Pac-12: Toa Lobendahn

USC roundtable: Impact, battles and more 

July, 30, 2014
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The WeAreSC staffers discuss various topics related to the opening of USC Trojans fall camp practices next Monday.

Who will have the biggest camp impact? (offense/defense)

Garry Paskwietz: Steve Sarkisian says this will be a physical run-first offense and that should mean plenty of opportunities for Buck Allen to establish himself early as a critical piece of the system. The reigning Trojans MVP is in great shape and appears ready for that kind of role. On defense, Leonard Williams may be the most talented and Hayes Pullard is the most productive -- but in terms of impact, I'm going to go with Su'a Cravens. His athleticism should allow for him to make a lot of plays.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesThe Trojans' offense will run through quarterback Cody Kessler and tailback Javorius "Buck" Allen.
Johnny Curren: On offense, I'm going to go with Allen. The fourth-year junior tailback is in fantastic shape right now, and with Sarkisian showing a real desire to pound the ball on the ground, he should get plenty of chances to shine. On defense, Williams is the one to watch. Close to 100 percent after undergoing offseason surgery on his shoulder, there's every reason to believe he'll have an even bigger 2014 campaign than his season of 2013, when he garnered ESPN.com first-team All-America honors.

Greg Katz: Cody Kessler on offense. The Trojans' offense may have more explosive players, but the system doesn't work unless Kessler works, and he has been relentless in not only learning Sark's no-huddle, fast-paced offense but executing it and teaching others. Williams on defense. Teammates of the "Big Cat" know he played with pain in his shoulder last season and was never 100 percent. In the summer, however, it was darn scary just how must quicker and intense he was during voluntary workouts.

What will be the best position battle?

Paskwietz: The Trojans enter camp with no clear-cut starter at left guard and as many as four candidates for the job. The one veteran in the mix is Jordan Simmons, but he is coming off knee surgery last fall. The other three possibilities are all true freshmen in Toa Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama. All are extremely talented, but all will be taking part in their first fall camp practices as Trojans, though Lobendahn did participate in spring drills.

Curren: I'm tempted to say the battle at Sam linebacker between Jabari Ruffin and Quinton Powell, but after seeing J.R. Tavai shine throughout the summer workouts, I'll go with the competition between he and Scott Starr at rush end. Both performers are excellent athletes who play physical and fast to the ball off the edge, and I look forward to watching them bring out the best in each other in fall camp.

Katz: Because of the importance of both offensive guard positions, one would have to lump this as a critical unit position battle. Whether starting senior right guard Aundrey Walker, coming off an ankle injury, and Simmons, coming off of a knee injury, at left guard can be physically in shape and hold up to the pace of the offense remains in question. What isn't in question are the true freshmen O-liners such as Lobendahn, who is a well advanced talent despite his inexperience.

Who will be the surprise player of camp?

Paskwietz: It's hard to call Adoree' Jackson a surprise player in anything when you consider he was the highest-rated recruit in this USC class. The surprise will come, however, in just how good he will be from the word go. And I'm not talking just at one spot, he will make a case for playing time on offense, defense and special teams.

Curren: I really liked what I saw out of Leon McQuay III, both in the spring as well as this past summer. He's going to really open some eyes in his role as the starting free safety. Having bulked up considerably since his freshman season, he's also played with a new level of confidence over the past six months.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

December, 16, 2013
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Pac-12 recruiting hit warp speed this past week, as recruits and coaches alike took advantage of the final week of in-home visits and final weekend of official visits before the winter dead period begins on Monday and the junior college mid-year signing day hits on Wednesday. Just about every conference program hosted official visitors this past weekend, and more than a few earned significant commitments.


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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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A number of Pac-12 programs will have a chance to make statements this weekend that could help them greatly on the recruiting trail. The biggest game will take place at the Coliseum, as USC hosts Stanford, but both Washington programs will have a chance to make statements, while Oregon will have two important visitors on campus.

USC's second chance


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

November, 11, 2013
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Momentum continues to roll in a positive direction for USC. Washington extended an offer to another 2015 standout quarterback. Two California commitments looked good in last weekend's games. And Stanford earned the right to walk tall on the recruiting trail this week.


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Pac-12 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
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This week's list offers a look through the Pac-12 at the potential best-case and worst-case scenarios that the 2014 recruiting cycle could bring for various programs. While a few of the best-case scenarios might be close to within reach for some programs, many of the worst-case scenarios would take a special brand of bad luck.

