskers, the Trojans passed for 321 yards. Prior to the Nebraska game, the Trojans were averaging 294.6 passing yards per game.
Kessler will return: After the game, Trojans junior quarterback Cody Kessler, who was the Holiday Bowl’s Offensive MVP (321 passing yards and three touchdowns), announced he’d be returning for his senior season. Kessler said, “Yeah, I am absolutely coming back. I told Sark, and I told some of the guys, and my family knew. My main thing was I didn’t want to take away from the bowl game. There’s a bunch of other guys that have decisions to make, and I didn’t want to take away from the senior class.”
Under pressure: Kessler was sacked three times (23 yards) by the Huskers defense, while the Trojans sacked Armstrong twice (15 yards).
Air defense: On Saturday against the Huskers, the Trojans defense allowed 381 passing yards. Prior to the Nebraska game, the Trojans pass defense was allowing 265.7 yards per game.
The flag is up: The Trojans were penalized 12 times for 97 yards. Prior to the Nebraska game, the Trojans were averaging 77.2 yards in penalties per game.
Top tacklers: Corner Josh Shaw and defensive tackle Leonard Williams led the Trojans defense with nine tackles each.
Next game: The Trojans will open the 2015 season Sept. 5 in the Coliseum against Arkansas State.
Under Armour All-America High School Football Game
Location: Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
Date: Friday, Jan. 2
Kickoff: 1 p.m. PT
Practice dates: Dec. 29-Jan. 1 (Dec. 30-31 practices air at 5 p.m. PT on ESPNU)
Roster: Click here
TE Tyler Petite (Moraga, Calif./Campolindo) -- Black team
ATH Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Ga./Callaway) -- White team
LB John Houston Jr. (Gardena, Calif./Serra) -- Black team
RB Ronald Jones II (McKinney, Texas/McKinney North) -- White team
WR DaMarkus Lodge (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) -- Black team
CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) -- White team
DL Tim Settle (Manassas, Va./Stonewall Jackson) -- White team
CB Kendall Sheffield (Missouri City, Texas/Thurgood Marshall) -- White team
LB Roquan Smith (Montezuma, Ga./Macon County) -- White team
WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Anaheim, Calif./Servite) -- White team
* Tight end Chris Clark (Avon, Conn./Avon Old Farms) was originally scheduled to play in this game, but he will now sit out due to injury. His interest in USC has reportedly waned following the commitment of Petite.
USC targets tentatively expected to announce decision:
Jones -- Notre Dame, USC
Settle -- Louisville, Oklahoma State, USC, Virginia Tech, Washington State
Sheffield -- Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Texas A&M, USC
Location: Alamodome (San Antonio, Texas)
Date: Saturday, Jan. 3
Kickoff: 10 a.m. PT
Practice dates: Dec. 29-Jan. 1
Roster: Click here
DL Jacob Daniel (Fresno, Calif./Clovis North) -- West
QB Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) -- East
OL Chuma Edoga (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern) -- East
DB Isaiah Langley (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill) -- West
DL Christian Rector (Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola) -- West
QB Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) -- West
LB Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills) -- West
DB DeChaun Holiday (San Marcos, Calif./Mission Hills) -- West
ATH Donte Jackson (Jefferson, La./Riverdale) -- West
LB Osa Masina (Salt Lake City, Utah/Brighton) -- West
ATH Ykili Ross (Riverside, Calif./Poly) -- West
DB Marvell Tell (Encino, Calif./Crespi) -- West
* USC defensive line target Rasheem Green (Gardena, Calif./Serra) is on the West roster, but he will not participate due to injury.
USC targets tentatively expected to announce decision:
Ross -- Arizona State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, USC
Tell -- Oregon, Texas A&M, USC
Location: StubHub Center (Carson, Calif.)
Date: Sunday, Jan. 4
Kickoff: 6 p.m. PT
TV: Fox Sports 1
Practice dates: Dec. 31–Jan. 3
Roster: Click here
DL Noah Jefferson (Henderson, Nev./Liberty) -- West
WR Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) -- East
TE T.J. Wheatley Jr. (Buffalo, N.Y./ Canisius) -- East
USC targets tentatively expected to announce decision:
It didn't take long for the Holiday Bowl to put up big numbers either, as the 1979 game (only the second in its existence) saw 874 yards of total offense between the two teams as Indiana -- coached by Lee "Not So Fast, My Friend" Corso -- defeated BYU by a score of 38-37.
It was the 1980 game, however, which really served notice that the San Diego-hosted bowl could be something unique. The Cougars of BYU were involved once again, this time against the Pony Express backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James and the SMU Mustangs. SMU was up 45-25 late in the game before Jim McMahon led BYU on a touchdown drive, the Cougars recovered an onside kick and scored again, then blocked an SMU punt and hit a Hail Mary to pull out the dramatic 46-45 victory. McMahon (446 passing yards and four TDs) and James (225 rushing yards and two TDs) were named Co-Offensive Most Valuable Players of the Game.
