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Tuesday, November 19, 2013
USC lands Talamaivao, makes noise

By Blair Angulo

When USC picked up a surprise commitment from ESPN 300 offensive guard Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) late Monday night, it gained more than just a four-star prospect.

The Trojans and interim head coach Ed Orgeron gained credibility, too.

Flipping three-star receiver Shay Fields Jr. (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) from Boise State and wrestling three-star athlete Ajene Harris (Los Angeles/Crenshaw) away from San Diego State might not have been viewed as major accomplishments. The same could be said of convincing under-the-radar prospects Uchenna Nwosu (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) and Olajuwon Tucker (Gardena, Calif./Serra) to accept scholarship offers.

But by plucking Talamaivao, who was less than two weeks removed from an official visit to Alabama, the school he was verbally committed to for nearly six months, Orgeron and his staff made perhaps the most resounding statement they could have made heading into the final 10 weeks of the 2014 recruiting cycle.

USC not only landed an impact recruit and generated buzz locally, it pulled him back home from the firmest grasp in SEC country.

Considering what it could lead to as national signing day approaches, Talamaivao became USC’s most important commitment to date. The 6-foot-2, 330-pound lineman joined fellow ESPN 300 offensive guard Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) in USC’s class, forming an interior duo that could stack up with any other. Yet, the Trojans hope it doesn’t end there, given that they might be considered the favorites to land ESPN 300 member Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), the No. 1-rated player at that same position.

Mama, who announced a final four of USC, UCLA, Alabama and BYU on Monday, was a high school teammate of Talamaivao when both were freshmen. They transferred to their respective schools, but have maintained a strong relationship and train together during the offseason. Lobendahn, Mama, Talamaivao and No. 4-rated athlete John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) were inseparable at The Opening this past summer, and Orgeron’s big coup could lead to more riches with a strong finish to the 2013 campaign.

An upset victory against Stanford last weekend helped USC lure Talamaivao, who picked up a scholarship offer from the Trojans fairly late and never felt appreciated when Lane Kiffin was at the helm. Though the timing was surprising, the first clue arrived last week when Talamaivao scheduled an official visit to USC for the Jan. 18 weekend. He had arrived from his trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., a couple days earlier.

That Orgeron and his staff closed in that quickly is significant. Talamaivao gave them a top-flight name to mention to other recruits, and now one of the nation’s most renowned and relentless recruiters has grabbed his first building block.