The USC Trojans' 2011 recruiting plan
One of the hottest questions leading up to signing day, a question that is being asked even more than "Where will No. 1 recruit Jadeveon Clowney sign?" is the following: "Exactly how many recruits will -- or can -- the USC Trojans take next Wednesday?"
My hunch is USC may sign as many as 25 prospects as part of its 2011 recruiting class. There is a key distinction worth noting here, however: The number of newcomers will be even more than that in terms of the online recruiting rankings tallies, because they won't include the midyear signees the program has already brought on board who are counting as part of the 2010 class. USC had that flexibility because it had essentially undersigned in 2010.
(While we're at it, it's also worth mentioning that media and fans tend to think of a signing class as the newcomers brought in because those are the ones listed in online recruiting databases. However, those numbers don't include transfers from four-year schools, which also actually count as part of signing/recruiting classes.)
The reason why USC would be allowed to sign more than the 15 dictated as part of last spring's NCAA sanctions is because, as part of the appeals process, those penalties are stayed, or frozen. In its appeal, USC was shooting for the NCAA to ease back on the scholarship restrictions, allowing it to sign 20 per class instead of 15.
Last Saturday the Trojans issued their long-awaited appeal of the NCAA's sanctions, but the results of the appeal won't be known until weeks after signing day, Wednesday, Feb. 2. Trojans sources have been reluctant to give any exact projected numbers for their 2011 signing class. I get why coach Lane Kiffin wouldn't want to put anything out on record beforehand. If he is on record talking about bringing in, say, 20 recruits from the Class of 2011, and then on the eve of signing day learns that three or four kids the coaching staff didn't think it could get end up coming, it would seem like the Trojans are "oversigning." Conversely, if he were to say publicly he plans to sign 25, and then some of those prospects don't come his way and he ends up with a class of 19, it would look like he came up empty.
To read the rest of Bruce Feldman's assessment of USC's 2011 recruiting strategy, as well as several key national recruiting updates, you need to be an ESPN Insider.