Arizona
Best-case scenario: Arizona doesn't hold onto all of its 24 verbal commits, but keeps all of its priority recruits in the fold. In exchange for some of the decommitments, the Wildcats are rewarded with a big splash from either ESPN 300 prospect John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) or Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure). A strong finish to the season also helps Arizona clean up in its home state, landing commitments from offensive linemen Natrell Curtis (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe), Andrew Mike (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino), Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) and junior college defensive lineman Claudeson Pelon (Mesa, Ariz./Mesa College).

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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.

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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While all recruits have the same opportunity to make an impact after signing day, that’s not always the case in the days and months leading up to it. Some verbal commitments are bigger than others, whether it’s from a top target on the board, a nationally prominent standout who can shine a spotlight on the program or a local legend that continues a pipeline.

This week, we take a look through the Pac-12 at the most important verbal commitments in each class.

Arizona
ATH Cameron Denson (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic)
6-1, 175

ESPN 300 rank: 147

Denson hits every requirement for this list. He was the first commitment in Arizona’s 2014 class, the top-rated player in the class and a local standout that Rich Rodriguez had to have if he was going to build momentum for 2014.


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Weekend wrap: Pac-12 

August, 19, 2013
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Arizona State stole the Pac-12 headlines with a big commitment over the weekend, but several schools made recruiting noise, highlighted by a number of unofficial visitors to campuses. Also, Stanford added another building block for its future with 2015 safety Arrington Farrar (College Park, Ga./Woodward Academy) and the Pac-12 could add ESPN 300 prospect by the end of the week.

Biggest commitment: Connor Humphreys (Portland, Ore./Central Catholic) was tough to read through his recruitment and surprised many when he committed to Arizona State on Saturday. The ESPN 300 defensive end immediately becomes a huge part of the Sun Devils’ recruiting class. Arizona State beat out Oregon State, UCLA, USC and Wisconsin for the big defender.

Biggest offer: With the regular season close at hand, a number of programs are waiting until film of the first few games comes in before making new offers. But one went out on Sunday evening, as 2015 ESPN 300 defensive end Keisean Lucier-South (Orange, Calif./Lutheran) added an offer from Cal. Lucier-South continues to collect offers and this likely won’t be his last from a Pac-12 program before the end of the year.

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First look at 2014 recruiting

February, 14, 2013
2/14/13
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Too soon to start looking ahead to 2014 recruiting? Nah. It's the off-season. And your college football appetites can never be satiated.

The RecruitingNation folks looked at some teams that are already off to a fast start Insider for 2014 and USC is on the list.
From the story:

A trio of ESPN Watch List offensive line commits have the Trojans off to a nice start. The class is headlined by Watch List prospect Jordan Poland, an OT with a big frame and tremendous upper-body strength who plays with attitude. The Trojans also have Watch List OT Casey Tucker, a tough-minded and intelligent lineman who flashes a quick first step and the ability to hit hard and move the defender. Watch List OG Toa Lobendahn has a good frame to develop along the interior.

Here's a look at where each Pac-12 team stands so far.

ARIZONA

Commits: 1
ESPN Watch List: 1

ARIZONA STATE

Commits: 2
ESPN Watch List: 1

CALIFORNIA

Commits: 1
ESPN Watch List: 0

COLORADO

Commits: 0
ESPN Watch List: 0

OREGON

Commits: 0
ESPN Watch List: 0

OREGON STATE

Commits: 0
ESPN Watch List: 0

STANFORD

Commits: 1
ESPN Watch List: 1

UCLA

Commits: 1
ESPN Watch List: 0

USC

Commits: 3
ESPN Watch List: 3

UTAH

Commits: 3
ESPN Watch List: 1

WASHINGTON

Commits: 1
ESPN Watch List: 1

WASHINGTON STATE

Commits: 0
ESPN Watch List: 0

WeAreSC links: Lobendahn's USC draw

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
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Blair Angulo writes: Insider Toa Lobendahn considered many factors when he made his college choice nearly two months ago. A strong bond with his late grandfather, though, proved to be an important component.

Garry Paskwietz writes: Insider Lane Kiffin points out some young players who break past the usual pattern of struggling early in camp, when veterans typically shine.

WeAreSC links: Big 2014 start

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
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Garry Paskwietz writes Insider: USC's three offensive-line commits -- Jordan Poland, Toa Lobendahn and Casey Tucker -- haven't met, but they are looking forward to playing together.

Blair Angulo writes Insider: The status of ESPN 300 running back Justin Davis' commitment to USC was not altered by news of Silas Redd's transfer. If anything, it's a positive.

WeAreSC podcast Listen: Garry Paskwietz and Blair Angulo discuss USC's recent recruiting roll.

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