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Insider

A class for the ages

7/16/2012

We’re running out of superlatives to talk about this USC class.

With the verbal commitment today from cornerback Jalen Ramsey (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy) the Trojans now have pledges from 15 recruits in a year when they are limited to 18 signees (15 scholarships for the class of 2013 and three spots for early enrollees to count against 2012).

What makes it so impressive is the quality of the 15 players involved and the potential of what this class could be with the remaining three spots.

Every single commitment for the class of 2013 is ranked as a four-star prospect or above by ESPN RecruitingNation. The the most amazing stat of all, however, is the number grade for the USC commits, as the average number grade for the current Trojans class is 84.93. A ranking of 80 or above is described as being a player who could “contribute as a true freshman and could end up an All-American candidate.” All but one grade out at 83 or higher and eight of the 15 current commits are ranked as one of the top 10 players at their position. The USC class was ranked No. 2 in the recent team rankings, and the scholarship limits could be the only thing that prevents it from climbing to the top spot.

How did the Trojans get here?

This is certainly not what many college football fans anticipated when USC was first hit with severe scholarship reductions from NCAA sanctions two years ago, but the Trojans have done a great job of planning for the sanctions and staggering the bowl ban and scholarship reductions so that those two elements of the penalties would be served at different times.

There has been terrific leadership, primarily from Lane Kiffin, to guide the program to this point. There was never a question about the ability of this staff to recruit with such stalwarts as Ed Orgeron and Kennedy Polamalu on board. This is the third year that the majority of the staff has been together, so they have definitely hit their recruiting stride.

There was a dramatic finish to the 2011 season -- including a high-profile victory on the road against the Oregon Ducks -- that showed recruits that USC was ready for a return to the national stage. Then there was the decision by Matt Barkley to return to USC for his senior season, a move that resonated throughout the country and guaranteed the Trojans a spot as one of the preseason favorites in 2012.

That momentum carried into spring and soon there was a group of recruits who helped create a groundswell of support for the Trojans. Players such as Chris Hawkins (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga), Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline), Su'a Cravens (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta) and Michael Hutchings (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) were in contact with each other and spreading the word about what could be accomplished if they all ended up at USC together. Eventually other recruits caught on and there was a sense, according to Hawkins, of players not wanting to be caught on the outside looking in at this special class.

With only three spots remaining, the biggest challenge for the USC coaches as it stands now is going to be making sure they get the players they want for the final spots. That will involve communication with the recruits, staying on top of the currently committed players and adjusting for any changes in the commit list as the process goes along. Recruiting is a fluid game and there’s no guarantee that the 15 players committed today will all sign with USC in February. That's simply a reality of recruiting.

In terms of filling the three spots available now, the most common projections have the Trojans going after two more defensive backs and a defensive lineman. Max Redfield, a safety from Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School, is known to be a top target on the coaches' wish list, but there are others in the secondary who would be welcome. It should be very interesting to watch in the coming weeks to see how the target list shifts, as it’s quite possible that the Trojans could have a full class before the season starts.

Very impressive. Amazing. Stellar. Whatever superlative one wants to apply, feel free to do it because they all apply to what is going on right now with USC recruiting.