USC Trojans: USC Trojans

With USC set to start up spring practice on Tuesday, here’s a look at five significant revelations that emerged from the team’s volunteer throwing sessions that took place on campus this January and February.

There is going to be a lot of opportunity coming up in USC spring ball beginning next week for several players who have been waiting for their chance to shine.

This is particularly true on the defensive side of the ball, with a pair of open starting spots at rush end and inside linebacker.

Scott Felix enters his fourth year in the program and had his most productive season in 2014 while appearing in all 13 games and recording 36 tackles, 1.5 sacks and five tackles for loss. Felix started start five games at rush end when J.R. Tavai was out with an injury, so he has that valuable experience. But Felix is going to need to show the coaches he is ready for more if he wants to secure the full-time starting spot.

Felix is likely to face competition from a pair of veterans who are also looking for bigger roles. Jabari Ruffin has been an outside linebacker to this point in his USC career, and he missed the 2014 season due to a knee injury suffered in fall camp so it’s unclear how much he would be available in spring. But there is a lot of speculation about the possibility of Ruffin moving to rush end when he does return. It makes sense to consider, particularly if Su'a Cravens is entrenched in his outside linebacker spot, as Ruffin has a lot of the skill set to make the switch. Charles Burks is heading into his fifth year as a player who has seen limited action with the ability to rush the passer. Burks would definitely want to have a solid spring to get the coaches' attention before one of the true freshmen (Porter Gustin?) gets a look in the fall.

The departure of Hayes Pullard in the middle of the linebacker group leaves a hole that isn’t clear in terms of who will take over. Michael Hutchings has spent two years as the primary reserve to Pullard and would seemingly get the first shot, but I don’t think you can say Hutchings has shown enough so far to think he is definitely ready for the role. Lamar Dawson could get a look here in spring; he missed the 2014 season with injury, but he has the size and experience to warrant giving him a shot. Olajuwon Tucker, who saw time in seven games last season as a freshman, is another spring option, as is early enrollee Cameron Smith. And you can be sure that all three freshman linebackers arriving in the fall (John Houston, Osa Masina and Gustin) could be in the mix as well.

On the offensive side of the ball, it’s a pair of pass-catching options who stand out, as Darreus Rogers and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick will both head into spring as the favorites to land starting spots.

For Rogers, he was also the heavy favorite to get a starting spot last fall opposite Nelson Agholor, but JuJu Smith steamrolled past him and became that second option in the passing game. With Agholor (and George Farmer) gone and Smith now established as the No. 1 guy, Rogers has a real chance to solidify his role with a steady spring. He will face competition in the spring from early enrollee juco transfer Isaac Whitney, with another talented juco receiver arriving in the fall in De’Quan Hampton.

Cope-Fitzpatrick could be one of the more valuable additions to the USC roster this spring after missing the 2014 season due to academic reasons. Depth is an issue at tight end, even though Bryce Dixon does offer one of the more talented receiving options you are going to find at the position after a promising freshman season. What Cope-Fitzpatrick can offer, in addition to some solid hands, is a more physical presence as a blocking option, and you have to imagine he is highly motivated after being forced to sit out a year.

There are certainly other examples of players who are anxious to show they are capable of doing more. How about Justin Davis? There is opportunity at tailback, as it’s unclear how Tre Madden will return from his toe injury. Is this the time for Quinton Powell to make a move? USC coach Steve Sarkisian made it clear he wanted Powell to add bulk to be more of a physical factor, so it will be interesting to see where Powell is at in the spring. And we haven’t even mentioned Max Browne, the former No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation who has spent two years progressing and learning, and this spring should be a great chance to judge how far he has come.
LOS ANGELES -- If the NCAA really wanted to destroy the USC Trojans' football program through sanctions, they should have included a true freshmen ineligibility addendum. Now that really would have been the lethal kryptonite to the Superman program built by former head coach Pete Carroll.

