USC Trojans: John Plattenburg

Now that USC's entire incoming freshman class has had an opportunity to get their feet wet in the team's summer workouts, here's a player-by-player look at how those new arrivals have looked so far, and where they're fitting in.

OL Chris Brown
6-foot-5, 295 pounds
High school: Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola
Lining up as a reserve at right and left tackle, Brown has been at virtually every workout. Having some expected struggles in the one-on-one drills against the veteran defensive linemen initially, he's made strides over the last two weeks. This past Monday he had perhaps his best practice session, drawing cheers from his offensive line-mates when he delivered a fantastic punch move that caught Scott Starr by surprise and knocked him back on his heels.

TE Bryce Dixon
6-4, 240
High school: Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
A big target at tight end, Dixon has been working hard with Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick to learn the ins and outs of the offense, and it's paid off as he's come on during the last few workouts, hauling in a number of passes. Still fairly lean, it will be interesting to see how he fares in terms of blocking when the pads come on in August.

RE Malik Dorton
6-2, 250
High school: Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Another consistent attendee at the workouts, Dorton has been taking reps at the rush-end spot behind Starr and J.R. Tavai. He's shown off some nice pass-rush moves already, and he had a big day on Monday when he came up with his first interception of the summer.

WR Ajene Harris
5-11, 180
High school: Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw
Primarily a quarterback and defensive back on the high school level, Harris has been making a name for himself at receiver. Possessing sure hands, he's been surprisingly steady at the spot, providing more than enough evidence to suggest that he can be a valuable contributor -- perhaps sooner than most expected.

[+] EnlargeAdoree Jackson
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsAdoree' Jackson's play has stood out at both cornerback and wide receiver.
WR/CB Adoree' Jackson
5-11, 185
High school: Gardena (Calif.) Serra
No player arrived on campus with more hype, and to Jackson's credit, he's lived up to every ounce of it so far. Spending the first few workouts at cornerback, he's been playing at wide receiver as of late, and he's shined at both spots. A unique athlete with outstanding football instincts, he certainly has the look of an instant impact performer at either position, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him get reps at both spots in the fall. Jackson came up with an outstanding 60-yard touchdown reception this past Monday where he outleaped Ryan Dillard for a Cody Kessler pass.

WR/CB Rahshead Johnson
5-11, 175
High school: Long Beach (Calif.) Cabrillo
Like Jackson, Johnson has seen time at both cornerback and receiver. He's another excellent athlete with plenty of speed, and it will be interesting see which side of the ball he ultimately ends up on.

CB Jonathan Lockett
5-11, 175
High school: Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Lockett has been the surprise of this group so far. He's only been at two workouts, but he was the arguable star of both of those sessions. He came up with an interception in each practice, and also broke up a number of passes. Strong in coverage, with a nose for the ball, he's certainly someone worth keeping an eye on.

OL Damien Mama
6-5, 370
High school: Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
A mammoth-sized lineman, Mama has been taking reps at left guard, where he's performed more like a veteran than a green newcomer. Remarkably nimble for how big he is, he's more than held his own during the one-on-one sessions. The big question with Mama is whether or not he'll be able to keep up with the frenetic pace of the offense when fall camp begins. If he's able to do that, however, look out.

LB Uchenna Nwosu
6-3, 210
High school: Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne
After spending his first few initial workouts at inside linebacker, the versatile Nwosu saw some time on the outside in the team's most recent practice session. A former high school safety, he's shown a knack for being around the ball when he's dropped back in coverage.

There’s definite reason for optimism for first-year USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox heading into spring ball. After all, he inherits some key pieces from a unit that finished the 2013 campaign ranked No. 13 in the FBS in total defense (334.9 yards allowed per game) and No. 1 in red zone defense (63 percent scoring percentage).

