And then, there was one.
Four-star defensive end Jason Hatcher from Louisville (Ky.) Trinity committed to USC on Friday afternoon, becoming the 17th pledge for the 2013 recruiting class and leaving only one remaining spot. Some thoughts on what his commitment means:
The fourth piece: Counting Hatcher, USC reeled in four defensive linemen in the class -- two ends and two tackles -- to create a front that, on paper, looks like a nightmare in the making for future Pac-12 offenses. Hatcher joins fellow defensive end commit Kylie Fitts from Redlands (Calif.) East Valley, as well as tackle commits Kenny Bigelow from Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy and Eddie Vanderdoes from Auburn (Calif.) Placer.
Of the four linemen, only Hatcher is ranked outside the ESPN 150, though he checks in as the nation’s 24th-ranked end prospect and touts an impressive 4.70-second time in the 40-yard dash. The Trojans should be ecstatic with this haul, as they've gathered size in the middle and athleticism on the edges.
Plucking from the South: The Trojans have worked their magic in the talent-rich region before, landing linebacker Lamar Dawson (Junction City, Ky.) in 2011 and, last year, receiver Nelson Agholor (Tampa, Fla.) and defensive end Leonard Williams(Daytona Beach, Fla.). USC also has a commitment from the top-ranked player in Tennessee, four-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy, in this class.
USC recruiting knows no bounds. It has proven it can go anywhere to get anyone, and the coaching staff beat out hometown Louisville, as well as Tennessee, for Hatcher.
Closing strong: Hatcher, who had a strong showing at The Opening, became the seventh recruit to choose USC this month alone. On this day three months ago, the Trojans had only four commitments.
The coaching staff created this whirlwind by identifying its top targets and getting them to buy into committing early. It couldn’t have been an easy task, but as the class ascended to the top of the ESPN rankings -- generating buzz across the country -- USC became an even more attractive option for recruits. Spots filled quickly and recruits didn't want to be left behind.
The final available spot will likely go to a defensive back. With top-ranked corner Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, Fla./Wharton) out of the picture for now, safeties Priest Willis (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos de Niza) and Tahaan Goodman (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) appear to be possibilities.
Hatcher, who turned down offers from the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, is ranked inside the ESPN 300. Here is a portion of his scouting report:
“It is not always pretty, but he is a solid tackler and displays strong hands to be able to drag down ball carriers when he gets cloth. As a pass rusher he does a nice job of using his reach to maintain some space and can be active with his weapons in working to knock down blockers hands. He flashes the ability to be able to get under blockers pads and create pressure with power and if given the inside he sees it and can redirect well enough to counter and come back underneath. Hatcher is not a kid that just wows in any particular way and he does have room for improvement, but he displays the ability to be able to get the job done and be a productive player.”