Trojans recruiting update

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
7:30
AM PT
There has been a lot of activity lately with the USC recruiting wish list, so here is an updated look at some of the top targets for the Trojans coaches.

QUARTERBACK

Commits: Sam Darnold, Ricky Town
Outlook: Trojans are done at this spot.

RUNNING BACK

Commits: Aca'Cedric Ware, Dominic Davis
Outlook: Ronald Jones II is an option here, a guy who is committed to Oklahoma State but had a good visit to USC last weekend. There had been some interest in Mike Weber as well, but he committed this week to Ohio State.

WIDE RECEIVER

Commits: Tristan Payton, De'Quan Hampton
Outlook: This is a position where there could be more movement. Last week saw a de-commit from Desean Holmes, and next week comes the announcement from junior college star Isaac Whitney. Many recruiting projections have him ending up at USC. That would mean three receiver commits, and there remains interest in Equanimeous St. Brown, DeMarkus Lodge, Terry Godwin and Javarius Davis.

TIGHT END

Commits: None
Outlook: The USC coaches are still active in trying to bring in a tight end with recent in-home visits to Chris Clark, T.J. Wheatley and Duke verbal commit Tyler Petite.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Commits: Chuma Edoga, Cole Smith, Roy Hemsley, Clayton Johnston
Outlook: At various points in the recruiting cycle it has looked like USC wanted to bring in five offensive linemen, but right now it appears as if the coaches might be set with four. Darrin Paulo has received interest and could be a name to watch if there is an available scholarship at the end.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Commits: Jacob Daniel, Noah Jefferson, Christian Rector
Outlook: It would not be a surprise at all to see the Trojans add two more bodies along the defensive line, and they would love for one of them to be Rasheem Green. Porter Gustin could wind up at defensive end or outside linebacker, most likely on the line, and he is another top priority. Both will come on recruiting visits to USC in January. Other names to watch include Mika Tafua, Dillon Faamatau, Benning Potoae, Kevin Scott, and Canton Kaumatule, the Oregon commit who continues to be pursued by the Trojans.

LINEBACKER

Commits: Cameron Smith
Outlook: There are two primary targets remaining at linebacker -- John Houston Jr. and Osa Masina. Houston has long been thought to be a USC lean, but the Oregon Ducks impressed him on a recent visit. Masina will likely be a USC vs. UCLA battle, and his trip to USC for the Notre Dame game could tilt things in the Trojans' favor. Roquan Smith is also on the wish list.

DEFENSIVE BACK

Commits: Isaiah Langley, Taeon Mason
Outlook: Another position where there could be multiple additions in the final month of this cycle, and there are certainly some talented options remaining with names like Iman Marshall, Ykili Ross, Marvell Tell, DeChaun Holiday and Donte Jackson.

ESPN.com's All-Pac-12 team

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
9:00
AM PT
The Pac-12 has already announced its all-conference teams, but we have our own thoughts and choices. Here is the ESPN.com All-Pac-12 team for 2014:

First-Team Offense:

QB: Marcus Mariota, Oregon: He led the Ducks to a Pac-12 title and the inaugural College Football Playoff. If that’s not enough, his adjusted QBR, passer efficiency rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio led the conference (as well as the nation).
RB: Paul Perkins, UCLA: Perkins led the conference in rushing yards per game (115.1) and total rushing yards (1378). He accounted for more than half of the Bruins’ rushing yardage and provided a valuable tool in the receiving game, as well, tallying 26 catches and two receiving touchdowns.
RB: Devontae Booker, Utah: Booker led the Pac-12 in total carries (266) and was a force who carried the Utah offense while it went through quarterback changes. Even when opponents knew that the Utes would be a pretty rush-heavy attack, defenses still had issues stopping Booker.
WR: Nelson Agholor, USC: Agholor finished the regular season with 97 receptions, 1,223 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. His best performances came later in the season, tallying 100-yard receiving totals in five of the Trojans’ final six regular-season games.
WR: Jaelen Strong, Arizona State: Strong finished the year with 75 receptions, 10 touchdowns and 1,062 yards. He had his fair share of clutch plays, but his biggest was his Hail Mary (aka Jael Mary) reception that gave ASU a 38-34 win over USC.
WR: Vince Mayle, Washington State: Mayle led the conference in receptions per game (8.8) and receiving yards (123.6). His numbers actually improved when freshman Luke Falk took over at quarterback in place of Connor Halliday. In his final three games, Mayle averaged 158 receiving yards (give credit to Mayle and Falk).
TE: Pharaoh Brown, Oregon: Brown suffered a season-ending injury in Oregon’s victory over Utah, but here’s hoping he makes a full recovery because he was fun to watch. He finished with six touchdowns on just 25 receptions and contributed a few huge blocks, as well.
OL: Max Tuerk, USC: He has played all over the line for the Trojans, but he was a big part of why they moved from 10th in total offense in 2013 to fourth in total offense in 2014.
OL: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon: Injuries depleted the Oregon O-line this season (Grasu is currently in a walking boot after suffering an injury in the Utah win), but Grasu held together the group as it underwent position shifts and changes. The Ducks finished the regular season leading the conference in total offense.
OL: Andrus Peat, Stanford: The Cardinal offense was underwhelming this season, but much of the success it did have was because of Peat. He anchored the line, and David Shaw has continually sung the praises of his left tackle. We have a feeling Peat’s NFL draft spot will reflect that.
OL: Jake Fisher, Oregon: The senior spent most of the year protecting Marcus Mariota’s blind side. And when he did, he was very, very good. During the 2 1/2 games Fisher missed, Mariota was sacked 12 times. During the other 10.5 he was in, Mariota was sacked just 17 times.
OL: Jamil Douglas, Arizona State: A three-year starter and one of the top offensive guard prospects in the country, Douglas was a key piece up front for the Sun Devils, who ranked 18th in the country in scoring (37.0).