Still, for the defense to really take off under Wilcox in 2014, there’s one position group that will need to elevate its level of play -- the cornerbacks. Plagued by injuries, the USC corners struggled at times in pass coverage, particularly in games against Arizona State, Arizona and Notre Dame. As such, expect Wilcox and defensive backs coach Keith Heyward to hold an open audition this spring as they look to find the most productive starting duo.

[+] EnlargeKevon Seymour, Taylor Kelly
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesUSC's Kevon Seymour, who was inconsistent in 2013, has challengers for his starting cornerback spot.
Of course, with potential instant-impact freshmen Adoree' Jackson, Jonathan Lockett, John Plattenburg and Lamont Simmons all set to arrive this summer, the upcoming slate of spring practice sessions will almost certainly serve as just the first phase of a lengthy competition at cornerback that will extend through fall camp. Without those blue-chippers around to steal valuable reps, the March and April workouts will be crucial for the candidates currently on the roster to make a lasting impression on the new staff.

Josh Shaw, who started 11 games at cornerback in 2013, stands out as a virtual lock at one of the spots, but with an influx of talent on the way, might we see him make the move back to his more natural free safety position? With Su’a Cravens, Leon McQuay III and Gerald Bowman -- who is coming off shoulder surgery -- serving as the only other scholarship safeties, there is certainly a lack of depth back there, so a potential switch for Shaw seems to make sense. Having proven himself as the team’s most dependable cover man last fall, however, the USC staff might not have the luxury of making that change unless other cornerbacks prove that they can be counted on.

The primary starter on the other side in 2013 was Kevon Seymour, now entering his junior season. The Pasadena (Calif.) Muir product had his ups and downs, but he did cap off his season with an outstanding performance in USC’s Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl victory over Fresno State. The big question now is, was that an anomaly or just the beginning of something special? The answer will likely determine whether or not he remains atop the depth chart in the long run.

Fifth-year senior Anthony Brown has flashed at times, but he has never been able to put it all together on a consistent basis. A veteran with six starts to his credit, it looked like 2013 was going to be his season to make a name for himself. But he suffered a knee injury in the team’s opener at Hawaii that would keep him on the sideline for almost the entire season. He actually returned to start against Notre Dame, but his injury hampered his outing, and he wouldn’t see the field again for the remainder of the season. Standing 5-foot-9 and weighing 180 pounds, he lacks the size of some of his counterparts, but he makes up for that with his speed and quickness. It hasn’t been announced whether or not he’ll be available to practice this spring, but if he is, he'll be in the mix.

Devian Shelton is another player whose status for the spring is still unknown after having foot surgery this past fall, but he too, could factor heavily into the discussion if healthy. Listed at 6-1, he gives the Trojans a taller look, but having redshirted as a freshman, and then missing almost all of 2013, he still lacks experience. Impressing at times last fall in camp with his size, he could even conceivably make the transition back to safety -- where he saw time in high school

One of the more interesting names to keep an eye on is Chris Hawkins. Could this be the time when he emerges from anonymity into a major contributor? A highly touted Class of 2013 prospect, he spent his first season on campus learning the tricks of the trade while redshirting. Although somewhat raw, he showed plenty of ability in practice, especially as the season wore on. If his development continues on its forward path, there’s reason to believe that he has the skills to push for playing time.

Ryan Henderson and Ryan Dillard are two more contenders who have seen limited action in the past in reserve roles. Henderson’s athleticism is undeniable -- he was the 2010 SPARQ Rating National Champion -- but so far that hasn’t translated over to the football field at USC. Dillard, meanwhile, is a walk-on who has certainly held his own, but he would still appear to be somewhat of a longshot. This spring will mark an important time for both players as they attempt to make a move up the depth chart for the first time.

Shifting power: Los Angeles 

January, 23, 2014
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It's tough to imagine one college football player changing the fortunes of his program and its closest rival over the course of more than a decade.