Imagine how an NCAA freshmen ineligibility sanction would have crippled the Trojans in recruiting. Unless a blue-chip recruit always wanted to play for the Men of Troy, it's a safe bet that the Trojans would have lost out on a number of high-valued players that helped keep the program afloat and winning during those sanctioned seasons.

Now let's fast-forward to last season, Steve Sarkisian's first at the helm of the Trojans' storied program. Ask yourself, where would the Trojans have been in 2014 if there had been a freshmen ineligibility rule as part of the general college football landscape?

Apparently what the NCAA never did during the Trojans' sanctions -- freshmen ineligibility -- has now become a hot item in college football. The Big Ten appears to be spearheading a potentially seismic shift in the way college sports do business. The Big Ten wants to consider freshmen ineligibility, and it's getting positive support from both the Pac-12 and the Big 12.

And the powerful SEC?

Are you really surprised the SEC hasn't shown public support of the Big Ten's freshmen ineligibility concept? In theory, consider Sarkisian recruiting nationally against Alabama's Nick Saban, and Sark's Pac-12 has freshmen ineligibility and Saban's SEC doesn't. It would be the recruiting theatre of the absurd, and you know which university the high school phenom would likely select.

In all likelihood, a freshmen ineligibility rule won't pass because all stakeholders invested into the College Football Playoff would need to be on the same recruiting playing field. Of course, the SEC would be more than happy if the other conferences went to a freshmen ineligibility rule and they didn't.

From a USC football program point of view, had a freshmen ineligibility rule been in effect last season, it might have been disastrous even after finally being set free from NCAA sanctions.

Given the limited numbers and depth issues, imagine if the Trojans couldn't have had the 2014 services of those three true freshmen prodigies that started along the offensive line -- namely Freshman All-American left tackle Toa Lobendahn and physical guards Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama.

Picture, if you will, the Trojans being unable to play with sensational true freshman wide receiver JuJu Smith and talented strong safety John Plattenburg?

The crème de la crème of the true freshmen, of course, was Freshman All-America corner/wide receiver Adoree' Jackson, whose sensational 98-yard kickoff touchdown return and electrifying 71-yard TD catch-and-run ignited the Trojans to a 45-42 victory against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the National University Holiday Bowl.

Speaking of the Trojans' Holiday Bowl win in San Diego, the Cardinal and Gold started six true freshmen -- four on offense and two on defense and also received support from two additional true freshmen talents in tight end Bryce Dixon and corner Jonathan Lockett.

There is little argument that true freshmen need time to adjust to college life academically, athletically, and socially. However, this isn't the 1970s. Priorities and professional career paths have changed dramatically, and players and their parents more than ever see the riches of playing in the NFL and the fulfillment of lifelong dreams.

For those that cry academics are hurt by true freshmen eligibility, after high school graduation many incoming freshmen players immediately enrolled by their university into summer school classes, thus getting a jump-start on a college degree, academics, social life, and immersion into their sports' pathway.

Yes, times have changed.

Just this January at the U.S. Army All-America Bowl, which features many of the nation's premier senior high school football players, two-way star Ykili Ross (Riverside, Calif./Poly) declared on national television that he was taking his talents to the University of Southern California for "the next three years."

Naturally, Ross's "next three years" declaration as opposed to "next four years" brought forth a lot of discussion, but the teenager was just echoing what most incoming freshman football players of today are thinking, and that's heading to the NFL immediately after their junior season.

Yes, times have changed.

The Trojans already have four of Ross's true freshmen teammates (offensive linemen Chuma Edoga and Roy Hemsley, linebacker Cameron Smith, and quarterback Ricky Town) enrolled in USC's spring semester. All four wanted to forego their spring senior semester at their respective high schools and begin their college careers early -- to not only adjust to college life but to participate in spring practice, which begins March 3.

There is very little debate that freshmen ineligibility was once a noble and admirable transition from high school to college, but there are way too many variables and options in today's college football world to go back in time.

