USC Trojans: John Smith

USC makes statement with strong finish 

February, 5, 2014
USC closed with a flourish on national signing day, putting an exclamation point on a recruiting haul that gave head coach Steve Sarkisian plenty to smile about as he spoke to the media inside the John McKay Center.

Adding to a group of five mid-year enrollees who are already on campus, USC landed the signatures of 14 prospects on Wednesday, eight of whom are ranked in the ESPN 300.

“It’s a pretty exciting day ... a pretty exciting week to be a Trojan, quite honestly,” Sarkisian said. “I think that we signed a really balanced class, one that is competitive ... it’s got competitive individuals in it that have high character, and guys that are going to fit in great.”
Wednesday will mark the first signing day for Steve Sarkisian as head coach at USC and the first chance to show that he is up to the task of heading the recruiting efforts for the Trojans.

There’s no doubt that Sarkisian had built a good reputation as a recruiter in his five years at Washington and he’s off to a good start in his first two months with the Trojans. Sarkisian has the opportunity to really flex his recruiting muscle with what he is attempting to pull off on signing day.

The top three uncommitted players in the state of California are all still in play with Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco). Not only are the Trojans among the final choices for all three players, but USC is considered at least a co-favorite for each player as well.

If Sarkisian can somehow get signed letters of intent from all three -- or even from two of the three -- it would be a dramatic signal to the Trojans' recruiting rivals.

In the immediate term it would add elite players -- each ranked among the top three at their positions by ESPN. It would also elevate USC to a possible top-10 finish in the ESPN Recruiting Nation class rankings.

With 15 current verbal commits -- five of whom are already enrolled for the spring semester – Sarkisian has the Trojans sitting at the No. 24 spot in the rankings heading into signing day. It was critical for Sarkisian to fill the four early enrollee spots to count against the Class of 2013, which he did, and he has built a nice foundation to the current class, particularly on both sides of the line. The addition of any of the elite trio on signing day, however, would be vital at the top end of the class.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsIf Steve Sarkisian can pull in a couple of the top prospects on USC's board on signing day, it will create some big recruiting momentum.
A strong signing day would also allow Sarkisian to help build upon the momentum that has already begun for the 2015 class. The Trojans recently earned a verbal commitment from quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), who flipped from Alabama. Town is ranked as the No. 2 quarterback in the ESPN Junior 300. There was also a verbal commit at the recent Elite Junior Day from cornerback Taeon Mason from Pasadena (Calif.) Muir.

The early success in the Class of 2015 is important to note because that will be the first class in four years in which the Trojans can sign a full 25-player class. USC has been limited to 15 players per year because of NCAA sanctions related to the Reggie Bush case. The 2015 class is considered to be strong in California -- 31 players from the Golden State already have four-stars in the ESPN Junior 300 -- so it’s a good time for Sarkisian and the Trojans to begin rebuilding the roster back to full limits. After having each of the three previous classes reduced, it will seem like a recruiting bonanza to the USC program to get those ten additional bodies next year.

First things first for Sarkisian -- closing out the 2014 class. It’s not going to be a smooth ride as SEC schools such as Florida and LSU are still in the hunt for Jackson, with UCLA making a late push as well, and rumblings of Smith showing interest in the Oregon Ducks.

USC fans have short memories when it comes to signing day changes, from De’Anthony Thomas flipping to Oregon to the five late decommits last year. These players are too good for other schools not to continue making runs at them, and nobody really knows how much of the interest from the players is legitimate. The one thing we do know is that everyone will find out on Wednesday, when all three players make their announcements on ESPNU.

And there might not be anyone who stands to gain more than Sarkisian. One of the primary reasons that USC athletic director Pat Haden gave for hiring Sarkisian is that he offered a smooth transition, in part because of his knowledge of USC and the Southern California recruiting landscape. If things fall the Trojans' way on Wednesday, it would not only be a smooth transition, but a dramatic statement about where USC recruiting is now and where things are headed.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

February, 3, 2014

The countdown is on, as the final weekend before signing day comes to a conclusion. Monday begins the dead period before signing day, so phones will likely be ringing off the hook between now and Wednesday -- phone contact is allowed during a dead period, in-person contact is not -- as Pac-12 coaches look to finalize the 2014 class.