But that might just be the case with Reggie Bush, whose on-field actions helped USC become the dominant recruiting force in Southern California between 2006 and 2012, and whose off-field actions largely led to the NCAA taking 30 scholarships away from USC for the 2012-2014 seasons and creating a hole in the Southern California recruiting scene large enough for UCLA to climb through.

When the heavy sanctions were brought down upon USC in the summer of 2010, it was thought to be a now-or-never situation for UCLA. The Trojans were 10-1 in the previous 11 games against the Bruins and had the virtual first pick of just about any recruit in the region.

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The Trojans currently have 15 commitments for 19 spots available in the Class of 2014 and early spring enrollments.

Here is how the spots fill out for the commitments that have been made so far:

QB (1) Jalen Greene
RB (0)
WR (1) Rahshead Johnson
TE (1) Bryce Dixon
OL (4) Viane Talamaivao, Toa Lobendahn, Chris Brown, Jordan Austin
DL (3) Malik Dorton, Don Hill, Claudeson Pelon
LB (2) Olajuwon Tucker, Uchenna Nwosu
DB (3) Jonathan Lockett, Ajene Harris, John Plattenburg

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Visit puts USC in the lead for Nelson 

January, 19, 2014
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USC might have pushed back the visits of some of its premier recruiting targets, but the weekend could still be considered a productive one for head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff.

With the likes of John "Juju" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) postponing their official visits, ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central) was the headliner in a group that made it to campus for the three-day trip. The coaching staff also brought in a pair of uncommitted prospects who could be viable options on national signing day.


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Nine recruits set to visit USC 

January, 17, 2014
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With the dead period in the rearview mirror, USC kicks off its first big recruiting event of the month on campus this weekend. Six verbal commits and three targets make up the list of visitors this weekend:

No. 4 ATH Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central). After visiting Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Alabama in the fall, the four-star prospect is scheduled to visit USC this weekend and UCLA on Jan. 31. Steve Sarkisian and his staff heavily recruited Quick when they were at Washington, so the trip to campus will be about reestablishing that relationship and selling the Trojans’ program without Ed Orgeron, who was Quick’s primary recruiter. The dynamic receiver intends to announce his decision on national signing day.


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USC builds momentum during dead period 

January, 16, 2014
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The month-long dead period was part fruitful and part complicated for USC recruiting, offering a prelude to what could be a wild finish for new head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff.

Four verbal commitments highlighted the period -- which ran from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15 -- but some members of the Trojans’ class were met with uncertainty as the coaches scrambled to find additional targets. A commitment from dual-threat quarterback Jalen Greene (Gardena, Calif./Serra) was the first domino to fall, as Sarkisian nabbed his top target at a position of need, and plenty of activity followed despite the prohibition of face-to-face contact.


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Notebook: USC could reshuffle class 

January, 13, 2014
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The USC recruiting class continued to take shape last week with the commitment of three-star defensive back John Plattenburg (Houston/Lamar), reducing the number of available spots to two. Head coach Steve Sarkisian will be able to sign 19 in this class, with five of those expected to step into their first college course this week as mid-year enrollees.

Yet given limited vacancy and presence of other targets, it’s safe to assume some reshuffling is on the horizon.

New defensive line coach Bo Davis was added to the staff last week, and, while it quickly generated buzz with some Texas-based recruits, current USC commits faced more uncertainty. Three-star defensive tackle Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial), who trails only Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) as far as seniority in the class, said Sunday that he still considers himself a Trojan, but added he might reopen his recruitment.

ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) has similar plans.

“My USC visit might be on Jan. 17 or Jan. 24, but I’m still waiting to hear back,” Dorton said. “The last time I talked to one of the USC coaches, it was around Christmas. I’m lining up some options and being more open-minded. It’s tough being committed to a school for a long time and being focused on going there, but this is a business and I have to look for the best fit.”

Dorton has scheduled an official visit to Washington for the Jan. 31 weekend and will take a trip to Arizona State sometime this month. Oklahoma, where he visited Oct. 25, remains a possibility.

