USC Trojans: Malik Dorton

Revisiting USC's 2014 resolutions 

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
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:

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Trojans capitalize on big weekend 

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
ESPN 300 prospects Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) might have headlined the list of official visitors who spent the weekend at USC, but it was a pair of teammates from Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure who stole the spotlight.

Class of 2015 quarterback Ricky Town verbally committed to the Trojans on Saturday night, just hours after decommitting from Alabama, and No. 1-rated tight end Bryce Dixon re-affirmed his pledge on Sunday morning, capping a monstrous weekend that put USC in great shape with national signing day just over a week away.

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Eleven recruits set to visit USC 

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
The mother of all recruiting weekends has arrived for the USC Trojans.

With less than two weeks remaining until national signing day, seven members of the ESPN 300 are expected to be on campus beginning Friday. Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff hope these visits lead to success on Feb. 5.

Heading into the weekend, the Trojans have four empty slots in their 2014 recruiting class.

Here are the expected visitors:

No. 3 ATH John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly): The four-star prospect recently narrowed his list to a final four of Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and USC, but the Trojans have to believe they are in the lead. Smith dropped by USC last week and, while wearing a Trojans jersey, posed for photographs that have gone viral on social media and message boards. He is being recruited at receiver by the staff, including his uncle Johnny Nansen, but Smith said he wants to sit down with defensive backs coach Keith Heyward this weekend, too. The Trojans have an opportunity to seal the deal.

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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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TUSTIN, Calif. -- A decision might still be two weeks away, but the picture is getting clearer for ESPN 300 athlete John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly).

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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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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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USC's recruiting resolutions for 2014 

December, 31, 2013
A new year usually brings new aspirations. But in the recruiting world, hanging up a new calendar signifies the final stretch. It’s the beginning of the end.

[+] EnlargeAdoree Jackson
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comNo. 7 overall Adoree Jackson would be a big get for USC's coaching staff.
With national signing day just six weeks away, we take a quick glance at potential New Year’s resolutions for USC recruiting:

1. Sign an elite prospect

USC fans want both Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) to become Trojans, but either one would do, really. Whereas the 2013 class had the likes of Su’a Cravens and Max Browne as headliners, the current group lacks similar star power. ESPN 300 members Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) are no slouches, but Jackson and Smith would certainly take the class to the next level. New head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff would like nothing more than to finish strong heading into spring practice and the ever-important 2015 recruiting cycle.

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Notebook: USC commits win state 

December, 23, 2013
CARSON, Calif. -- USC receiver commit Shay Fields (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) looked up to the StubHub Center bleachers Saturday night and shook his head in disbelief.

The three-star prospect had just helped St. John Bosco capture the CIF State Open Division Bowl Game championship against mighty Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, and some of his teammates sat on the front-row ledge celebrating with their friends and family. As fellow USC commit Malik Dorton sat there holding the California-shaped wooden trophy, Fields reflected on the 12-month journey and could do nothing more than shake his head.

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A recent string of commitments heading into the dead period has left USC with only five remaining slots in its 2014 recruiting class. The Trojans have 19 total spots to use, as long as four of them are mid-year enrollees.

Here's a position-by-position look at how USC could allocate those empty spots, with a projection of how many players at each position the Trojans will try to sign:

Offensive line: 6

The Trojans hold five commitments on the offensive line, two of those from mid-year enrollees who already have signed financial aid agreements. They might not be done, though, as a big fish is still out there and possibly leaning toward signing with his childhood favorite. If the coaching staff decides a scholarship would be more important at another position, the Trojans might have to part ways with a prospect from this bunch.

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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

December, 18, 2013
There's a new No. 1 team in the Pac-12, according to the updated team rankings released on Wednesday.

Arizona State made the biggest jump of any team in the rankings, leaping from No. 22 to No. 17 overall, and in the process, bypassing Arizona, which moved from No. 18 to No. 19.

Six Pac-12 teams are now in the rankings, with the addition of USC at No. 39. Stanford fell back one spot to No. 26, due to Penn State's rise, while Oregon remains at No. 29, and UCLA rounds out the rankings at No. 40.

Trending up: Red and gold in the Pac-12 South.