First-Team Defense:

DL: Leonard Williams, USC: Possibly the top defensive NFL prospect in the country, Williams finished with 71 tackles (8.5 for loss), six sacks and forced three fumbles.
DL: Danny Shelton, Washington: Not just a space-occupier, Shelton was the most productive defensive tackle in the country finishing with 89 tackles, nine sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss.
DL: Henry Anderson, Stanford: The fifth-year senior was named the Cardinal’s defensive MVP after leading the team with 14 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and nine quarterback hurries.
DL: Nate Orchard, Utah: Orchard led the nation in sacks per game (1.46), led Utah with 20 tackles for loss and finished second with 81 tackles.
LB: Scooby Wright III, Arizona: Wright turned in one of the most complete defensive seasons in college football history, finishing with 153 tackles, 14 sacks, 28 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles.
LB: Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington: A dominant pass-rusher, Kikaha led the nation with 18 sacks and finished with 24 tackles for loss.
LB: Shaq Thompson, Washington: Also a threat at running back, Thompson scored four defensive touchdowns, forced three fumbles and finished with 71 tackles.
LB: Eric Kendricks, UCLA: The Butkus Award winner led the Bruins with 139 tackles, intercepted three passes, recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
CB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon: An All-America candidate, Ekpre-Olomu returned for his final year with the Ducks and lived up to the high standard he set early in his career.
CB: Steven Nelson, Oregon State: One of the country’s top cover corners, Nelson parlayed a strong senior year into an invitation to the Senior Bowl.
S: Jordan Richards, Stanford: Richards wrapped up his career with another standout season for the Cardinal, finishing with 76 tackles, three interceptions and seven passes defended.
S: Damarious Randall, Arizona State: The Sun Devils’ leading tackler (101 tackles) also picked off three passes, defended 11 and forced two fumbles.

Special Teams:

K: Andy Phillips, Utah: Automatic Andy led the Pac-12 with 22 field goals (on 26 attempts) and finished second in scoring at 8.7 points per game.
P: Tom Hackett, Utah: Hackett ranked second nationally with an average of 47.0 yards per punt.
RET: Kaelin Clay, Utah: Clay led the country with three punt returns for touchdowns and also returned a kickoff for a score.

Pac-12 morning links

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
8:00
AM PT
Happy Friday!

Leading off

Awards, awards and more awards. It was a huge night for the Pac-12 and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota at the Home Depot College Football Awards.

Mariota, who is also expected to claim the Heisman on Saturday, took home the Maxwell Awards (nation's outstanding player), the Davey O'Brien (national QB) and the Walter Camp player of the year.

Scooby Wright added to his trophy case by collecting the Bednarik Award (national defensive player of the year) and Utah punter Tom Hackett won the Ray Guy Award (given annually to the college football mate who makes the best bacon references ... just kidding, it's for top punter).

Here's how the Pac-12 shapes up in award season so far:
  • Maxwell Award: Marcus Mariota
  • Walter Camp Award: Marcus Mariota
  • Davey O'Brien Award: Marcus Mariota
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm: Marcus Mariota
  • Chuck Bednarik Award: Scooby Wright
  • Bronko Nagurski Award: Scooby Wright
  • Dick Butkus Award: Eric Kendricks
  • Ray Guy Award: Tom Hackett
  • Ted Hendricks Award: Nate Orchard
Coordinators on the move?

As the coaching carousel continues to spin, a pair of Pac-12 assistants have been rumored for the head coaching job at Tulsa, though only one looks to be in the mix. Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell is believed to be in the running, while Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost isn't on the list anymore. From the Tulsa World:
Another source said Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell’s candidacy has ramped up over the past two days. Norvell, 33, is in his third year at Arizona State, where he started in 2012 at $320,000 a year and now, according to USA Today, makes $900,000 annually plus bonuses. He was a graduate assistant and receivers coach under Todd Graham at Tulsa.

Per the report, Frost interviewed for the job.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Throw-back Friday. This guys' man cave is cooler than yours.

Mailbag: Next year's POYs?

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
5:00
PM PT
Welcome to mailbag. There's juice in the refrigerator. Follow me here on Twitter.

Jeremy in Boulder writes: Who will be the offensive and defensive players of the year in the league next season?

Kevin Gemmell: Uh, off the top of my head? Let's assume Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley jump to the NFL (I think that's safe).

Offensively, since this is a quarterback-driven game, you have to look at the QBs. The top returner (assuming he doesn't jump to the NFL) would be USC's Cody Kessler. He had fantastic numbers this year and a USC quarterback almost always has talented weapons around him to bolster the numbers. How about Jared Goff or Mike Bercovici with a full season? Anu Solomon? But I think you have to consider Royce Freeman and Nick Wilson as potential candidates. Same for Devontae Booker and Paul Perkins. One thing for sure, is there is never a lack of offensive talent in the conference. (And I know I'm not even mentioning about seven or eight guys).

Defensively, you have to start with the defending champ, Scooby Wright. But you have to think Myles Jack will be in that mix. Hunter Dimick, Blake Martinez and Su'a Cravens all come to mind. Budda Baker is a rising star. Kenny Clark had a great season. We know what a healthy Addison Gillam can do. A lot of big-time players to consider on that side of the ball also (and yes, a bunch I'm also not mentioning).

I think offense is probably more wide open than defense -- especially if Wright continues on the war path he started in 2014.

A couple of questions … one from Chris in New York and another from Ryan in New York, about UCLA “winning” the 2011 South Division title because USC was ineligible. It's in reference to this column.

Kevin Gemmell: It's always dicey as a reporter when you're talking about games that were actually played, but because of sanctions didn't count toward titles and/or were vacated. There is a time to dance around it and a time to tell it like it is.

In Tuesday's column, there is no way to dance around it. USC is not recognized as having won a division title. It's black and white. Is it bunk? Yeah, of course. The Trojans had a 7-2 conference record and UCLA was next in line at 5-4. And the icing was a 50-0 pasting to close out the year. But for the purposes of accuracy, it has to be acknowledged that it doesn't count. Sorry if that's a tough pill to swallow. But that's how it is.

Does that mean every time we write about division titles, we should remind everyone that USC was ineligible? I think the readers of the Pac-12 blog are savvy enough to know the situation (they wouldn't have brought it up in the mailbag or on Twitter if they didn't). All it does is harvest sour grapes like it did for my Trojan duo from New York (did you guys get together over pastrami sandwiches and craft your letters together?)

