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A closer look at USC’s signing class: scouting reports

With the Trojans’ recruiting haul of 2015 now secured and in the books, here’s a closer look at what USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff are getting in each signee, mid-year enrollee, as well as those players who are set to arrive in August as blueshirts.

 

* Deontay Burnett

Gardena (Calif.) Serra

6-foot, 151 pounds

Blueshirt

High school position: Wide Receiver

Projected USC position: Wide Receiver

Description of skills: Burnett is the latest in a long line of standout Serra receivers, but he’s also somewhat of a late bloomer whose stock didn’t really take off until his senior year. Will need to add weight, but he’s a nice all-around player, possessing solid speed, body control and hands. It’s also safe to say that he has some big play ability – he averaged over 20 yards per catch in 2014.

How he fits at USC: Burnett will arrive at USC in August as a blueshirt, and with his collection of skills at the wide receiver position, he has the potential to become a valuable contributor at some point in the future once he’s filled out physically.

Key stat or fact: Caught 27 passes for 545 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.

Who he might remind you of: De’Von Flournoy

 

* Jacob Daniel

Fresno (Calif.) Clovis North

6-4, 325

High school position: Defensive Tackle

Projected USC position: Defensive Tackle/Defensive End/Nose Tackle

Description of skills: Daniel is very big and strong, resembling the type of defensive lineman that commonly hails from SEC territory. He was able to bully opposing offensive linemen on the high school level, but he also showcased solid technique, particularly when it came to using his hands. Having missed the last part of his junior season, as well as all but two games of his senior year, he will need to work himself back into game shape, although he did show promise at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

How he fits at USC: With his size, Daniel really could line up at any of the three interior defensive line spots in USC’s 3-4 scheme. Chris Wilson’s group isn’t marked by depth, so there is a good chance that he enters the rotation early.

Key stat or fact: The No. 15 ranked defensive tackle in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Darrell Russell

 

* Sam Darnold

San Clemente (Calif.)

6-4, 215

High school position: Quarterback

Projected USC position: Quarterback

Description of skills: Darnold is a true field general who was the heart and soul of the offense at San Clemente. Possessing good size and solid arm strength, he was an incredibly efficient passer in 2014, completing 72 percent of his throws for almost 3,000 yards. An outstanding all-around athlete, opposing defenses also had to be weary of his ability as a rusher.

How he fits at USC: Assuming he continues to fill out physically, he could factor into the race for the Trojans’ starting quarterback job once Cody Kessler graduates. He gives Sarkisian a unique option as a quarterback who poses a threat with his arm as well as with his legs.

Key stat or fact: The No. 8 ranked pocket passer quarterback in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Aaron Rodgers

 

* Dominic Davis

Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany

5-10, 175

High school position Running Back/Receiver/Cornerback

Projected USC position: Running Back/Slot Receiver

Description of skills: Davis is an outstanding athlete with top-flight speed and definite big-play ability. Dangerous when he has the ball in space, he’s not only an excellent rusher, but he also possesses strong receiving skills.

How he fits at USC: Because of his unique skill-set as both a ball-carrier and receiver, Davis could potentially find a role early. He’s been told that he will also see time as a slot receiver.

Key stat or fact: Was the only participant at the Los Angeles NFTC to run the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds (4.40) last March.

Who he might remind you of: Reggie Bush

 

* Chuma Edoga

Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern

6-4, 285

Mid-year enrollee

High School position: Offensive Tackle

Projected USC position: Offensive Tackle/Offensive Guard

Description of skills: A really athletic lineman with great feet who also has some nastiness to him. Extremely versatile, he lined up at both guard and tackle during the week leading up to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Like most incoming freshmen offensive linemen, he will need to add some bulk to his frame.

How he fits at USC: While offensive linemen don’t usually play as true freshmen, Edoga would appear to have a legitimate chance of doing just that. Somewhat of a tweener in terms of his size, it remains to be seen whether he winds up at tackle or guard.

Key stat or fact: The No. 21 ranked player overall in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Toa Lobendahn

 

* Rasheem Green

Gardena (Calif.) Serra

6-5, 285

High school position: Defensive Tackle/ Defensive End

Projected USC position: Defensive Tackle/Defensive End

Description of skills: Green is the total package, possessing outstanding size, strength and technique. A dominating force on the high school level, he showcased an explosive first step that really made him stand out. One area that he could stand to improve upon is his consistency.

How he fits at USC: Green was likely the most college-ready member of USC’s defensive line haul heading into his senior year of high school, but he suffered a knee injury that required surgery near the end of the season, so it remains to be seen just how quickly he can come back from that hurdle. If he recovers fast enough, look for him to contribute right from Day 1 at defensive end or tackle.

Key stat or fact: The No. 8 ranked defensive tackle in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Shaun Cody

 

* Porter Gustin

Salem (Utah) Hills

6-5, 250

High school position: Outside/Inside Linebacker/Quarterback

Projected USC position: Middle Linebacker/Rush End

Description of skills: Gustin is a big and physical prospect who was a human highlight reel on the high school level. Not only did he shine on defense at linebacker for Salem Hills, but he was also a talented quarterback, and he excels in baseball, basketball and track and Field as well. Possesses outstanding speed and athleticism for a player his size.