Sure, it's not really red for either program, but whether it's the maroon of Arizona State or the cardinal of USC, those two programs shined on the recruiting trail this past week. Few teams anywhere are as hot as Arizona State, which added six commitments --including two four-stars -- in past week. The haul featured three defensive linemen, two running backs and an offensive tackle. But if any Pac-12 program can challenge the Sun Devils over that same period, it's USC, which added three four-star commitments and a three-star cornerback since last Wednesday. The Trojans are the newest Pac-12 program to appear in the updated class rankings, as USC checks in at No. 39.

Even though those two programs have been hot over the past week, it seems slightly unfair to leave this category without mentioning the fact that a case could be made for virtually every Pac-12 program. Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, Washington and Washington State all received verbal commitments from important recruits over the past week, in what was an incredibly successful seven days for Pac-12 coaches on the recruiting trail and hosting official visitors.

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Notebook: Talamaivao solid with USC 

December, 16, 2013
NORWALK, Calif. -- The tears in the eyes of ESPN 300 offensive guard Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) told the story.

A part of Talamaivao was sad because high school career had just come to an end Saturday night. Another part of Talamaivao was thrilled for close friend and possible college teammate Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who will continue his journey to the state bowl game.

A 70-49 victory by St. John Bosco at Cerritos College left Talamaivao emotional, despite the U.S. Army All-American Bowl next month and a bright future at USC.

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Notebook: USC recruits find positives 

December, 2, 2013
Recruiting had resembled a roller coaster ride for USC heading into the weekend showdown with crosstown rival UCLA. The Trojans experienced very early success in building the 2014 class before a slew of decommitments altered the outlook. The firing of Lane Kiffin, though, was followed by a positive streak that was highlighted by the surprise commitment of ESPN 300 offensive guard Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial).

The 21-point loss to UCLA might have slowed USC’s recruiting momentum, but current class members saw plenty of positives.

Malik Dorton
Blair Angulo/ESPNFour-star defensive end Malik Dorton was on hand for the USC-UCLA game and said the outcome wouldn't affect his commitment to the Trojans.
Four-star defensive end commit Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), for instance, walked into the Trojans’ locker room following the game and was greeted by many tired faces. USC used only one defensive substitute, which drew the attention of Dorton and recruits.

“What I took away from the game is that those guys need depth,” Dorton said. “Honestly, I don’t believe the loss will negatively affect recruiting. If coach Ed Orgeron stays on staff and, with the guys we have coming in, I would think recruits would like to join us rather than go to UCLA. I know a lot of guys aren’t committed but I talk to a lot of big-time recruits that want to play for coach O and USC.”

The defeat didn’t dampen the spirit of ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School), who became the first member of USC’s 2014 recruiting class in June 2012. The 6-foot-7, 330-pound lineman gained a deeper perspective on the situation he hopes to step into shortly.

“In life, you need true loyalty with people you are around and, at USC, there is a brotherhood,” Poland said. “We will stick together like brothers and let nothing break our bond. Everyone on the team needs to hold the rope.”

The Trojans scored their fewest points since the 14-10 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 19, and surrendered the most points since the 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28 that cost Kiffin his job. Three-star linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) didn’t think USC looked particularly good in any phase, but he was not disheartened by the setback.

“The team wasn’t hustling enough and they were not fully ready to play,” Nwosu said. “Honestly, I don’t know how the loss will affect recruiting, but I know it doesn’t change my mind.”

Longtime commit hosts USC coaches

The USC coaching staff had no time to sulk in the loss to the Bruins, as the contact period kicked off Sunday. ESPN 300 offensive guard Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra), an early enrollee candidate, was the first priority for assistant coaches Mike Summers, James Cregg and John Baxter.

“They spoke about the opportunity in front of me to come in early in the spring and step right into the action,” Lobendahn said. “They pointed out how the team has turned things around and how it has made it even better for next year.”

Lobendahn attended the game along with good friends Talamaivao, Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), John "Juju" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).

Brett Hundley really owned us,” said Lobendahn, who will have to wear a Bruins jersey sometime this week as a result of a lost bet. “It was really about [Hundley] making the best of their offense and we didn’t have our best game, as Coach O said. It wasn’t on the coaches as much as it was on the players for not executing.”

During the contact period, assistant coaches are allowed six in-person off-campus contacts per recruit from Dec. 1 through Feb. 1, 2014. There is a dead period from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15, when no face-to-face contact is allowed.

