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Insider

Assessing national signing day

2/3/2012
Jordan Simmons (center) has a better chance of redshirting as a freshman at USC than tackle signees Max Tuerk and Zach Banner, but an injury bug could force him into service early. Courtesy Crespi Carmelite HS

The Trojans ended their recruiting season with the No. 13 class, but Lane Kiffin and his staff put together, pound for pound, one of the most impressive recruiting classes in the nation.

Their biggest need was along the offensive line, especially at the tackle position. The Trojans picked up a true left tackle in Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes) as well as Max Tuerk (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita) who can play both tackle and guard. These two will probably not have the luxury of taking a redshirt this season. They’ll both have to contribute and contribute early. The Trojans also picked up another good player in Jordan Simmons (Encino, Calif./Crespi). I don’t see Simmons’ needing to play as early as the tackles and he will most likely redshirt this season, but if the Trojans have a repeat of the injuries they had on the interior of the line at the beginning of last season, his number might be called upon early.

On the defensive line the Trojans lost long-time commit Pio Vatuvei (Patterson, Calif./Patterson) at the last minute to Washington, but his departure wasn’t mourned for long, as they picked up Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland). Williams can play end as well as line up in a three-technique. However, USC could have used a true interior, big-bodied lineman in the middle. The Trojans have and did a great job in this recruiting class getting players who can rush the edges, but it’s the interior of the line that’s going to be a little thin this season.

Both Rhett Ellison and Ross Cumming did a great job filling in the void left by Stanley Havili at fullback last season, but neither had much experience lining up in the backfield. Now with Ellison and Cumming graduating, the Trojans had to address the issue in this year’s class and they found what they were looking for in Jahleel Pinner (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo). Pinner, who has been a long-time commit to the Trojans, is at the top of the list as far as important additions to this class. He will be used primarily at fullback, but with his experience in handling the football I wouldn’t be surprised if he was handed the ball, especially in short-yardage situations, to give Curtis McNeal a break from the constant pounding.

After this class the Trojans should be set at the secondary and linebacker position for a while. Junior college safety Gerald Bowman (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College) will combine with T.J. McDonald to have opposing receivers second-guessing their routes across the middle of the field. Immediately adding depth, if not competing for playing time, are cornerbacks Kevon Seymour (Pasadena, Calif./Muir) and Devian Shelton (Inglewood, Calif./Inglewood) as well as highly touted linebacker Jabari Ruffin (Downey, Calif./Downey) and early-enrollee linebacker Scott Starr (Norco, Calif./Norco).

With one of the more explosive offenses in the country last year returning nearly most of its starters, the Trojans add more playmakers with this recruiting class. Nelson Agholor (Tampa/Berkeley Prep) and Darreus Rogers (Carson, Calif./Carson) will have the opportunity to learn from the best in the business with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and both should see playing time as freshmen. The Trojans also landed the number one tight end recruit in Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney). With his size, speed and good hands Fitzpatrick will be giving defensive coordinators headaches for the next four years as they try and scheme against him.