With the spring evaluation period just around the corner, a revamped USC coaching staff will soon kick its 2014 recruiting efforts into high gear. Adding talent on both lines seems to be the glaring priority, something that has already started to take shape with the verbal commitments of four linemen -- three on offense and one on defense.
And while running back is not the biggest need given the signings of four-star prospects Justin Davis (Stockton, Calif./Lincoln) and Ty Isaac (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic Academy) in the 2013 class, the presence of a couple intriguing athletes might force the Trojans to make some difficult decisions in the coming months.
For now, Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial) and Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) are two running backs who appear to be on the cusp of landing USC scholarship offers. Both Freeman and Richard attended USC junior day in February and shined at the recent Los Angeles Nike Football Training Camp.
“It was good environment,” Freeman said of his visit to USC. “Everything was nice there. … The coaches didn’t really say anything, but it’d be great to get an offer from USC. I like their athletic history and academics.”
The 6-foot, 220-pound Freeman bagged offers from Florida State and Stanford last week after his stellar showing at the NFTC, where he beat out Richard for running back MVP honors. Wisconsin followed suit by offering Freeman on Monday.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to get these offers,” said Freeman, who plans to make it to USC for a camp in June.
Richard, who has offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Nebraska, Tennessee and UCLA, figures to take a similar approach to earn a Trojans offer.
“He’s going to bring his lunch bucket to work every day,” Palmdale coach Jeff Williams said of his star running back. “Coach [James] Cregg told me they are definitely going to be out here in spring to evaluate him, but USC knows what kind of product we put out. They have Josh Shaw there now. When I say they can play, they can play.”
Davis and Isaac fit more of the “power-type” mold, so USC might prefer to bring in a speed back in the 2014 class to complement their styles down the road. Freeman was the most physically imposing athlete at the NFTC, to the point where he could have passed as a linebacker.
Richard, in Williams’ opinion, is also a power back.
“He reminds me of a young Emmitt Smith,” Williams said. “He can do it all -- run inside, outside, in a zone scheme. He’s showed he can run over defenders and catches the ball out of the backfield, too. He does everything well.”
Richard compiled more than 2,300 all-purpose yards – including more than 1,700 on the ground – and scored 26 touchdowns as a junior last season. He averaged 172 rushing yards per game and more than nine yards per carry to guide Palmdale to a 10-1 record.
Palmdale kicks off spring practice on May 1 and, according to Williams, Cregg intends to spend a full day in town to evaluate Richard. The 5-foot-9 back plans to camp at Oregon this summer, with the local schools also a likely stop.
“He’s taking it all in right now,” Williams said. “He’s a very level-headed kid and understands how the process works. The recruiting explosion is pending. Last week he got an offer from Tennessee and there are a lot of schools that haven’t even been here to visit yet. There will be quite a bit schools that will come by in the spring. Florida, Ohio State and others have him on their on the radar.”
The only in-state running back with a USC offer is highly coveted prospect Joe Mixon of Oakley (Calif.) Freedom. Mixon, who has nearly 40 offers, included the Trojans in his top 15 when he trimmed his long list last week.
According to the NCAA recruiting calendar, the evaluation period runs April 15 through May 31.
Local receiver going national
La Mirada (Calif.) receiver Dallis Todd has absolutely blown up after reclassifying from 2013 to 2014, and he might not be done.
Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas A&M are some of the non-West Coast schools that have extended scholarship offers to the impressive 6-foot-5, 210-pound wideout. Arizona and Vanderbilt offered scholarships to Todd on Monday.
Todd’s arrival on the recruiting scene leaves just one question: When will the local schools officially join the race for his signature?
According to La Mirada assistant Jim Phillips, both USC and UCLA have made stops to La Mirada to see Todd in person, but neither school has offered. Todd is known to favor the Trojans, but USC has not shown the level of interest that other schools have.
Ohio State has made perhaps the biggest impression. Todd has planned to take an unofficial visit to Columbus this spring.