And if any university can attest to the values and benefits of freshmen eligibility, the Trojans' football program can because they have lived it in more ways than one.
LOS ANGELES -- For the large contingent of USC Trojans season-ticket holders, they have until Feb. 28 to renew their tickets, and the Trojans' ticket department is taking full advantage of the Men of Troy's nationally acclaimed recruiting class of 2015 to encourage renewals.

Nothing probably stimulated USC season-ticket renewals more than the recent bountiful collection of incoming talent as represented by the class of 2015. Depending on your choice of recruiting service, USC recorded the No. 1 recruiting class and no worse than No. 3 if you go by ESPN's final evaluation.

Prior to the recent emailed recruiting pitch for season-ticket renewals, the Trojans' ticket department has been promoting some reward possibilities. A random drawing of a daily prize this month has included such possibilities as pregame home field passes, autographed Trojans' helmets, theme park tickets, and exclusive lunch and photo opportunities.

The Trojans' home schedule also has some solid selling points for ticket renewal. The home slate features seven games in the Coliseum, including contests with crosstown rival UCLA, traditional Bay Area rival Stanford, and a Thursday night game against Washington. Six of those home foes played in bowl games this season.

Season-ticket renewals during the Pete Carroll era were a ticket department's dream. Looking back at it, who really believed Carroll when he proclaimed that one day during his time the Coliseum would be sold out on a regular basis? For longtime Trojans' season-ticket holders, the thought of a regularly sold-out Coliseum seemed as unlikely as the elimination of California earthquakes.

One of the many things that Pete Carroll left as his legacy was his template for Coliseum sellouts. Just win big, baby, recruit exciting and electrifying players, and be a head coach that is extremely fan friendly and accessible.

Ah, yes, recruit electrifying performers. Nothing like Carroll having at his disposal recruits such as tailbacks Reggie Bush and LenDale White, quarterback Matt Leinart, receivers Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, and defenses led by the intimidating likes of defensive tackle Shaun Cody, linebackers Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, and Keith Rivers, and offensive people movers such as offensive tackle Sam Baker.

Obviously, Trojans' attendance has not been at the Carroll level in recent seasons, but there was short-lived, season-ticket excitement in 2012 when former head coach Lane Kiffin's team was the nation's preseason No. 1 team.

As spring football commences on March 3, the Trojans' ticket department is hoping that season-ticket holders will again feel that Carroll excitement, given the fact that many respected media members and outlets are predicating the Men of Troy to be one of the nation's best in 2015 and a strong contender for one of the spots in the College Football Playoff.

The Trojans open the season by hosting Arkansas State and Idaho, two teams that quite likely won't stimulate season-ticket renewals. However, the 2015 season is really all about the Trojans and the hopes and dreams of fans that the Men of Troy will take another step toward being back in the national championship picture.

Sometimes seaso- ticket renewal is all about a fan's perception of the future. As of the present, that future -- thanks to the recruiting class of 2015 -- should be enough as Steve Sarkisian and staff attempts to emulate the Carroll attendance formula, which the Trojans' ticket department hopes will stimulate the remaining vacillating season-ticket population.
LOS ANGELES -- After posting a message on his Twitter account on Monday night that read "Proud to be a Trojan! #FightOn!," Bob Connelly was officially announced as USC Trojans' new offensive line coach on Wednesday through the school's athletics website. Connelly fills the vacancy created when Tim Drevno left USC in early January to join Jim Harbaugh's staff at Michigan. Connelly will also carry the title of run game coordinator with the Trojans.

A veteran assistant with 19 years of college coaching experience under his belt, Connelly has worked all over the map, with USC now serving as his 12th stop. He arrives at USC after having spent the past year at Oklahoma State. Before his stint with the Cowboys, he worked on staffs at Arizona State (2012), UTEP (2008-11), UCLA (2007), Alabama (2003-06), Washington State (2001-02), San Jose State (2000), Cal State Northridge (1999), Texas A&M (1998), Cisco Junior College (1996-97) as well as at his alma mater, Texas A&M Commerce (1995).