WeAreSC recruiting roundup

  • Following a season-ending loss to Bakersfield (Calif.) on Friday night, ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central) was not in the mood to make the four-hour drive south Saturday for the USC-UCLA game. Quick, though, continues to consider both schools. “He’s still waiting to see what will happen with Coach O,” Fresno-based defensive backs coach Tony Perry said.

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When USC enters the Coliseum Saturday to take on crosstown rival UCLA, it will do so with some of the area’s top recruits looking intently from the stands, many of which hold scholarship offers from both schools.

Some had to wait longer than others for the option to attend college nearby. More often than not in recent years, UCLA has been quicker than USC in sending out offers to mutual targets. In fact, of the 12 in-state prospects from the 2015 class that the Trojans have already offered, only four-star offensive tackle Zach Robertson (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) added USC to his list of suitors before the Bruins joined the chase.

Yet USC’s recruiting efforts are not necessarily harmed by this seemingly cautious approach. UCLA beat USC in offering the likes of Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra), but the Trojans added them to their recruiting class nonetheless.

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USC commits, targets revel in upset win 

November, 17, 2013
USC interim coach Ed Orgeron had already revitalized the Trojans’ recruiting efforts, sending out several local offers and picking up four commitments in the weeks since taking over for Lane Kiffin.

That momentum grew exponentially Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where a loaded list of top-flight recruits saw USC upset Stanford in front of a crazed crowd that rushed the field in jubilance. Five-star cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), ESPN 300 athlete John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and ESPN 300 tight end Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) were among the top targets in attendance.

The list featured all but one of USC’s nine verbal commits, as longtime pledge Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) couldn’t make the trip but watched intently from home.

“Going into the game, I knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Lobendahn said. “I wanted the Trojans to battle no matter what and they did that. I wasn’t going to lose faith in them no matter what, but I’m so glad we got the W and so happy for Coach O and the team. I’m super mad I couldn’t go celebrate.”

Lobendahn could get the scoop from USC receiver commit Shay Fields Jr. (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who was in the middle of the celebration.

“The locker room was really crazy,” Fields said. “Everybody was dancing and going crazy in there. The recruits were loving the intensity inside that locker room. Now I’m trying to get everybody (to join me).”

Fields had a number of recruits to choose from, as the Trojans drew the presence of local recruits whom have made pledges elsewhere, including Cal athlete commit Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), Miami quarterback commit Brad Kaaya (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade), Cal running back commit Tre Watson (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and UCLA receiver commit Jordan Lasley (Gardena, Calif./Serra).

“It definitely gives me something to think about,” Wadood said. “It was a huge win for SC. I’m still trying to decide if I will take an official visit. My last one will be between Washington and USC.”

Kaaya, a four-star pocket passer who landed an offer from childhood favorite USC shortly after Orgeron took the helm, surprised his mother with tickets for her birthday.

“It was exciting to watch,” Kaaya said. “Funny thing is, the first college football game I ever saw was Stanford-USC at the Coliseum when USC lost. This time, it seemed like the situation switched and USC came out on top.”

For three-star offensive tackle Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont), the game also served as a chance to build a relationship with a future teammate.

“It was pure excitement in the locker room following the well-deserved win,” Austin said. “I hung out with Jordan Poland primarily, but we did not talk much about recruiting. Rather, it was just friend to friend.”

The Class of 2015 was also well represented, with No. 1-rated signal-caller Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), No. 4 cornerback Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and No. 7 wide receiver Cordell Broadus (Diamond Bar, Calif./Diamond Bar) headlining a group that also included No. 2 outside linebacker John Houston Jr. (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and No. 12 defensive tackle Rasheem Green (Gardena, Calif./Serra).

“It was a great game,” Broadus said. “The atmosphere was very electric.”

The job Orgeron and his staff have done has not been lost on recruits. ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) has been open to visiting other schools while being committed to the Trojans, but that would all disappear if Orgeron were to get hired.

“Recruits want the coaches to stay on staff really bad; at least I know I do,” Dorton said. “If those guys stay, I’m definitely coming.”

Three-star outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne), who last month became the first recruiting class member from the Los Angeles City Section, left the Coliseum with a smile on his face.

“It was great. I had a good time and I feel like I made the right choice,” Nwosu said. “After the game, we went in the locker room and it was crazy in there. All the coaches were getting turned up.”

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