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Signing day surprises not a good memory

February, 3, 2014
LOS ANGELES – With college football’s national letter of intent day on Wednesday, USC fans are holding their collective breaths that those schoolboy legends who have publicly committed to the Men of Troy or those rumored to be “silent commits” or “leans” will officially fax their LOI in two days over to the John McKay Center.

While the early recruiting precincts are suggesting a fine-to-outstanding Trojans signing day, if things hold up, there is always the fear that at the last minute something will go awry and a major meltdown will begin for both coaches and fans -- as was the case last February.

The Trojans, who have historically been in the top 10 of recruiting ranking polls, have in recent times experienced their share of “what happened” moments on or near signing day, which does not totally reflect the NCAA sanctions. Steve Sarkisian and his new USC staff have been working hard since their arrival trying to ensure that last year's signing day history doesn’t repeat itself.

As of the moment, two California high school All-Americans are said to be heavy Trojans leans - offensive lineman Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and athlete John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly).

While Mama and Smith are considered among the top three high school players in California, the top-ranked Golden State star has everybody guessing.

[+] EnlargeAdoree Jackson
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comAdoree' Jackson is considered the top recruiting prize in California in 2014.
All eyes are now directed toward uncommitted Gardena (Calif.) Serra High prized prospect Adoree’ Jackson, the consensus top player in California. A wide receiver/ defensive back, “AJAX” is said to be selecting between the Trojans and Florida; however, watch out for the UCLA Bruins, who might be what Jackson has in mind when he says his college selection on Wednesday will "shock the world."

There are those experts who claim that Jackson’s talent level is near or equal to former Los Angeles Crenshaw superstar De’Anthony Thomas, and most Trojans fans remember Thomas’s signing day stunner back in 2011.

Former Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin is still scratching his head over losing Thomas to Oregon at the last minute. “The Black Mamba” kept thing close to the vest in terms of his signing day leaning – although many thought he would sign with the Trojans. The Thomas defection to Oregon probably cost Lane Kiffin a few victories and maybe some future cardinal and gold job security as well.

Because of his recruiting silence, if Jackson does not select USC it will be disappointing for Trojans fans, but it won’t be quite the shocker that Thomas pulled. The Trojans really thought they had Thomas.

Kiffin isn’t the only former Trojans head coach to experience recruiting drama.

Nobody argues that former legendary Trojans coach Pete Carroll, who led the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII, was one of college football’s greatest recruiters, regardless of era. Carroll’s recruiting prowess in “closing the deal” is almost mythical. Whomever Pete wanted to sign almost always came to fruition – almost.

Carroll, a virtual college rock star of a coach during his time Troy, found that even his unmatched charisma, recruiting skills, and coaching record wasn’t always foolproof. Perhaps you remember the great 2009 U-turn by Hawaiian schoolboy linebacker Manti Te’o, who ended up on the last day signing with Notre Dame.

Talk to people at Punahou School in Honolulu and even the school's faculty and athletic staff thought Te’o was headed for USC. In fact, Te’o’s fellow students were beyond shocked when the future college All-American announced he was headed for South Bend, Ind.

Then there was 2005 signing day head-slapper of former Long Beach (Calif.) Poly wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who shocked Carroll when the Jackrabbits star made the astonishing local television announcement that he was going to … Cal. It seemed almost absurd that Jackson would select the Bears, but that’s what he did during the prime of the Carroll era.

So now comes this Wednesday’s signing day and the Trojans are in position to possibly land the three top recruits in California. Fans of the Cardinal and Gold are praying that a new name doesn’t join the backfire list of “what happened?” recruits.

Yes, the names of Adoree’ Jackson, Damien Mama, and John “JuJu” Smith on a USC letter of intent would indeed erase some of the disappointments of the past. Just ask Steve Sarkisian and his staff how happy they’d be with autographs of the Big Three.