Possessing significant experience working in no-huddle, up-tempo offensive systems, his specialty has been the offensive line throughout his career, and he also served as the associate head coach at Arizona State and UTEP.

"We are delighted to have Bob join our staff," said USC coach Steve Sarkisian. "He is a great fit for what we do. He is very familiar with Pac-12 and West Coast football, and he is also very versatile as he has coached various offensive styles in his career."

Among those whom Connelly has coached are 2008 Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith, as well as Justin Smiley, Evan Mathis and Antoine Caldwell. All four of those players were selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft, with Mathis going on to earn a Pro Bowl selection in 2013.

In 2014, Connelly's offensive line unit at Oklahoma State had its ups as well as its downs, giving up a total of 40 sacks -- tied for the sixth most in the FBS -- but also reportedly making strides down the stretch of the schedule.

At USC, Connelly takes the reins of an extremely young, but talented offensive line corps that featured as many as three true freshmen starters this past season. Also, the line is headlined by senior center Max Tuerk, a 2014 First-Team All-Pac-12 honoree.
With USC's stellar signing haul of 2015 now in the books, here's a look at some of the top Class of 2016 offensive targets who are on the Trojans' radar.

Quarterback

Offers: K.J. Costello (Coto de Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic), Malik Henry (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy), Shea Patterson (Shreveport, La./Calvary Baptist Academy), Khalil Tate (Gardena, Calif./Serra)

The Trojans just added two signal-callers in the most recent class, so it's a virtual certainty that Steve Sarkisian and his staff will take no more than one this time around. Topping the list looks to be Patterson, the No. 28 overall ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300. A strong-armed, mobile passer, he has unofficially visited the USC campus on at least two separate occasions, and he is also considering Ole Miss and LSU among others. Also right there is the 6-foot-5 Costello, who passed for over 3,100 yards this past season, and whose recruitment appears to be turning into a USC-Stanford battle. Henry, meanwhile, committed to FSU back in November. Tate is another quarterback who has an offer, although he's being recruited as an athlete.

Running back

Offers: None

Three highly touted tailbacks were a part of the Trojans' recruiting class of 2015, so the coaches are obviously taking their time in evaluating prospects at the position, but they are still likely to take one or two more in this class. No running back holds an offer at this time, but Beau Bisharat (Carmichael, Calif./Jesuit), Zion Echols (Covina, Calif./Charter Oak), Freddie Holly (Riverside, Calif./Norte Vista) and athletes Damian Alloway (Fontana, Calif./Summit) and Demetric Felton (Temecula, Calif./Great Oak) were all invited to USC's Elite Junior Day event, so there is certainly interest there. Chase Lucas (Chandler, Ariz./Chandler), Bryson Denley (Cibolo, Texas/Byron P. Steele II) and Sean McGrew (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) are others to watch. Additionally, this could be where someone such as Tate projects, as well as potentially Isaiah Gilchrist (Bellevue, Wash/Bellevue), although he's more commonly thought of as a defensive back. With Jahleel Pinner and Soma Vainuku both heading into their final seasons at USC, it will be interesting to see if Sarkisian targets any fullbacks in this class.

Wide receiver

Offers: Sam Bruce (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas), Nate Craig-Myers (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic), Dylan Crawford (Coto de Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic), Theo Howard (Westlake Village, Calif./Westlake), N'Keal Harry (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos De Niza), Collin Johnson (San Jose, Calif./Valley Christian), Jackie Jones (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), Mykel Jones (Patterson, La./Patterson), Javon McKinley (Corona, Calif./Centennial), Steffon McKnight (San Diego, Calif./Mira Mesa), Darian Owens (Fresno, Calif./Clovis West), Michael Pittman (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian), Dredrick Snelson (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), Tyler Vaughns (La Puente, Calif./Bishop Amat)

