While the participation of 14 commits in all-star events over the weekend provided USC Trojans fans with a sneak peek of the nation’s No. 5-ranked class, the momentous pledge of ESPN 150 safety Leon McQuay III (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) on Friday at the Under Armour All-American Game was undoubtedly the highlight.
USC secured a much-needed second safety to pair with No. 1-rated Su’a Cravens (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta), who attended the U.S. Army All-American Bowl week activities but did not participate due to injury. Both McQuay and Cravens are early enrollees and will have the opportunity to compete for immediate playing time this spring following the graduation of safeties T.J. McDonald, Jawanza Starling and Drew McAllister.
McQuay became the 15th member of a recruiting class that recently lost two ESPN 150 prospects: defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (Auburn, Calif./Placer) and receiver Sebastian LaRue (Santa Monica, Calif./Santa Monica). Former commit Max Redfield (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) officially switched to rival Notre Dame minutes before McQuay announced on the same chair. It was a major recruiting victory.
In the game, McQuay had three impressive pass breakups, including a play that might have been a touchdown for Team Nitro. Team Highlight won, 16-3, thanks to a defense that was led by McQuay and five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington), who had an interception and a loud tackle. The highly coveted prospect is scheduled to officially visit USC on Jan. 18. ESPN 150 linebacker Quinton Powell (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland), who will also be on campus that weekend, had a couple of tackles.
Trojans running back commit Ty Isaac (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic Academy) carried the ball three times for short gains, as the game, like many all-star events, turned into a passing exhibition.
At the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, future backfield mates Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) and Justin Davis (Stockton, Calif./Lincoln) started for the West team. Browne completed 4 of 7 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked three times, including on the game’s first snap by USC defensive tackle commit Kenny Bigelow (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy). Davis had three carries for 13 yards, including a 10-yard burst through the middle.
Four-star receiver Steven Mitchell (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany) led the West with three receptions for 20 yards and appeared to be in sync with Browne. The duo provided a glimpse of what should be a productive combination for years.
Vanderdoes had a sack and assisted on a handful of tackles, showing why so many programs are after him. There might not have been another player who matched his energy on the field.
Four-star defensive end Torrodney Prevot (Houston, Texas/Alief Taylor) showed great burst off the edge, hurrying the East quarterbacks into uncomfortable throws and making four tackles. Prevot said afterward he’s still solid to USC, but has set up an official visit to Notre Dame for the Jan. 25 weekend.
Four-star offensive tackle Nico Falah (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) was effective in protecting the left side for the West when he was in the game. Four-star defensive end commit Kylie Fitts (Redlands, Calif./Redlands East Valley), who is still recovering from wrist surgery, wore a cast on his right arm but managed to play four downs. He made a tackle.
Four-star cornerback Chris Hawkins (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) also showed well for the West, especially on kick returns and pass coverage. No. 4-rated outside linebacker Michael Hutchings (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) displayed the pursuit and tackle skills that made him one of the state’s top players the last two years.
As for the triumphant East, four-star offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) was a clear standout, paving the way for the tie-breaking touchdown in the first half. Rodgers has said that USC assistant coach James Cregg intends to shift him to center in college, but Rodgers showed he’s capable of remaining at guard.
Four-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy) was victimized by Browne for the West’s only touchdown but otherwise had a good performance in coverage. ESPN 300 defensive end Jason Hatcher (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) assisted on a sack.