A wild week for the West's best 

January, 31, 2014

Plenty of attention will be paid to the West on signing day, as four of the region's top eight recruits are set to announce their commitments on Wednesday. That number -- which includes the top-ranked uncommitted prospect in Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) -- dwarfs that of the top eight prospects in any of the other regions.

But before each makes a huge statement on signing day, all made some noise this week, as this region and the Pac-12 conference sets up for a very interesting day on Feb. 5.

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Crunch time for USC recruiting 

January, 30, 2014
LOS ANGELES -- Like the final hours of a Black Friday sale after Thanksgiving, this final full week of 2014 recruiting at USC is producing the expected pandemonium of paranoia, second thoughts, and Internet rumors.

With Wednesday’s national letter of intent day rapidly approaching, USC recruiting is producing more than its share of hourly crunch time drama, and the situation is about as fluid as Niagara Falls. Verbals, once thought solidified, have joined hands with locals asking, “When did that come up?” Yes, it’s about time to squeeze the stress ball if you’re a Trojans fan.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini brought his lucky charm with him on the recruiting trail Wednesday; while a lot of fans are focused on Adoree' Jackson and John Smith, schools haven’t forgotten about Damien Mama; and Notre Dame’s upgrades to its facilities will help on the trail.

Hope recruits don’t have allergies

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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

January, 29, 2014

In the final updated ESPN recruiting class rankings before national signing day, six Pac-12 schools remain among the top 40 classes in the country, and all are within striking distance of claiming the top spot in the conference. Arizona State remains No. 1 in the conference and No. 17 in the nation, and Stanford made a big jump for the second straight week, moving to No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 19 overall. Arizona slid one spot with Stanford's move, checking in at No. 21, and USC and Oregon remain tightly bunched at Nos. 24 and 25, respectively. UCLA rounds out the group from the Pac-12 at No. 28.

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USC primed for fruitful finish 

January, 29, 2014
With only a week until national signing day, the final stretch in the 2014 recruiting cycle has arrived.

On the surface, USC appears to be in a favorable position with its remaining top targets. Unlike last year, when the Trojans lost a handful of recruits in the waning moments, new head coach Steve Sarkisian & Co. seem primed to finish strong.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

January, 27, 2014

There were official visitors all over the Pac-12 this weekend, as conference coaches look to close out the 2014 recruiting class. But the most noise was made by a 2015 quarterback who committed to stay home for his college football career.

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USC gets relief with Town commitment 

January, 25, 2014
For USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, this weekend was supposed to be about sealing the deal with some top targets who were officially visiting campus, but it quickly transformed into so much more.

Most of the focus centered on a group of highly touted prospects from the 2014 class, including John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), as the Trojans hosted a large group of recruits with less than two weeks remaining until national signing day. Yet, the buzz shifted toward the future as Sarkisian reached into the 2015 class to make perhaps his biggest splash since arriving from Washington, securing a verbal commitment from Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), the No. 2-rated pocket passer who decommitted from Alabama earlier in the day.

Consider it a major coup for USC, which made Town its top priority at quarterback and managed to flip him in a short period of time.

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Key recruiting visits -- Pac-12 

January, 24, 2014

Just two weekends of official visits remain before signing day, so it's no surprise that just about every Pac-12 program will have visitors on campus this weekend. It's a huge opportunity for USC, which will have arguably it's most important host weekend of the recruiting calendar. Other programs will have a few recruits on hand in hopes of making a big splash the following weekend. While every visit is big at this stage of the game, here are a look at 10 of the most important for the Jan. 24 weekend:

1. ATH John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly)
Visiting: USC

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Early Offer: Big weekend for USC 

January, 24, 2014
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: If USC is going to close strong, landing some of this weekend’s 11 official visitors are key; even though neither are going to land him, Alabama and Oregon earned high praise for their recruiting efforts with offensive lineman Braden Smith’s coach; and Lorenzo Carter has become priority No. 1 for several of the Southeast's top teams.

11 recruits set to visit USC

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Shifting power: Los Angeles 

January, 23, 2014
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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