No position is more loaded this year than wide receiver, particularly in Southern California, and with USC likely to want up to four prospects at the position, the timing couldn't be more perfect for Sarkisian and his staff. The Trojans' coaches have done a nice job of already building up solid relationships with elite playmakers like Vaughns, often pointed to as the arguable jewel of the crop, as well as McKinley, Jackie Jones, Crawford, Howard, Owens and Pittman. With so much talent at wide receiver, the Trojans figure to be in good shape no matter who they ultimately sign from the group that they've offered. Simi Fehoko (Salt Lake City, Utah/Brighton) and Dymond Lee (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade) are a couple of other prospects who were at the recent Junior Day.

Tight end

Commits: Isaac Garcia (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue)

Offers: Devin Asiasi (Concord, Calif./De La Salle), Isaac Nauta (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy)

While the Trojans did land ESPN 300 tight end Tyler Petite this past signing day, as well as another strong prospect in recruited walk-on Caleb Wilson, this is still a position low on depth, so USC will likely take at least two players here. Garcia, originally from Fontana (Calif.), is a nice start for the Trojans, but he could easily wind up on the defensive side of the ball at rush end. With over 15 offers to his credit, Asiasi is arguably the top in-state tight end target for the Trojans. He's an outstanding two-way star who even took some reps at quarterback this past season due to need. Nauta has a USC offer, but is currently committed to Florida State.

Offensive Line

Offers: Greg Little (Allen, Texas/Allen), E.J. Price (Lawrenceville, Ga./Archer)

Counting Clayton Johnston, who will arrive in August as a blueshirt, USC has taken nine offensive linemen over the past two years, but it still wouldn't be a surprise to see them sign three or four more this time around. So far, they've only offered two offensive linemen in national prospects Price and Little, the latter of whom is a Texas A&M commit, but closer to home Frank Martin II (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) has been getting a lot of interest. He, as well as Alex Akingbulu (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) were both invited to USC's recent Junior Day event. Honolulu (Hawaii) Kaiser's Michael Eletise is also on the Trojans' radar, and some others to watch include Tremayne Anchrum Jr. (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern), Andrew Boselli (Jacksonville, Fla./Episcopal), Tucker Scott (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente), Luke Wattenberg (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./JSerra) and Sean Wheeler (Santa Monica, Calif./Santa Monica).
With a signing haul in the books for USC that is filled with top-flight talent, it's hard to single anyone out, but here's a look at six members of the class who appear especially primed to make a significant impact in 2015.

Iman "Biggie" Marshall
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly; cornerback; 6-foot-2, 200 pounds

Marshall, the No. 1-ranked cornerback in the ESPN 300, was an absolutely huge get for the Trojans, and he has the talent and physical tools to potentially slide into the lineup on defense and make his presence felt from Day 1. Extremely aggressive in coverage with excellent ball skills and tackling ability, he could vie not only for the starting role at the cornerback position opposite Adoree' Jackson, but he also has the size and skill set to play inside at nickelback.

Ronald Jones II
McKinney (Texas) North; running back; 6-0, 185

With the departure of Javorius "Buck" Allen to the NFL, and the Trojans returning just two scholarship tailbacks in Justin Davis and Tre Madden, it was of vital importance for USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff to reload at this position, and by landing the signatures of Jones, Aca'Cedric Ware and Dominic Davis, it's safe to say that they did just that. With his explosive, playmaking ability and speed, it's Jones, the No. 1-ranked running back in the ESPN 300, who just might have the best chance of the group of making his presence felt early.

Osa Masina
Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton; linebacker/tight end; 6-4, 245

Masina is a rare talent with everything that you look for in a linebacker. He has outstanding size to go along with a physical brand of play, but what really makes him stand out is his athleticism and just how surprisingly fluid he is in his movement. Extremely versatile, he has the instincts to play at inside linebacker, the length and pass-rushing ability to line up on the edge, and having excelled as a running back on the high school level, he could even get a look at tight end.