It's bad memories for both parties. For USC, it's a reminder of overly-harsh sanctions that denied the Trojans a spot in the first-ever Pac-12 championship game. For UCLA, it's a reminder of just how awful that year closed -- the loss to the Trojans, the beat down from Oregon in the title game and then losing to Illinois in the Interim Coach Bowl.

USC knows the score. UCLA knows the score. Heck, we all know the score. But this is how it stands in the record books, and thus has to be acknowledged that way.

Drex in Los Angels writes: Has a Heisman winner ever faced another Heisman winner in a college game? If Mariota wins, will the Rose Bowl be the first time?

Kevin Gemmell: Actually, it will be the fourth time, per the outstanding folks at ESPN Stats & Info.

The previous meetings were Tim Tebow (Florida) vs. Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) in 2008; Jason White (Oklahoma) vs. Matt Leinart (USC) in 2004 and Doak Walker (SMU) vs. Leon Hart (Notre Dame) in 1949.

Tebow, Leinart and Hart all won their games and the national championship in the process.

JT in Boston writes: I'm sure you will get thousands of these but, can we put the Pac South over the North to rest now. Stanford destroyed UCLA, Oregon destroyed AZ. South has yet to win a Pac12 championship. Go Ducks! Go North!

Kevin Gemmell: I think we can put it to rest. At least for this year. But it's not the way you're thinking.

It's a matter of perspective. Is the North the best because it has the best team? That seems to be your take. But I look at it from a perspective of quality and depth. And by my measurements, the South was significantly better than the North in 2014.

For starters, five of the six teams in the South are ranked compared to just one ranked team in the North. And the South had the better overall record at 15-10 against the North. That in itself is proof enough, in my mind, that the South was the stronger of the two divisions.

If you want to make the case that it begins and ends with the conference title, then there's nothing that can be said to dispute that. The North clearly wins the “scoreboard” argument. But in terms of overall quality and depth, the South was clearly the tougher of the two divisions.
As is common every summer, we throw together the Pac-12 Ultimate Road Trip series to get you through the dog days. It also gave me something to do while Ted was on his book tour about Arizona foliage: Me, Myself and Cacti. The "Road Trip Revisited" has been a popular post the past couple of years, so let’s take a journey back to what we thought would be good in August compared to the awesomeness that was 2014.

Week 1

Our pick: Colorado State vs. Colorado
Result: Coach Jim McElwain’s road to Gainesville started with a 31-17 thumping of the Rams’ in-state rival.
In retrospect: UCLA and Washington State provided high drama against Virginia and Rutgers, respectively. But Cal’s 31-24 win against Northwestern would have been the better call.

Week 2

Our pick: Michigan State at Oregon
Result: The Ducks flipped a 27-18 deficit into a 46-27 smackdown. (Still not sure how Ifo Ekpre-Olomu actually made that interception).
In retrospect: USC-Stanford had plenty of drama. But considering where the Ducks ended up, I think we made the right call on this one.

Week 3

[+] EnlargeJerry Neuheisel
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsBackup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel got a hero's exit after leading No. 12 UCLA to a come-from-behind 20-17 victory against Texas.
Our pick: UCLA vs. Texas
Result:: Jerry Neuheisel gets carried off the field!
In retrospect: A great win for the Bruins, and a great story with Neuheisel throwing the game-winner. What? You wanted USC-Boston College?

Week 4

Our pick: Utah at Michigan
Result: Is it actually over? Or still in rain delay?
In retrospect: The Hill-freaking-Mary happened and #Pac12AfterDark was born. Sorry Utes. Good win, but Arizona-Cal would have been the better pick.

Week 5

Our pick(s): UCLA at Arizona State/Stanford and Washington
Result(s): An ugly 62-27 blowout win for the Bruins, and a 20-13 win for the Cardinal.
In retrospect: WSU at Utah turned into quite the exciting game. But who would have tapped Colorado at Cal going into double-overtime followed by a Cal goal-line stand. A trip to Berkeley would have been worth your while this week.

Week 6

Our pick(s): Arizona at Oregon/ASU at USC
Result(s): The Wildcats hand the Ducks their only loss of the season and Scooby Wright III becomes a national name. And then a little something called the Jael Mary.
In retrospect: An unbelievable weekend! Perhaps the greatest weekend for one league in the history of college football. You had the two aforementioned games, Notre Dame’s last-minute win against Stanford, a shootout between Cal and WSU in Pullman, a last-minute slugfest between Utah and UCLA at the Rose Bowl, and Oregon State escapes in Boulder with Mike MacIntyre chasing the officials off the field! I rarely use the word epic. But this week qualified.

Week 7

Our pick: Oregon at UCLA
Result: A dud. Oregon rolled to a 42-30 win, but the game wasn’t as close as the score indicates.
In retrospect: USC at Arizona had all the #Pac12AfterDark craziness we had come to expect. A comeback, an onside kick, a missed last-minute field goal. Plenty of drama in what turned out to be the most exciting game of the week.

Week 8

Our pick: Stanford at Arizona State
Result: The Sun Devils got their vengeance with a 26-10 victory.
In retrospect: UCLA at Cal was all about drama, and Utah at Oregon State went into double-overtime. Either of those would have been the better choice.

Week 9

Our pick: Arizona at Washington State
Result: The 'Cats cruised to a 59-37 win -- their highest offensive output of the season.
In retrospect: Travis Wilson leading a game-winning drive and a last-minute touchdown against USC? Sign us up. Utes complete the LA sweep.

Week 10

Our pick: Stanford at Oregon
Result: The Ducks’ Stanford problem evaporated in the wake of a 45-16 win.
In retrospect: We don’t regret the pick. History was on our side. But Utah-ASU in overtime was by far the more entertaining game.

Week 11

Our pick: Notre Dame at Arizona State
Result: Speaking of picks, Everett Golson anyone? The Sun Devils intercepted Golson four times en route to a 55-31 win.
In retrospect: Pretty slow week. You had the infamous Kaelin Clay fumble that swung the momentum to Oregon. And Luke Falk won his first start against Oregon State. We’ll give it to the Cougs this week over 1) overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit and 2) holding a fourth-quarter lead.

