On a day that perhaps will be remembered more for the signatures the USC staff didn't secure than the ones it did, an upbeat Lane Kiffin took center stage inside the John McKay Center on Wednesday night to officially announce the Trojans' 2013 signing class.
With a total of 13 members comprising the group, it's a class low in numbers but rich in talent, with 12 ranking in the ESPN 300 -- almost all of whom will be counted on to make an immediate contribution on the field for the Trojans.
"A very exciting day for USC football as we welcome 13 new guys into our program," Kiffin said. "We think that these players can come in right away and help us -- all of them. And probably a couple of them will start. Obviously, we have some holes to fill, but they are impact players and players that could have gone anywhere in the country."
Spearheading the class is a standout group of seven players already enrolled in school and set to participate in spring drills in March. They are Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow, Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline quarterback Max Browne, Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln running back Justin Davis, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta safety Su'a Cravens, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) cornerback Chris Hawkins, Seffner (Fla.) Armwood safety Leon McQuay III and Carson (Calif.) wide receiver Darreus Rogers.
Wednesday's additions include Bellflower (Calif.) Saint John Bosco offensive lineman Nico Falah, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle linebacker Michael Hutchings, Joliet (Ill.) Catholic Academy running back Ty Isaac, Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany wide receiver Steven Mitchell, Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland linebacker Quinton Powell and Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers.
Certainly not lacking in terms of pound-for-pound star-power, the class did suffer a number of losses in the hours leading up to and on signing day, headlined by the last-second defections of Louisville (Ky.) Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher, Houston (Texas) Alief Taylor defensive end Torrodney Prevot, and Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy cornerback Jalen Ramsey -- all formerly committed to USC.
Citing the NCAA sanctions, the media's glamorization of players who decommit on signing day, as well as the Trojans' lackluster 7-6 performance on the field in 2012 as possible factors contributing to the Trojans' struggles down the recruiting stretch, Kiffin said he is more than optimistic when it comes to the future of the group of players who ultimately decided to become Trojans.
"The best way that I can describe this class is sometimes when you go big-game fishing, you're not going to get a lot of them, but you get some really big prizes," Kiffin said. "And as you look at these guys, they're the cream of the crop from around the country, and impact players."
"Our top 13 are better than anyone else's top 13 -- I don't think anyone can argue that," Kiffin added. "We look at the positive side of things. Instead of reaching when going down for somebody at the last minute that we don't feel can play at this elite level, we now have five more for next year, so now we can sign 20 guys next year."
• Kiffin said walk-ons likely will have the opportunity to earn the five scholarships remaining for the 2013 season.
• As to whether or not the staff was still working on bringing anyone else into this year's Trojans' class, Kiffin would say only, "There is a chance."
• After practicing for the last two seasons with less physical contact in an attempt to preserve numbers under the strain of NCAA sanctions, Kiffin said he plans to return to a more physical model in 2013.
• Kiffin confirmed that "the way that we're headed right now, Clancy [Pendergast] will coach the DBs, but we'll continue to explore everything."