Isaac Whitney
Riverside (Calif.) City College; wide receiver; 6-4, 205

With the loss of both Nelson Agholor and George Farmer to the NFL draft, there is certainly room for a player like Whitney to step in and become a real contributor alongside guys like JuJu Smith, Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell. Surprisingly quick and shifty for a player his size, he has a combination of talents that Tee Martin's group simply doesn't possess at this time. Having played two years at Division II Central Oklahoma prior to landing at Riverside City College, he also has some experience under his belt, and that, coupled with the fact he will participate in spring practice, could play a pivotal role in him being ready to make an instant splash.

Porter Gustin
Salem (Utah) Hills; linebacker; 6-5, 250

With so much young talent on the roster at linebacker now, it's going to be hard for Peter Sirmon to get everyone on the field, but Gustin is another fantastic all-around athlete who is physically prepared to play on the college level immediately. Most talk has him beginning his career competing at Mike linebacker, where the Trojans lost a four-year starter in Hayes Pullard, but he has the ability to contribute at a number of other spots -- perhaps most likely at rush end.

Chuma Edoga
Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern; offensive lineman; 6-5, 280

It's not often that offensive linemen see the field early in their careers on the college level, but with Edoga's athleticism and size, combined with his spring practice participation, he has the looks of a player who could start. Having lined up at both guard and tackle in the week leading up to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, his versatility also gives him a big edge, and as everyone saw last season, Sarkisian certainly isn't afraid to play any of the freshmen if he believes they can help the team.
One of the most consistent participants in the volunteer throwing sessions that have been taking place this winter at USC has been third-year sophomore quarterback Max Browne, who, along with players such as Cody Kessler and JuJu Smith, help organize the workouts.


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USC just wrapped up its 2014 campaign a little over a month ago, but that’s old news for the returning players on the team. They’ve already switched their focus to next season.


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As USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff sprint down the recruiting stretch with a legitimate chance to finish with the nation's top signing haul Insider, there are a couple position groups that they're still working hard to shore up. Though, it's safe to say that the running back spot isn't one of them -- thanks in part to a pair of Texas standouts in McKinney North's Ronald Jones II and Cedar Hill's Aca'Cedric Ware.

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.

[+] EnlargeRonald Jones II
Miller Safrit/ESPNRonald Jones II, ranked No. 34 in the ESPN 300, says USC has always been one of his top choices.
Ware is a shifty, yet surprisingly physical ball carrier who had an even bigger senior campaign, amassing 2,440 yards (8.4 avg.) and 34 touchdowns on the ground while leading his team to its second consecutive state title. He's also added some bulk to his 6-foot frame as of late, recently weighing in at 200 pounds -- up 10 pounds from the weight he played at this past fall.

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."

Pac-12 recruiting class breakdowns

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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.

Arizona

Commitments: 28

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 Insider.
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The Trojans added another big piece to their 2015 recruiting class on Friday with the news that ESPN 300 linebacker Osa Masina committed to USC.


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USC athletic director Pat Haden talked about the discussions between Penn State and the NCAA regarding sanction relief during a radio interview Friday morning.

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.

[+] EnlargeHaden
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Pat Haden served on the first College Football Playoff selection committee.
“Well, it’s too late,” Haden said on The Beast 980. “We’re back to no scholarship limitations at all. I can tell you … over the last four-and-a-half years I have been back there [to the NCAA] asking for a look at our penalties at least three times and have been rebuffed.”

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The spring semester began on Monday at USC, which meant the arrival of five football players as early enrollees: Isaac Whitney, Ricky Town, Chuma Edoga, Cameron Smith and Roy Hemsley.

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.

Quarterback: Town

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.
With the news that Buck Allen has declared for the NFL draft, the Trojans have lost their most productive running back in the last decade.

"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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