Week 12

Our pick: Free pass
Result: ASU stumbled against Oregon State, Utah topped Stanford in OT, Washington fumbled one away against Arizona and USC (mostly) handled Cal.
In retrospect: This was redemption weekend for Casey Skowron, who hit the game-winning field goal against Washington, and Clay for his OT touchdown against the Cardinal.

Week 13

Our pick: USC at UCLA
Result: UCLA moved to 3-0 against USC in the Jim Mora era as the Trojans forgot to show up in a 38-20 loss.
In retrospect: This was one of the few weekends of the season without much drama. So we’ll just say we got it right with this pick ... even though no pick was really "right."

Week 14

Our pick(s): Stanford at UCLA/Washington at Washington State
Result(s): The Cardinal thwarted UCLA’s South Division hopes and Chris Petersen picked up his first Apple Cup win.
In retrospect: OK, we didn’t know the Territorial Cup was going to decide the South. Our bad. We'll try to do better next year.
With the regular season over, several Pac-12 players with remaining NCAA eligibility are mulling decisions regarding whether or not to declare for the NFL draft. Here are some of the key decisions awaiting players from the Pac-12 South. This features some football-only evaluations from ESPN scout Steve Muench. Keep in mind that other factors also influence players' choices.

For our earlier look at Pac-12 North players, click here.

QB Brett Hundley, UCLA

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsBrett Hundley has a lot of traits that NFL scouts like.
The Bruins' dual-threat quarterback has another year of eligibility remaining, but he has indicated that he'll likely declare for the 2015 NFL draft. The professional scouting community has offered mixed takes on Hundley. His size and athleticism are unquestioned, but his pocket passing presence has been questioned throughout his time in Westwood. A couple weeks ago, Stanford coach David Shaw noted that "it has all come together" for Hundley this season.

Muench's take: "You hear that he drops his eyes when he's under pressure, which is a huge no-no for a quarterback. I personally think that flaw is way overdone and inflated... When you go back and watch tape, you can tell he's often waiting for his receivers to get separation. That being said, he does have to work on his accuracy. If you put him with the right QB coach, he'll be OK; he just has to develop his footwork with regard to accuracy... His upside is big."

WR Jordan Payton, UCLA

The 6-foot-1, 213-pound junior has enjoyed a true breakout season for UCLA, catching 63 passes for 896 yards and seven touchdowns. Scouts have raved about the strength of his hands and his ability to win one-on-one battles. The consensus is that Payton is an intriguing prospect who has the potential to contribute in some capacity when it comes to the NFL.

Muench's take: "When I watched [Payton] run after the catch in the ASU game, I was very impressed. He has good size, particularly strength, for a receiver. He's a big, physical guy that can use his hands to separate. ... He still needs to work on his route running, but there's enough there to be intrigued about what he can do."

WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State

"Aptly named" might be the best way to describe this 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver, who frequented highlight reels with a steady dose of sensational catches in 2014. Strong is a redshirt junior, so he can still return to Tempe for one more season, but scouts generally speak of him as a second-round NFL draft pick, so there's a potentially promising NFL future here. Along with Payton, he led the Pac-12 in reception average among receivers with more than 50 catches (14.2 per catch). Strong's versatile teammate DJ Foster is also a player to watch.

Muench's take: "One thing that's interesting to me about Jaelen Strong: At least once a game, he makes a catch that causes me to say, 'Dear Lord, how did he do that?'... He has the ability to make unbelievable catches. He is a little inconsistent with his ball skills, and I don't know what he's going to run yet. ... But he's another big receiver that does make outstanding, highlight-reel catches."

WR Cayleb Jones, Arizona

This redshirt sophomore transferred to Arizona from Texas before the 2013 season, and he certainly impressed in 2014, racking up 65 catches for 902 yards and nine touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Jones features prototypical NFL size, so his successful campaign certainly grabbed the attention of folks at the next level, who have noted that he uses his size well to shield defenders.

Muench's take: "I put on Austin Hill tape, but the entire time I'm watching it, I'm thinking Cayleb Jones is the one truly jumping out. He's a developing route-runner, but he's good -- it's hard to see a guy his size who can make that crisp out-cut, and he can. ... He's a bigger target, and right now a little bit lean. But he's a good route-runner, he catches the ball well, and he's good enough to stretch the field."

DL Leonard Williams, USC

[+] EnlargeWilliams
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesUSC junior Leonard Williams could be a top-five pick in the 2015 NFL draft, should he declare.
Simply put, Williams is one of the most talented defensive players in the country. At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds he's a physical beast, and the combination of that and his football instincts will make him a very coveted player whenever he declares for the NFL draft. There's a very good chance that will be coming soon, as some mock drafts have listed the junior as a top-five selection following a disruptive season, even in the face of double teams. Williams says he's still on the fence regarding his decision.

Muench's take: "He's the top prospect on our board overall. Obviously, Marcus Mariota will challenge him for that first overall pick, because he's been outrageous. But Williams can play inside or outside, and he has great hands and speed for a player his size. There's no such thing as a lock, but he's one of the safer picks of this draft just because of how destructive he is. And he's really solid against the run."

RB Javorius Allen, USC

It's odd that a USC running back could fly under the radar, but that was the case with Buck Allen, who tacked on 442 receiving yards onto a rock-solid running resume: 1,337 yards (5.3 per carry) and nine touchdowns. Some analysts have drawn comparisons between the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Allen and former Washington running back Bishop Sankey. Allen has the size-speed combination that's appealing to the NFL; he said he'll base his decision on the draft grade that he receives.

WR Nelson Agholor, USC

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior developed explosive chemistry with Kessler this season, approaching the century mark in receptions (97) for 1,223 yards. He also hauled in 11 touchdowns and continued in his role as a dangerous punt returner, taking two of those kicks for touchdowns. Scouts have indicated that Agholor would fit in perfectly as a No. 3 wide receiver in the NFL. He has yet to announce his 2015 intentions.

Muench's take: " I love his ability to accelerate. He's smooth route-unner in and out of the break. The biggest concern for me is that his ball skills are a bit inconsistent. He doesn't field the ball cleanly all the time... He has some big play ability, but doesn't have a great frame to win one-on-one battles... I see him as a No. 3 slot receiver who can make plays in the NFL, but not as a star on the next level."

