USC: Brad Kaaya

USC gets relief with Town commitment 

January, 25, 2014
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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.

Key recruiting visits -- Pac-12 

January, 17, 2014
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The recruiting dead period is over, and it's full speed ahead for a number of Pac-12 programs as coaches look to load up on official visitors over the next three weekends. A list of important official visitors for Pac-12 programs this weekend could easily extend to two or even three dozen names, so limiting it to just the top 10 was challenging -- though likely not as difficult as the task facing conference coaches looking to wrap up their recruiting classes as national signing day approaches.

1. CB Kweishi Brown (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont College) visiting Arizona State. The ESPN Junior College 50 cornerback made an early commitment to Arkansas but pulled away from that as more Pac-12 programs expressed interest. Brown, the nation's No. 3 juco cornerback, will be at Arizona State as part of a huge group of official visitors and will be one of the main targets committed quarterback Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin) sets his sights on this weekend.


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Pac-12 weekend recruiting wrap 

December, 23, 2013
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All eyes were on the California state bowl games this past weekend, as five contests pitted teams from Southern California against Northern California. And although recruiting took something of a backseat to the final games of the season, there was some noise made in the Pac-12 conference, including a quarterback shakeup that could continue to play out down the line.


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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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USC has chance to right recruiting wrongs

September, 29, 2013
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It is a whole new ball game with recruits out West now that Lane Kiffin is out at USC.

The Trojans’ Class of 2014 recruiting efforts mirrored the product on the field. There were a few bright spots like highly regarded ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), ESPN 300 linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) and ESPN 300 offensive lineman Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra), but it was also a class full of incompletions, fumbles and big misses.

[+] EnlargeTalamaivao
Erik McKinney/ESPN.comThe Trojans hope a new coaching staff will sway recruits like Viane Talamaivao (committed to Alabama) to USC.
The Trojans, in one of the deepest hotbeds of talent in the entire country and with one of the proudest football traditions around, were able to lure only seven commitments and watched conference rivals Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA and Washington blow past them on the recruiting trail. Recruits and high school coaches throughout the Southland also raised major concerns about the way Kiffin interacted with -- or some say flat-out ignored -- many top local prospects and coaches when they would come for unofficial visits or wanted to talk shop.

You have to win the recruiting wars in Los Angeles if you’re going to dominate at USC. It’s something that Pete Carroll figured out the second he stepped into Heritage Hall, but Kiffin was never able to fully embrace.

However, the Trojans now have a chance to reset things.

If USC makes the right hire, there’s still a real chance to lure a number of the West’s best prospects. Twenty-seven of the Top 100 and eight of the top 15 prospects in California have yet to make up their minds.

Plus, there will be kids who are committed to other schools that will take a long look at the Trojans again with a new coach in charge. You can bet that players like ESPN 300 offensive lineman and Alabama commit Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), ESPN 300 athlete and Arizona commit Marquis Ware (Los Angeles/Salesian), Elite 11 quarterback and Miami commit Brad Kaaya (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade) and many other committed players in California will get calls from the new USC staff.

In recruiting, nothing can erase the errors of the old and give a school some new momentum like a coaching change.

USC now has the chance to right its recruiting wrongs. Coupled with the fact recruits and high school coaches still consider the Trojans Los Angeles’ football team, USC’s run to signing day in February could alter the Pac-12 for years to come.

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