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Thursday, June 13, 2013
2014 defense recruiting breakdown

By Blair Angulo

The 2014 recruiting cycle is more than four months old, which means USC’s board is taking shape as the summer approaches. With up to 20 available scholarships, the Trojans will look to add to the six defensive prospects they signed in the previous cycle. Here’s a look at where USC stands in its defensive recruiting:

Defensive end

Targets: Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), Connor Humphreys (Portland, Ore./Central Catholic), Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell), Dante Sawyer (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett), Dewayne Hendrix (O’Fallon, Ill./O’Fallon Township), Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City, Okla./Douglass), Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine)

Malik Dorton
After losing three decommits at the position last year, USC needs to close on defensive ends such as Malik Dorton.
Outlook: USC has a verbal commitment from Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial) at defensive end, though he’s been evaluated at defensive tackle by ESPN. Position coach Ed Orgeron doesn’t figure to end there. After cornerback, defensive end might be the most pressing need in this cycle, given that three ends decommitted from the Trojans last February. It appears Orgeron will need to sign at least two this time around, though the new 5-2 defensive front adds some flexibility in the way the staff might approach the position.

Defensive tackle

Targets: Matt Dickerson (San Mateo, Calif./Junipero Serra), Peyton Newell (Hiawatha, Kan./Hiawatha), Joshua Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Har-Ber), Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith), Malik McDowell (Detroit, Mich./Loyola), Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln), Anthony Moten (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, Fla./Bayside), Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton)

Outlook: USC is in better shape here with verbal commitments from Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central) and juco prospect Michael Wyche (Chesapeake, Va./East Los Angeles College). Smallwood showed great burst at the Oakland Nike Football Training Camp and holds scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama and Oklahoma, so the Trojans will have to be successful on the field this season to keep him. Wyche is also garnering other interest. Another could hop on board, as Dickerson, Newell and Frazier have the Trojans high on their respective lists.

Linebacker

Targets: D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), Bobby Okereke (Tustin, Calif./Foothill), Fred Warner (San Marcos, Calif./Mission Hills), Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee), Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Richard Yeargin III (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Univ. School of Nova South), Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn)

Outlook: The possible addition of five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas, who opted to honor his national letter of intent with Florida State earlier this week, could have helped immensely. Still, USC is in good position to land at least one of its in-state targets at linebacker. Okereke, who shined at last weekend’s skills camp, wants to make an early decision, while Warner has been forced to reconsider his BYU commitment in recent weeks. Calhoun’s sister plays on the USC women’s basketball team, and the four-star prospect has consistently said the Trojans are at the top of his list. Assistant coach Mike Ekeler has hit the Midwest hard, with Garrett and Morgan being two priorities in his old stomping grounds.

Cornerback

Targets: Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), Nick Watkins (Dallas, Texas/Bishop Dunne), Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King), Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), John Plattenburg (Corona, Calif./Centennial), Naijiel Hale (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco)

Outlook: Cornerback is perhaps the most crucial position in the 2014 class and it’s only heightened by the fact that Jackson, the No. 5 overall prospect and top-rated player in the state, plays there. USC might be waiting to see what happens with him before moving in on other local prospects, but will it be too late? Nationally, the Trojans could definitely draw some eyes if they win this fall. The possibility for early playing time should be a big selling point.

Safety

Targets: Bishard “Budda” Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), Quincy Wilson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Univ. School of Nova South), Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), John Battle IV (Hallandale Beach, Fla./Hallandale), Edwin Freeman (Arlington, Texas/Bowie)

Outlook: Safety is not the most pressing need after the signings of Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III, but the Trojans could certainly use another athlete here. John "JuJu" Smith of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly said he’s been offered at receiver, but he certainly hasn’t ruled out playing safety at the next level. Wilson and McGraw appear to have genuine interest, so they’ll be two to monitor closely moving forward.