QB Cody Kessler, USC

Kessler is in a similar boat as Allen: After an impressive season statistically, he's waiting to hear his draft grade before making a decision regarding 2015. The redshirt junior lit up the scoreboard in several Trojans games this past season. He finished with 36 touchdown passes and four interceptions, becoming the only quarterback in the nation to attempt more than 400 passes while throwing fewer than five interceptions.

Muench's take: "Kessler has had a much better year than last year; he's made a huge jump. That TD-to-INT ratio is outstanding. He's making better decisions and is quicker getting the ball out of his hand. At 6-foot-1, he doesn't have a great frame. There could be a lot of buzz surrounding him heading into next year if he sticks around."

RB Devontae Booker, Utah

Booker was extremely productive in his first season on the field in Salt Lake City. His 1,350 rushing yards were good for second in the Pac-12. His 5-foot-11, 203-pound frame is able to generate some power on top of his solid speed, so "dynamic" is a word that's been used to describe him. He's a junior, but there's been some talk of Booker being a mid-round pick. One NFL scout compared him to Houston Texans running back Arian Foster.
LOS ANGELES -- Having recently completed his tour of duty as a member of the first-ever College Football Playoff selection committee, USC athletic director Patrick Capper Haden probably learned more than he ever wanted to know regarding the inner workings of the new big boys playoff system.

If Haden’s beloved Trojans have a future advantage in navigating the treacherous waters of the College Football Playoff structure, the former Rhodes Scholar and quarterback of the 1974 USC National Champions understands firsthand the template for CFP inclusion or exclusion.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but it was somewhat curious that on the Friday before last Sunday’s final CFP Top 25 was announced, Haden spoke publicly through social media for the first time about unacceptable seasonal win numbers for his own Trojans football program.

In last Friday’s social media address to the Trojans faithful, Haden was direct and to the point on what he thinks is an inappropriate number of victories for a Trojans head football coach.

“We have higher expectations than eight wins at USC,” said Haden, whose current football team under first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian concluded its regular season at 8-4.

Haden added, “But I am optimistic about the future with most of our offense expected to return, especially the young offensive line, which is the foundation of any great offense.”

While the 61-year-old athletic director said he has higher expectations than eight wins per season at Troy, he didn’t specify a minimum number of wins that would be acceptable.

Haden likely realizes that a minimum of double-digit wins (try 12) and one or possibly two losses is the new four-team playoff benchmark.

In a future potential eight-team playoff, that win total could go as low as 10 wins. No matter if it's a four- or eight-team playoff, though, a 10-win season would probably qualify the Trojans for an access bowl appearance like the Rose Bowl.

With a Dec. 27 date with the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the National University Holiday Bowl, the Trojans -- providing they can defeat the storied Huskers in San Diego -- obviously won’t finish the season with more than nine victories.

Last season under three separate head coaches, the Trojans finished a combined 10-4 and ended their tumultuous 2013 campaign with a convincing 45-20 victory over Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.

As a motivating carrot, Trojans interim head coach Clay Helton used a 10th win bowl scenario to help rally the troops after interim head coach Ed Orgeron, who replaced the fired Lane Kiffin, abruptly left the program following the regular season when he was not named the permanent USC head coach.

Even before the CFP, there has been a high C for Trojans football going back to the glory days of Howard Jones and The Thundering Herd. Even during the John McKay, John Robinson, and Pete Carroll eras, a 10-win season was the unspoken measure of minimum success.

Whether current Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian has been told in private that eight wins won’t cut it, the fact that “8” is now out there for public consumption will, no doubt, become a measuring stick for Trojans head coaches, as long as Haden remains the USC athletic director.

Haden also acknowledged in his social media release that he is returning as the Trojans athletic director in 2015, thus knocking down the plethora of heavy rumors that he is in ill health and on the verge of retiring.

Since Steve Sarkisian is Pat Haden’s first hired head football coach, there is every reason to believe that Haden will do everything in his power to help Sark succeed.

The University of Southern California has attained 11 football national championships in its illustrious history, and with all the current excitement, euphoria and drama surrounding the new College Football Playoff system, the seeds of expectation for a future 12th USC national title have already been planted.

As an added caveat, those that know Haden either by playing alongside him, against him, or working with him in the private sector would be the first to tell you that old No. 10 is extremely competitive and has a great distaste for defeat.

And speaking of No. 10, whether it be a uniform number or a collection of victories, if there were an eight-team playoff this season, both CFP No. 7 Mississippi State (10-2) and No. 8 Michigan State (10-2) would have made the cut.

So maybe No. 10 warms Pat Haden’s cardinal and gold heart in more ways than one.

USC Trojans weekend recruiting visits 

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
12:46
PM PT
After two big recruiting weekends in a row, the USC Trojans are set to host yet another strong collection of Class of 2015 official visitors this coming Friday through Sunday. And while there is a good chance some more names will be added to the list in the next couple days, here are the three prospects we’re hearing will make the trip at this point:

WeAreSC chat, 2 p.m. PT

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
9:57
AM PT
On Wednesday, WeAreSC reporter Garry Paskwietz will be chatting about USC Trojans football. Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC and has been covering the Trojans since 1997. Send your questions now and join Paskwietz every Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.

Ranking the Pac-12 bowls by intrigue

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
11:00
AM PT
There is a misconception out there that the bowl games are only as good as the order they’re selected in. Which, if you use common sense, isn’t exactly true -- at least not from a non-traveling TV viewer’s standpoint.

That’s the context for this set of rankings. Strictly from a watch-from-the-couch perspective, here’s an attempt at ordering the Pac-12’s bowl games by level of intrigue.

8. Foster Farms Bowl: Stanford (7-5) vs. Maryland (7-5)
Tuesday, Dec. 30, Santa Clara, Calif.

While still in the projecting stage of the bowl season, there were some ASU fans that felt like it would be a slight to the Sun Devils if they weren’t selected by the Foster Farms Bowl, which sits fourth in the selection order. That talk died down once Maryland was officially named Stanford’s opponent. After four trips to BCS bowls for the Cardinal and a mediocre season, this one just doesn’t have much broad appeal.

7. TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
Friday, Jan. 2 , Tempe, Ariz.

Oklahoma State is a perfect reason why teams should never get extra credit for beating a team when it was ranked. In Week 8, the Cowboys were the AP poll’s No. 15 team -- ahead of every Pac-12 school except Oregon -- before a five-game losing streak followed once the level of competition improved. There’s NFL talent on both rosters and Chris Petersen’s first bowl appearance with the Huskies is interesting, but the main reason to watch is to savor the last time Washington’s defensive trio of DT Danny Shelton, OLB/DE Hau'oli Kikaha and LB Shaq Thompson play together (pending the unlikely event they end up on the same NFL team one day).

6. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: No. 23 Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2)
Saturday, Dec. 20, Las Vegas

There should be a lot of eyes on this one nationally. It starts at 3:30 p.m. ET, on the first Saturday of bowl season and only overlaps with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Utah State vs. UTEP) and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Western Michigan vs. Air Force). Plenty of people will want to see the team Jim McElwain parlayed into the Florida gig. From a Pac-12 perspective, Utah’s quarterback play will be a hot topic throughout the offseason and this game will serve as a final data point for that discussion.

5. Hyundai Sun Bowl: No. 15 Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)
Saturday, Dec. 27, El Paso, Texas

Forget Duke pre-2013. Over the past two seasons, the Devils of the blue variety have won 19 games under coach David Cutcliffe, which is equal to that of ASU. Duke’s lack of ranking means nothing as far as how competitive this game will be. After all, the Sun Devils only need to look back to a year ago when as the No. 14 team in the final BCS standings they lost to a 7-5 Texas Tech team, 37-23.

4. National University Holiday Bowl: No. 24 USC (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3)
Saturday, Dec. 27, San Diego, Calif.

From the implausible-a-month-ago file, Mike Riley is the head coach for a storied program facing off against USC in a bowl game. He won’t be in a coaching role for this one, but it’ll be a good chance to see the canvas Riley will be working on as he tries to reach new heights as a coach in the Big Ten. Bonus points for the possibility @FauxPelini will be live-tweeting from his lair in SPECTRE’s headquarters. Take some time to appreciate USC’s Leonard Williams one last time, too, before he becomes a fixture up front for an NFL team

3. VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: No. 10 Arizona (10-3) vs. No. 20 Boise State (11-2)
Wednesday, Dec. 31, Glendale, Ariz.

The old system worked for Boise State and so has this one. This is a far-less desirable matchup than many would have hoped for the Pac-12 South champion -- almost any SEC team would have been significantly more interesting -- but it’s still one of the three Pac-12 bowls between ranked teams. Until getting drubbed by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship, the Wildcats made a habit of playing entertaining games, which falls in line of Boise State's tradition in this bowl.

2. Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 14 UCLA (9-3) vs. No. 11 Kansas State (9-3)
Friday, Jan. 2, San Antonio, Texas

There are metrics that indicate the Big 12 is the best conference in college football. There are people who believe that distinction belongs to the Pac-12. Most feel they both fall below the SEC pecking order of conference strength at No. 2 and No. 3. Whatever your opinion is, it will be tested here as UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley plays his final game for the Bruins. A win against the Wildcats could spring UCLA to a top-10 finish, which wouldn’t be a bad consolation for a team that fell short of its ultimate goals.

1. College Football Playoff semifinal (Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual): No. 2 Oregon (12-1) vs. No. 3 Florida State (13-0)
Thursday, Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif.

Heisman Trophy winners playing quarterback for opposing teams in a College Football Playoff game? Yes, please. This is the prime example of why the playoff trumps the BCS because this game doesn’t get played in the old era. Does it need further billing? There’s only one potential game in college football that would be more intriguing … and if both Oregon and Alabama win, it will be played on Jan. 12.

 

Pac-12 morning links

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
8:00
AM PT
You feel like Marky Mark looks.

Leading off

Lots of playoff chatter this week, for obvious reasons. And another trend story that's popping up lately is how things would have looked under the old BCS system. It would feature Alabama versus Florida State in the national title game, and the Oregon Ducks, ranked No. 2 by the College Football Playoff Committee, would have had to win the day in a lesser BCS bowl game. So, safe to say, the Pac-12 has benefited from the new four-team system.

Matt Hayes of the Sporting News touches on this in his notebook column, and also hits on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota's soon-to-be Heisman Trophy.

Here's a look at how the final rankings played out side-by-side.



And in another Oregon-esque news, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook said the Ducks were the toughest opponent he faced all season. Here's what he told the BTN:
Oregon was a great great opponent, great offense, great defense, they had the uptempo offense that was pretty hard to stop. They have a great defense with a great front seven, talented DBs, and playing in Autzen (Stadium) was very difficult as well.

I remember someone saying a few weeks back that Oregon's defense was going to look a lot stronger statistically in the second-half of the season. Who was that ...?

Another major award (It's almost Christmas, I couldn't pass up linking this)

For a conference that supposedly doesn't play a lot of defense, there sure are some big-time defensive awards going around the Pac-12.

First it was Arizona's Scooby Wright III taking home the Bronco Nagurski Award. Tuesday it was UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks being named the winner of the Butkus Award.

If you haven't seen the video yet of him being surprised with the award, you can watch it here. It's as awesome as awesome gets.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

This will be Oregon's look at the Rose Bowl.

If the Trojans want an example of how the Nebraska Cornhuskers might react after losing a popular head coach, they only need to look back one year earlier at their own performance in the Las Vegas Bowl to see what can happen.

From the outside looking in, it's hard to know if the response to the firing of Bo Pelini at Nebraska was as emotional as it was for the USC players when Ed Orgeron was let go, but it sure sounds like both teams took the news in similar fashion. Like Orgeron, Pelini was a hard-nosed defensive coach who was beloved by his players and had plenty of support from within the Nebraska community, along with a string of nine-win seasons. In the end, however, it wasn't enough as Pelini was shown the door and the Huskers will be led in the bowl game by interim coach Barney Cotton.

The interim tag didn't seem to bother Clay Helton and the 2013 Trojans in their bowl efforts, despite widespread concerns about how prepared the Trojans would be for the game against Fresno State. It wasn't a question out of left field either, the USC players were raw after the Orgeron departure and there was simply no way to know how they would get up for a football game just a few short weeks later. Those questions were obviously squashed once the game got started and the Trojans eventually rolled to a dominant victory.

