Wednesday, February 1, 2012
The delightful dozen
By Erik McKinney We Are SC
LOS ANGELES -- USC coach Lane Kiffin announced the signing of 12 players during his national signing day press conference Wednesday evening.
The haul includes 11 high school players and one junior college transfer, which allows three available scholarships to be used for early enrollees from the class of 2013.
Leonard Williams was singled out as an expected immediate contributor by USC coach Lane Kiffin.
The USC staff was successful in holding onto its committed players, losing just one recruit, defensive end Pio Vatuvei (Patterson, Calif./Patterson), who signed with Washington. The 12 players who signed Wednesday and 17 total players who will be added to the roster for the coming season form the first group of Trojans to enter the program under the NCAA-imposed scholarship limitations. Despite the small numbers, Kiffin was pleased with the result.
"I'm very excited to welcome this class to USC," Kiffin said. "Our coaching staff, headed by recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron, did a great job of signing such quality student-athletes under the circumstances with which we are faced. We are working with a limited number of scholarships due to the sanctions, so it was extremely critical for us to concentrate on the quality of players that we signed rather than the quantity."
The day started off with a bang for the Trojans, picking up two high-quality players in wide receiver Nelson Agholor (Tampa/Berkeley Prep) and defensive lineman Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland). Agholor will look to follow Robert Woods and Marqise Lee as first-year players to make a name for themselves. The same will be expected of Williams, whom Kiffin tagged as the freshman most likely to make an impact next season.
For the Trojans, the biggest need in the class was also the biggest area of success. Although the class could be highlighted by those that went elsewhere, USC signed a strong class of offensive linemen, with Max Tuerk (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita), Jordan Simmons (Encino, Calif./Crespi) and Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes) joining early enrollee Chad Wheeler (Santa Monica, Calif./Santa Monica). The day finished with a bit of a thud however, as Kyle Murphy (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) and Andrus Peat (Tempe, Ariz./Corona Del Sol) both signed with Stanford.
Kiffin addressed missing out on the two top tackles and gave some good-natured ribbing to his boss. With USC down an assistant coach, athletic director Pat Haden was able to step in to help with recruiting after passing an NCAA recruiting test. Kiffin said they didn't want to send Haden all around the country but had him assist with both Murphy and Peat.
"We brought in Haden at the end to help with two guys that we thought we were leading for going into the visit," Kiffin said. "We didn't get either of them, so Haden will be going back to administration."
The class also was dinged by the lack of a tailback, suddenly a position of great need for the Trojans. Junior college back Kelvin York (Fullerton, Calif./Fullerton College) signed with Utah as an early enrollee after initially committing to USC.
"There were very few guys we liked, as there was a shortage at that spot this year," Kiffin said. "As much as any, that's probably a spot that is the most impacted by the reduced numbers. If we had 25, we definitely would have gone after a guy to develop. But we didn't have that luxury this year at that position."
Joining the linemen on the offensive side of the ball are wide receiver Darreus Rogers (Carson, Calif./Carson), tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney) and fullback Jahleel Pinner (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo).
Defensively, the Trojans hit their needs in the secondary and at linebacker, as junior college safety Gerald Bowman (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College) will enroll this fall after initially signing as an early enrollee. A pair of cornerbacks in Kevon Seymour (Pasadena, Calif./Muir) and late addition Devian Shelton (Inglewood, Calif./Inglewood), along with linebacker Jabari Ruffin (Downey, Calif./Downey), will mix nicely with early enrollee linebacker Scott Starr (Norco, Calif./Norco) and safety Joshua Shaw, a transfer from Florida.
Up front, Williams was the highlight, as defensive ends Morgan Breslin (Diablo Valley C.C.) and DeVante Wilson (Corona, Calif./Corona) already had signed with USC. Williams has the ability to play defensive end, but it's likely that his wide frame will allow him to become a terrific defensive tackle. Adding another big body up front would have been an asset, but the Trojans swung and missed at Arik Armstead (Elk Grove, Calif./Pleasant Grove), Ellis McCarthy (Monrovia, Calif./Monrovia) and Aziz Shittu (Atwater, Calif./Buhach Colony), who will suit up for Oregon, UCLA and Stanford, respectively.
"It was hard to give up 10 scholarships a year," Kiffin said of the first year dealing with the reductions. "It was mostly hard not only because we weren't going to be able to get those players, but we knew they are going to be going to some of our rival schools in our conference. That's hard for us to take."
In addition to losing 10 scholarships per year for this and the next two recruiting classes, the Trojans also must abide by the 75-scholarship limit beginning this fall. With these additions, USC's roster sits above 75 scholarship players, although Kiffin said he was confident in his ability to handle that situation.
"Yes, we will be above 75. There are some guys on the roster who may not be here or some walk-ons who were given scholarships that will not have those scholarships," Kiffin said. "It will work itself out."
But Kiffin was focused on the newest additions to the Trojan family and applauded those who sent their faxes to Heritage Hall on Wednesday.
"One common attribute of these signees is their ability to compete," he said. "None of them were worried about depth charts or playing time. They were excited to be Trojans."
Erik McKinney is the recruiting editor for WeAreSC.com and has covered the Trojans since 2004. He can be reached at email@example.com.