McMahon came back in 1981 to throw for 342 yards and three touchdowns as the Cougars beat Washington State 38-36. The defensive MVP that day for BYU was current Utah coach Fred Whittingham.
The 1984 game was an important milestone for the bowl as BYU clinched the national championship with a 24-17 victory over Michigan, behind 343 passing yards from Robbie Bosco.
After so many years of quarterback heroics it was a return to the running game in 1988 when Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State rushed for 222 yards and a bowl-record five touchdowns in a 62-14 victory over Wyoming. Sanders sat out the fourth quarter, which prevented him from breaking Craig James' bowl rushing record. Current OSU coach Mike Gundy threw for 315 yards while Hart Lee Dykes caught 10 passes for a then bowl-record 163 yards.
It was another future Heisman winner -- Ty Detmer from BYU -- who brought the attention back to the air in 1989 by setting Holiday Bowl records for completing 42 of 59 passes for 576 yards but it was in a losing effort to Penn State, who was led by Blair Thomas with a bowl-record 35 carries for 186 yards. Detmer was knocked out of the game early with a shoulder injury in 1990 (the year he won the Heisman) in a 65-14 loss to Texas A&M but he came back to throw for 350 yards in a 1991 tie against Iowa 13-13, which was the first tie and the lowest scoring Holiday Bowl.
In recent years, the tradition of offense has been kept alive by players such as Marshawn Lynch with 111 rushing yards and a pair of scores in 2006, Colt McCoy with 321 all-purpose yards in 2007 or Dez Bryant with bowl record 13 catches for 168 yards in 2008.
USC tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo was part of a memorable Holiday Bowl in 1999 as quarterback of the Washington Huskies. Tuiasosopo had Washington in the lead late in the game and driving for a score when he threw an interception, the game turned, and Kansas State eventually won 24-20. Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian knows what it's like to coach in the game, he brought his Huskies to San Diego in 2010 where they beat Nebraska 19-7 behind 177 rushing yards from Chris Polk.
With such a strong tradition of performances on the offensive side of the ball, don't be surprised at all if Trojans Cody Kessler, Buck Allen and Nelson Agholor or Cornhuskers' Tommy Armstrong, Ameer Abdullah or Kenny Bell are the ones making similar memories in this edition of the game.
A flurry of commitments and decommitments has led to considerable movement in the latest class rankings update. Several top-10 programs added ESPN 300 prospects, including Tennessee, which picked up top-10 ILB Darrin Kirkland Jr. The Vols already have a class that features a talented group of defensive linemen, and have now added a big, powerful inside linebacker that can develop into a tough downhill run-stopper. Butch Jones now has Tennessee in contention for a second-straight top-five finish.
Outside the top 10, USC landed a verbal from in-state tight end Tyler Petite, a tall, lengthy prospect with the size, speed and leaping ability to potentially create mismatches as a receiving target at the position. After landing the former Duke commit, USC's class features eight ESPN 300 prospects.
Ole Miss also saw a move up in the rankings with a pair of additions. The Rebels landed ESPN Junior College 50 QB Chad Kelly, a player who is physically gifted enough to be a strong candidate to replace QB Bo Wallace, a one-time junior college transfer himself. Ole Miss, who not sits at No. 17, also landed ESPN 300 OT Michael Howard. He is a lean OL prospect that needs to fill out, but is an athletic and tenacious player and with development could end up being a real strong pick-up out of Florida for the Rebels.
Inside the rankings
Coach Art Briles has had two very distinct luxuries when it comes to recruiting in today's complicated landscape -- recruiting in the shadows and recruiting without pressure. Both are actually in many ways, one in the same. As Briles has built this program, he's been able to do it his way without public pressure or booster interference because early on, nobody thought it could be done and nobody cared.
This staff was able to go after who they wanted, on their own timetable and without much scrutiny. In today's recruiting world, that's a huge luxury. Players like Levi Norwood, Antwan Goodley or Tevin Reese, who was a late qualifier, were all bypassed by other Power 5 programs, but nobody even noticed Baylor signed them or griped, "who are these guys" on signing day.
As a result, prospects like these were brought along at a normal pace and developed properly by the coaching staff. Redshirting the bulk of the classes for the first few years has also been huge for the Bears. The challenge going forward will be dealing with increased program exposure and expectation level which almost always brings with it increased recruiting scrutiny from boosters and fans alike. But the Bears don??t need to change a thing.
To see the full class rankings, click here.
TBD Arkansas State USC TBD Colorado Hawaii TBD Eastern Washington Oregon TBD Weber State Oregon State TBD Washington Boise State TBD Portland State Washington State TBD Grambling State California TBD Stanford Northwestern TBD Virginia UCLA