USC Trojans: Jordan Poland

What might have been for USC 

February, 4, 2014
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USC’s upcoming recruiting haul will be the final group restricted by the NCAA penalties handed down in 2010. Limited to signing 15 athletes per class beginning in 2012 while also being forced to maintain a roster of no more than 75 scholarship players, the Trojans were docked a total of 30 total scholarships through next season.

The effects of the penalties have been felt even more than most imagined as, when coupled with injuries, the Trojans have had to deal with major depth issues. Not only that, but many of the quality players USC would have landed under normal circumstances now line up for Trojans opponents, making the team’s job on the field that much more challenging.

With that in mind, here are 10 recruits from each of the past three recruiting classes who could have been at USC.

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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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Half of the Pac-12 remains among the top 40 recruiting classes in the newly-released ESPN recruiting rankings. In order, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, USC, Stanford and UCLA represent the conference after a big week on the recruiting trail for virtually all of those programs.

Trending up: Just about the entire Pac-12 gets a mention here, as Arizona State, Oregon, USC and UCLA all moved up in the team rankings. While Arizona still sits at No. 15, the Wildcats added two very important pieces in No. 15 overall prospect Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) and ESPN offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla Country Day). Arizona State moved from No. 18 to No. 17, while Oregon jumped from No. 27 to No. 25 and USC moved from No. 31 to No. 27. Stanford held at No. 28, while UCLA used several commitments to climb one spot from No. 34 to No. 33 overall. Other Pac-12 programs, including Cal, Washington and Washington State, added recent commitments as well.

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It was a very busy weekend in the Pac-12, as several programs picked up recruits during the various All-American games across the country.

Biggest commitment: Five conference teams added commitments since last Thursday, and all will likely play a big role in shaping classes on signing day.

Arizona got an early start on the weekend, as the Wildcats grabbed two huge commitments this past Thursday with ESPN 300 cornerback Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) -- the No. 15 overall prospect in the nation -- and former USC commit and ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla Country Day).

Arizona State landed a commitment from two-way lineman Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch) during the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Sunday. Delp will still visit other programs, but if he sticks with Arizona State, he'll provide a boost at defensive tackle.


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Eighteen months ago, ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School) became the first member of USC’s 2014 recruiting class, committing to the Trojans shortly after attending camp. It was a monumental moment for a program heading into the summer with championship aspirations.

Sadler Argyle's not big. There's nowhere to eat. You have a school, a football field and roads. Then there's a bunch of land. That's about it. But the community and football team are together; they're one. For the last however many years, the community's been behind us. With all them, we felt unstoppable.

-- Argyle's Ian Sadler, a Texas Tech commit
Yet with about a month to go until national signing day, uncertainty muddled Poland’s status with USC as a new coaching staff took over. Poland initially intended to enroll early but scratched those plans, affecting his stance with the Trojans.

On Thursday afternoon, the four-star prospect decommitted from USC and flipped to Arizona.


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USC's recruiting resolutions for 2014 

December, 31, 2013
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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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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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Last week saw a coaching shakeup in the Pac-12, as USC hired Steve Sarkisian away from Washington and the Huskies countered by luring Chris Petersen away from Boise State after making a run at UCLA's Jim Mora. This week, nearly every Pac-12 staff has been busy hitting the recruiting trail and setting up important visit weekends as a number of ESPN 300 prospects will be on conference campuses.

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
Tom Hauck for Student SportsSolomon Thomas is still considering UCLA and Stanford, among others.
UCLA's big visitor

For the second weekend in a row, UCLA will have an ESPN 300 prospect on campus. Last week, the Bruins hosted Alabama linebacker commit Zach Whitley Jr (Houston/North Shore). This weekend, ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) will make the trip. Thomas, the No. 31 overall prospect and No. 5 defensive end, would be a huge addition for UCLA, which has done very well in Texas recently, led by assistant coach Adrian Klemm. Thomas still has a number of suitors, but UCLA has maintained a consistent presence in his recruitment -- along with Pac-12 rival Stanford -- and has a chance to make a statement this weekend.

USC's weekend intrigue


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The USC Trojans once again will dip into the past, as former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian accepted an offer to take over the same position at USC, according to ESPN's Joe Schad. Sarkisian was an assistant coach with the Trojans from 2001-03, and then again from 2005-08.

Born in Torrance, Calif., and having attended West Torrance High School and El Camino Junior College, Sarkisian is very familiar with Southern California, and he recruited it well for both USC and Washington. Now, coming back home, the thought from coaches and recruits alike is that he will hit the ground running on the recruiting trail.


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Notebook: USC recruits find positives 

December, 2, 2013
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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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USC commits, targets revel in upset win 

November, 17, 2013
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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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LOS ANGELES -- In a battle to remain motivated, nothing proved more essential for offensive lineman Chris Brown (Los Angeles/Loyola) than patience and confidence.

Mere hope wasn’t necessarily comforting, but panicking would have done him no good.

Brown looked on while other prospects at his position picked up scholarship offers by the box load, earned invitations to prestigious camps and booked trips to top-flight programs. He wondered when he would receive the same attention. It would have been easy to question his place among the area’s top recruits and grow discouraged when his cell phone gathered dust, yet Brown carried on with an optimistic attitude.

Then, after his midseason highlight tape was sent out to programs, the big break arrived in the second week of October by way of a USC scholarship offer.


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Notebook: WeAreSC recruiting roundup 

September, 24, 2013
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In this week’s WeAreSC recruiting notebook, we touch on a planned package deal, potential quarterback options and more:

  • As expected, USC outside linebacker commit D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) set up his first official visit to Arizona State for the Oct. 18 weekend when the Sun Devils host Washington. The four-star prospect intends to take all five visits, though his father, Derik, said he remains committed to USC. With good friend and high school teammate Adarius Pickett now committed to UCLA, the Trojans will have some work to do.
  • While some uncertainty remains with Calhoun, add three-star offensive lineman Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont) to the list of recruits who have been unfazed by the fuzzy USC coaching situation. Like fellow linemen commits Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) and Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School), Austin appears headed for Troy no matter how the 2013 season unravels. “I went to the game against Boston College. I loved the whole experience,” the 6-foot-5, 275-pound prospect said. Lobendahn, meanwhile, will be eligible to play his first game this season on Oct. 11 when La Habra travels to Fullerton (Calif.).

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Best Pac-12 classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
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Arizona’s haul of 24 verbal commitments is nine more than any other Pac-12 team, while only one BCS program has fewer than USC’s seven -- Minnesota, with six. Oregon, UCLA, Utah and Washington have all yet to reach double digits. But this week, we take a look at which program has put together the best class at each position at this point in the recruiting process.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Stanford

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WeAreSC recruiting mailbag 

September, 6, 2013
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WeAreSC recruiting reporter Blair Angulo answers reader questions in his mailbag every week. Have a USC recruiting question of your own? Submit it via Twitter @WeAreSCstaff or @bangulo.
WeAreSC: There have not been many scholarship offers made to Class of 2014 cornerbacks, but that should change with Adarius Pickett -- a four-star cornerback from El Cerrito (Calif.) -- committing to UCLA this week and five-star prospect Adoree’ Jackson of Gardena (Calif.) Serra recently stating his preference for the offensive side of the ball. The Trojans will add corners in this recruiting class, but their top targets are coming off the board quickly.

Still, it’s not time to panic. There’s plenty of time for USC to make a run at the batch of the local defensive backs. A good season on the field should help with those efforts.


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