Another similarity between the two situations is that the Cornhuskers will be preparing for the game under the watchful eye of their future coach, Mike Riley, a former offensive minded Pac-12 head coach just like Steve Sarkisian was when he played the role of observer for the Trojans' bowl efforts last year before taking over the full-time job. Under the old adage of "you only get one chance to make a first impression," you can be sure the Nebraska players will be aware of Riley's presence as they get ready to prepare for the Trojans.



USC linebacker Hayes Pullard has been selected to play in the Senior Bowl in January, a prestigious pre-draft game where the practices are filled with NFL coaches and execs. It's a nice honor for Pullard, and one that will allow him a chance to show his intangibles to the league personnel in that extended setting, something that should be a benefit as he makes the transition to the next level.

Pullard is a four-year starter who will likely end up leading the team in tackles for three seasons.



There has been no confirmed updates on the NFL early entry draft status of players like Leonard Williams, Nelson Agholor, Buck Allen or Cody Kessler but the news that center Max Tuerk will return was a huge bonus for the Trojans' 2014 prospects.

Tuerk made the transition to center this season after playing both tackle and guard earlier in his USC career, and he was named first-team All-Conference, so it's easy to imagine what is possible for him by coming back for a second season to refine his technique at the position. It's not a stretch to think Tuerk could be up for national linemen awards, as well as setting himself up for a potential high-round NFL selection in 2016.

The return of Tuerk also means the Trojans will not have to find a new center next season. There was no obvious choice being groomed behind Tuerk in 2014, so USC would have been faced with the possibility of moving a player such as Toa Lobendahn or going with a true freshman in Cole Smith. With the news of Tuerk coming back, it will give Sarkisian the luxury of not needing to move another player, and also giving the opportunity to redshirt Smith while allowing him to learn under the veteran Tuerk.



Former USC offensive lineman Tony Boselli will be presented as a member of the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday night at a banquet to held in New York.

Boselli, who played for the Trojans from 1991-94, is one of 14 players and two coaches who make up the 2014 class. He is the 30th USC player to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

A two-time All-American and 1994 USC team captain, Boselli led the Trojans to three bowl games and was also a three-time academic all-conference honoree.



The Trojans held practices last weekend prior to the bowl announcement and one position switch could bear watching as Chris Hawkins got a look at safety in all three sessions.

Hawkins is a redshirt freshman who came in as a corner and saw action in 11 games this year, including 32 tackles (29 solo) and one interception. A look at the USC depth chart for the future, however, shows a lot of corners and not enough safeties so there figured to be some player movement at some point to address the issue. Hawkins says he is fine with the move if the coaches want to continue putting him there, so it will be something to monitor as USC continues to move through the bowl practice sessions.
The Arizona Wildcats can thump their chest all they want … at least for now. They are the Pac-12 South champs until proven otherwise. Just like Arizona State was … before Arizona proved otherwise. Just like UCLA was, before ASU proved otherwise.

Being proven otherwise, however, seems to be turning into an annual tradition in the South, which has had three different winners in the last three years. And if you thought the division was crazy in 2014, hang on, because it might plunge itself deeper into capricious insanity in 2015 and beyond.

"It's anybody's guess," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham when asked to handicap the South next season. "But I have to believe it's one of the toughest divisions in all of college football. It was very close this year, obviously. We had a lot of teams lumped up there at the top. Every year is its own entity and set of circumstances. I can't speak to next year. But right now it's anybody's guess."

[+] EnlargeAnu Solomon
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriQuarterback Anu Solomon will return in 2015 to Pac-12 South champion Arizona, but the division will be wide open.
The South heads into the postseason with five of its six teams ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25; Arizona (10), UCLA (14), ASU (15), Utah (22) and USC (24). Of course, the North continues to claim the ultimate bragging rights, having won every conference title since the league moved to a divisional format in 2011. This year was no exception with Oregon blasting the ‘Cats in the title game.

But the 2014 season saw a clear power shift within the depth of the conference. For the first time since expansion, the South had a winning record against its northern counterparts, going 15-10.

"The South has definitely resurged," said Stanford coach David Shaw. "Every game against those guys is difficult. Trying to handicap it for next year would be like trying to handicap this year. It's impossible."

Adding to the impossibility is that five of the six teams in the division are likely to return a quarterback with substantial starting experience. Barring any surprise defections, draft declarations or injuries, only UCLA will be without a quarterback with significant time as a starter.

"Once again, that means you are going to see offenses executed extremely well week in and week out," said Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, whose team is the only one in the division not ranked in the Top 25. "All the quarterbacks in somehow, someway, have broken records at their school. You're looking at quality players coming back that can score points each Saturday."

Given the Trojans historical success, it seems almost shocking that USC is yet to win a division title. Maybe that changes as the Trojans roster slowly starts to rebuild itself in the post-sanctions era. Maybe not. The trio of previous victors -- all with head coaches who were hired following the 2011 season -- show no indication of slowing down. Plus the Utes are on the rise and Colorado is putting a more competitive product on the field. The Buffs were "in" seven of their nine conference games. Anyone think they are going to be worse next year?

"The thing that can happen is any team in the South can beat any team," MacIntyre said. "I think that's where it's at. We had double-overtime with UCLA and definitely could have won it. We were in there with everyone (in the South) except USC. There's a lot of parity, but there is also high-caliber football."

Meanwhile up North, the divide might be growing. The Ducks will have to find a replacement for Heisman winner Marcus Mariota (oh come on, like it's not going to happen) and we're not exactly sure what we're going to get from the Cardinal. You have to imagine things will be smoother in Year 2 of the Chris Petersen era at Washington, but there will be losses on defense. Shaw pointed to Cal as a team on the rise, but defense will again be a concern. So outside of Oregon, you have to question which North team could do the most damage against the South. Oregon State will have a new coach. Washington State is still rebuilding. The Ducks were the only team up North to be ranked. And even if the Cardinal thump Maryland in their bowl game, the chances of them finishing ranked are slim.

"We've got a lot of guys coming back so I know we'll be in the mix," Shaw said. "But I know this, next year will be as crazy as it was this year. And in the South, I don't know who has the edge. But it's going to be exciting."

That's a safe assumption ... until proven otherwise.