“The Washington coaches are coming down for an in-home visit before I take my trip up there, and Oklahoma is still an option,” Dorton said. “I spoke to the defensive line coach, Jerry Montgomery, and he told me my offer is still there and they still want me.”

Consistent with this time of year, there were rumors that three-star outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) was another casualty of Ed Orgeron’s departure. But Sarkisian wanted the 6-foot-2, 195-pound prospect when he was at Washington, so it would be surprising to see him end up anywhere other than USC.

“I called coach Tee Martin last week and he told me the rumors were just negative recruiting,” Nwosu said. “There might be some people who claim I will never play a down at USC, but Tee told me to make sure it’s not true. If I hear anything, he wants me to call him up. Coach Sark told me I’m not going to want to take any other visits after seeing USC, which I haven’t really been able to do aside from games at the Coliseum. I’m looking forward to my official visit this weekend.”

The Trojans could have competition, though. Washington coach Chris Petersen, who aggressively recruited Nwosu at Boise State, appears to be doing the same with the Huskies.

“Washington wants me to take my visit the last weekend in January,” Nwosu said. “It’s something I have set up, but I don’t know if I’m going to take it. I have a lot of things going on that weekend, so I’m still deciding.”

Nwosu is scheduled to play in the B2G West Coast Bowl later this month in an all-star game that will also feature Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), Maloata and Plattenburg, among others. Maloata has been verbally committed to the Trojans since early May. Dorton pledged in August, a week before the start of the high school season.

WeAreSC recruiting roundup

  • The Trojans appear to have zeroed in on a top target and will at least get an opportunity to woo him this week. BYU linebacker commit Fred Warner (San Marcos, Calif./Mission Hills) scheduled an official visit to USC for this weekend, marking an important weekend for assistant coach Peter Sirmon. Warner, who is set to take his trip to BYU on Jan. 31, might also visit either Nebraska or Washington on Jan. 24.

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Sarkisian shoring up Trojans at CB 

January, 8, 2014
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Coinciding with the emotional departure of fan favorite Ed Orgeron just over a month ago, the naming of Steve Sarkisian as USC’s new head coach wasn’t initially met with what you’d call universal enthusiasm. With what he’s accomplished on the recruiting trail in his short time back on campus, however, it’s hard not to be impressed.

Hitting the ground running from the moment he took the job, Sarkisian and the rest of his staff have done a stellar job of not only targeting some elite blue-chippers in the 2014 class -- such as recent tight end commit Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) -- he's also recognizing quality prospects who, though not necessarily possessing a five-star rating, are more than capable of filling a vital need. That’s something that former coach Lane Kiffin didn’t always appear to make a priority, choosing instead to chase high-profile superstars at any, and all costs.


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Commit Q&A: John Plattenburg 

January, 6, 2014
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USC coach Steve Sarkisian made yet another splash on the recruiting trail Monday when three-star defensive back John Plattenburg (Houston/Lamar) switched his commitment from UCLA to join the Trojans’ class.

WeAreSC caught up with the 5-foot-10, 180-pound prospect to break down the eighth commitment USC has received since Sarkisian took over on Dec. 2.

WeAreSC: With about four weeks remaining until national signing day, what was the determining factor in your decision?


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Local cornerback Lockett commits to USC 

December, 11, 2013
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When the scholarship offers from the likes of Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and Washington began to roll in for three-star cornerback Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), he wondered if childhood favorite USC would join the chase before it was too late.

Wanting to make a decision before the start of his senior season, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound prospect committed to the Huskies in late June. The presence of defensive backs coach Keith Heyward was also a major selling point, so when he accompanied head coach Steve Sarkisian to USC, Lockett knew he had to step back and re-assess the situation.

The USC possibility materialized late last week, when Heyward extended Lockett a scholarship offer. The local two-way standout didn’t need much time to mull it over, as he verbally committed to USC on Wednesday night.


