Monday, February 10, 2014
Revisiting USC's 2014 resolutions
By Blair Angulo
Shortly after the calendar flipped to 2014, we presented five possible New Year’s resolutions for USC recruiting and new head coach Steve Sarkisian.
Here they are again, with accompanying retrospective analysis that indicates how much the Trojans truly accomplished in the month leading up to national signing day:
1. Sign an elite prospect
John "Juju" Smith picked USC over UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame.
Assistant coach Tee Martin didn’t just manage to land another five-star prospect in highly-coveted athlete Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), but he also held off a strong push from conference rival Oregon to sign four-star receiver John "Juju" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly). Before national signing day, the class lacked a headliner. Sure, the offensive line group spearheaded by ESPN 300 guards Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) was certainly noteworthy, but the group as a whole seemed lacking in star power. Jackson and Smith helped catapult USC to No. 14 in the recruiting class rankings, up 10 spots from where it began last week.
2. Land a tight end
The Trojans didn’t just pick up a tight end. They signed the No. 1 prospect at the position and also dealt a recruiting blow to crosstown rival UCLA. Top target Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) initially announced his USC commitment during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and then reaffirmed that decision following his official visit to campus. New tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo, who recruited Dixon while at UCLA a couple years ago, managed to seal the deal. There were rumors Dixon intended to visit UCLA sometime before signing day, but an in-home visit with Sarkisian, Tuiasosopo and Martin put an end to that buzz. The Trojans didn’t sign a tight end in 2013, so Dixon was a major coup.
3. Handle with care
Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron faced a public relations nightmare in 2013 following a flurry of decommitments, including that of eventual UCLA signees Kylie Fitts and Eldridge Massington, but Sarkisian steered clear of similar scrutiny. Three-star receiver Shay Fields Jr. (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), three-star defensive lineman Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School) signed with other Pac-12 programs, but Sarkisian did hang on to ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), despite some concerns over the lack of communication. Sarkisian opted to stick with some unheralded locals, including Ajene Harris (Los Angeles/Crenshaw), Uchenna Nwosu (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) and Olajuwon Tucker (Gardena, Calif./Serra).
4. Pull off a surprise
Signing day was a huge success, with Jackson’s announcement being the bigger surprise. After a rough 2013 cycle in which Jalen Ramsey (Florida State), Jason Hatcher (Kentucky) and Torrodney Prevot (Oregon) all flipped on signing day, it was a welcomed sight for USC recruiting.
5. Choose a 2015 quarterback
USC has held a commitment from dual-threat signal-caller David Sills (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) for four years, but Sarkisian was not the coach who took that verbal pledge. That also didn’t prevent quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), the No. 2-rated pocket passer in the 2015 class, from backing out of his Alabama commitment and flipping to the Trojans during an unofficial visit in mid-January. Sarkisian identified his top target and got him, beginning the 2015 class with an elite prospect.