Pac-12 morning links

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
8:00
AM PT
The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.

Leading off

It wasn’t under the current Boise State staff, but there was a time when Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III thought he would end up playing for the Broncos. He played well at their camp and expected an offer, but was ultimately told he was too slow. Shortly after he got that news, Arizona became the only FBS school to extend an offer, which he quickly accepted.

Two years later, he’s been named the best defensive player in college football and is preparing to play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Wright’s rapid ascent to college football royalty has been one of the best stories in the Pac-12 this season and added another chapter, as Wright is the Bronko Nagurski Trophy recipient. He is the first winner from the conference since Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs won in 2002. The only other recipient from the Pac-12 was Arizona’s Rob Waldrop, who won the inaugural award in 1993.

Heisman finalists announced

Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon can officially begin preparing to look happy for Marcus Mariota when the Oregon quarterback is named the Heisman Trophy winner. That reaction video gets played for years, guys. Cooper, Gordon and Mariota were officially named finalists for college football’s most prestigious award Monday, but anything but a landslide victory for Mariota would be surprising.

The Pac-12 hasn’t had a Heisman winner since USC’s trio of Carson Palmer (2002), Matt Leinart (2004) and Reggie Bush (2005) won the award three times over a four-year period. Oregon has never had a Heisman winner, and the Pacific Northwest has been shutout since Oregon State quarterback Terry Baker won in 1962.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Pretty cool way to honor WSU quarterback Connor Halliday.



Here's an online Holiday card from ASU receiver Jaelen Strong

Happy Holidays. Yall ain't know I really could dance though =-=-

A video posted by STRIZZY (@jaelenstrong21) on

Trojans recruiting notebook

December, 8, 2014
Dec 8
11:36
AM PT
The USC coaching staff hosted another impressive group of official visitors this past weekend, including a pair of Trojans commits in linebacker Cameron Smith (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay) and quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), as well as Georgia athlete pledge Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Ga./Callaway), Oklahoma State running back verbal Ronald Jones II (McKinney, Texas/McKinney North), safety Marvell Tell (Encino, Calif./Crespi) and wide receiver Isaac Whitney (Riverside, Calif./Riverside City College). There were no new reported commitments coming out of the weekend.

In addition to Smith and Town, who have both already signed early enrollment papers with USC, the Trojans look to be in good position with Tell and Whitney, the later of whom will announce his decision on Dec. 18. In addition to USC, the big wideout is also considering West Virginia and Washington State among others.

Two other prospects who were originally scheduled to come in on officials this past weekend, athlete Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills) and wide receiver Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro), wound up scratching those plans.

Gustin, who took an unofficial visit to USC recently for the Trojans’ victory over Notre Dame, has pushed his trip back to January.

Kirk, on the other hand, cancelled his visit and dropped the Trojans from consideration altogether. He will now reportedly choose from a group of five that includes Texas A&M, Arizona State, UCLA, Auburn and Ohio State. He is set to announce his choice on Dec. 17.

News and notes
  • All six of the prospects who were on official visits were spotted at the Trojans’ practice session this past Saturday, as was an interesting unofficial visitor – Dillon Faamatau (Norwalk, Calif./Norwalk). The Class of 2015 defensive tackle has been receiving increased interest from the USC coaching staff as of late.
  • USC wide receiver commit De'Quan Hampton (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach City College) was at the Trojans’ practice on Sunday.
  • Class of 2015 wide receiver Desean Holmes (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany), who verbally pledged to USC this past July, withdrew his commitment last Thursday. The parting was reportedly mutual.
  • On the same day that Brady Hoke was fired by Michigan as head coach, ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark de-committed from the Wolverines. He will take an official visit to USC in January, and he is also still considering Michigan as well as Texas, North Carolina and UCLA.
  • ESPN 300 linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central), who recently said that he would visit USC this coming weekend (Dec. 12), announced Sunday night via Twitter that he will not be taking any more official trips. The Trojans are no longer under consideration, and he will now choose from a group of four that includes Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee.
  • USC offered Class of 2016 defensive lineman Oluwole Betiku (Gardena, Calif./Serra) on Sunday. He also holds offers from the likes of Notre Dame, Miami (Fla.), Oklahoma, Washington and UCLA among others.
  • USC also recently offered ESPN Junior 300 offensive tackle E.J. Price (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett). The 6-foot-6, 265-pound standout already has well over 20 total offers.


A look at the stats some recruits recorded in their games this past weekend

Class of 2015

QB Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) -- USC commit: In a 44-37 loss to Mission Viejo (Calif.) Trabuco Hills in the CIF-SS Southwest Division championship game, Darnold completed 12 of 15 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown, and he also rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.

RB Aca'Cedric Ware (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) -- USC commit: Rushed for294 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries in a 62-42 victory against Southlake (Texas) Carroll in the quarterfinals of the Texas Class 6A Division II state playoffs.

OL Cole Smith (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) -- USC commit: Anchored the offensive line at center for a Mission Viejo team that defeated Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta 21-10 in the CIF-SS West Valley Division championship game.

RB Jones (McKinney, Texas/McKinney North): Rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 48 yards in a 64-40 loss to Tyler (Texas) in a Texas Class 5A Division I state quarterfinal game.

WR DaMarkus Lodge (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill): Had three receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the victory against Carroll.

ATH Ykili Ross (Riverside, Calif./Poly): Caught four passes for 101 yards and one touchdown in a 36-31 loss to Redlands (Calif.) East Valley in the CIF-SS Inland Division championship game.

Class of 2016

QB Shea Patterson (Shreveport, La./Calvary Baptist Academy): Completed 12 of 20 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-24 victory against New Iberia (La.) Catholic in the Louisiana Division III state championship game.

WR Javon McKinley (Corona, Calif./Centennial): Had 13 receptions for 152 yards and one touchdown in a 48-41 victory against Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco in the CIF-SS Pac-5 Division championship game.

Class of 2017

QB Tate Martell (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): Completed 9 of 13 passes for 200 yards and six touchdowns, and he also rushed for a score in a 70-28 victory against Sparks (Nev.) Reed in the NIAA Division I state championship game.

WR Tyjon Lindsey (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): Caught three touchdown passes in the victory against Reed.

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