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Notebook: USC will get shot at Wadood 

November, 25, 2013
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USC entered the picture for ESPN 300 athlete Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) fairly late, given that the four-star prospect had to wait a while longer for a scholarship offer than other top locals.

Yet, following their in-season resurgence, the Trojans appear to be in great shape for the two-way standout as the end of the 2014 recruiting cycle nears. Wadood, who had five receptions for 141 yards and three touchdowns Friday in a second-round victory against Las Flores (Calif.) Tesoro, said he intends to take his fifth and final official visit to USC on Jan. 24. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound athlete decommitted from Cal last week and officially visited UCLA over the weekend.

[+] EnlargeWadood
Erik McKinney/ESPNESPN 300 prospect Jaleel Wadood hopes his third commitment will be the charm, and it looks like it will come down to USC and UCLA.
Wadood also attended USC’s upset of Stanford at the Coliseum two weeks ago, and that experience played a role in his decision to reopen his recruitment.

“It showed they aren’t the pushover USC that everyone thought they were,” Wadood said. “They have turned the program around. There’s some great stuff going on at USC under coach Ed Orgeron.”

Washington is set to receive a visit from Wadood as well -- likely for the Jan. 17 weekend -- but this has shaped up as another local recruiting battle between USC and UCLA. Wadood is extremely close with his father, Haamid, and has all but scratched initial plans to leave the area for college. The Trojans might benefit from a lack of depth at defensive back. Whereas the Bruins seem to be loading up in the secondary with verbal commitments from ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), three-star prospects Denzel Fisher (Compton, Calif./Centennial), John Plattenburg (Houston/Lamar) and Ron Robinson (Corona, Calif./Santiago), USC has none and signed only one cornerback in 2013. A source close to the situation said the logjam could negatively affect UCLA’s chances with Wadood.

Though USC is recruiting Wadood as a cornerback, he said he has no preference for the next level. Other factors will be far more important.

“The feel and comfort with the coaching staff,” Wadood said. “How the academics are, whether it’s somewhere I can see myself. And playing time, too.”

Having previously committed to Arizona State and Cal, the dynamic playmaker hopes his next choice will be final.

“I’m trying to take my time,” Wadood said. “This will be the third time I commit, so I’m trying to make sure it’s the right one. I’ll consider every factor and make a decision sometime in mid-January, closer to signing day after I take all of my trips.”

WeAreSC recruiting roundup

  • USC defensive line commit Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial) took his first official visit to Washington State over the weekend, but returned home still a member of the Trojans’ recruiting class. With cousin and teammate Viane Talamaivao now committed to USC, it would be surprising if Maloata ended up anywhere else.

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Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Nov. 21 

November, 21, 2013
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It has been a wild week of recruiting in the Pac-12, with ups and downs for over half the programs in the conference. There have been six commitments and four decommitments since Monday afternoon, with one prospect decommitting and committing to the same school. And with this kind of momentum generated early in the week, there's a good chance it could continue through Sunday, with several programs hosting big recruiting weekends.

Washington and Cal post up and down weeks

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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

November, 20, 2013
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USC used a big win over Stanford to land an impact commitment earlier this week, which jumped the Trojans up to the No. 6 class in the Pac-12 in the updated class rankings. Arizona still sits atop the conference at No. 19 overall, while Stanford (No. 23) and Arizona State (No. 24) are just behind. Oregon rounds out the national rankings at No. 37 overall.

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A wild recruiting week out West 

November, 20, 2013
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It's only a Wednesday in late November, but this week has seen enough recruiting action out West to make you think signing day is just around the corner.

A flurry of commitments and decommitments began Monday night and affected six Pac-12 programs in less than three days. It began with USC's big victory on Monday, when it received a commitment from former Alabama commit Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), the nation's No. 5 offensive guard.


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