How he fits at USC: The USC coaching staff has primarily talked with Gustin about lining up at MIKE linebacker, where the Trojans lose a four-year starter in Hayes Pullard. With his physical tools, you’ve got to think that he has the potential to compete for immediate playing time, but it won’t be easy – veterans Lamar Dawson and Michael Hutchings certainly hold a big edge in terms of experience, and then there’s also early-entrant Cameron Smith. If Gustin continues to bulk up, which many think he will, he might also be a nice fit at rush end.

Key stat or fact: Finished tenth at the SPARQ Rating National Championship last summer.

Who he might remind you of: Brian Urlacher/J.J. Watt

 

* De’Quan Hampton

Long Beach (Calif.) City College

6-4, 220

Junior College position: Wide Receiver

Projected USC position: Wide Receiver

Description of skills: Hampton is a tall, strong receiver who knows how to use his size to his advantage. A tight end/defensive end on the high school level, he didn’t start playing wide receiver until he got to junior college, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him. Possessing big, soft hands and standout leaping ability, he’s an especially dangerous threat in the red zone.

How he fits at USC: With the loss of Nelson Agholor and George Farmer from the Trojans wide receiver corps, Hampton could potentially be counted on right away to contribute. With his size and skill-set, he brings a different dynamic to the USC wide receiver corps.

Key stat or fact: Led LBCC with 64 catches for 839 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014.

Who he might remind you of: Keyshawn Johnson

 

* Roy Hemsley

Los Angeles (Calif.) Windward

6-6, 310

Mid-year enrollee

High school position: Offensive Tackle/Defensive Tackle

Projected USC position: Offensive Tackle

Description of skills: A basketball player growing up, Hemsley didn’t start playing football until his sophomore year of high school, so he’s still fairly raw, but he’s made tremendous strides over the course of the last three years. Possessing the ideal height, physical build and length for the tackle position, he’s also light on his feet. He didn’t face the stiffest competition in high school, however, so he faces a big adjustment in that regard.

How he fits in at USC: Hemsley, who will participate in USC’s upcoming spring practice session, adds crucial depth for the Trojans at tackle. Still somewhat new to the game, he probably isn’t likely to contribute as a freshman, but as he continues to gain experience in practice, watch out.

Key stat or fact: Has put on over 50 pounds over the course of the last year.

Who he might remind you of: Charles Brown

 

* John Houston Jr.

Gardena (Calif.) Serra

6-3, 220

High school position: Outside/Inside Linebacker

Projected USC position: Outside/Inside Linebacker

Description of skills: The first thing you notice about Houston when watching him is his physique. He has a long build with broad shoulders, which should allow him to pile on weight in the coming years without losing his speed and lateral movement. He has great instincts, and he’s extremely violent at the point of contact. He’s also strong in coverage, due in part to his great length.

How he fits at USC: Houston has the tools to excel at either SAM linebacker on the outside, or perhaps even on the inside at WILL linebacker. Where he winds up could ultimately be determined by just how big he gets. Could definitely play early in his career.

Key stat or fact: The No. 1 ranked inside linebacker in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Keith Rivers

 

* Noah Jefferson

Henderson (Nev.) Liberty

6-6, 330

High school position: Defensive Tackle/Tight End

Projected USC position: Defensive Tackle/Defensive End/Nose Tackle

Description of skills: Another hulking defensive lineman, Jefferson is agile and quick enough that he actually saw time at tight end on the high school level as well as on the offseason 7-on-7 circuit. His technique isn’t quite where it needs to be just yet, but with his physical tools and size, there’s reason to believe he’s going to develop into a fantastic player.

How he fits at USC: Like Daniel, Jefferson can play just about anywhere along the defensive front, although he has mentioned in the past that the Trojans coaches have discussed lining him up at defensive end.

Key stat or fact: The No. 25 ranked defensive tackle in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Delvon Simmons

 

* Clayton Johnston

Anaheim (Calif.) Servite

6-6, 280

Blueshirt

High school position: Offensive Tackle

Projected USC position: Offensive Tackle

Description of skills: Johnston is a prototypical offensive tackle prospect with a tall frame and long arms, but he can also move laterally well. He’s solid in both pass protection as well as in the run blocking department, but will need to learn to be more physical and to finish plays more consistently.

How he fits at USC: Possessing everything that you look for in an offensive tackle on paper, Johnston is a promising prospect, but he would likely benefit from a redshirt year which would allow him to him to develop, both physically and in terms of his technique.

Key stat or fact: A three-year starter at Southern California power Servite.

Who he might remind you of: Chad Wheeler

 

* Ronald Jones II

McKinney (Texas) North

6-0, 185

High school position: Running Back

Projected USC position: Running Back

Description of skills: Jones is a legitimate home run threat who is known for his speed and elusiveness. Possessing somewhat of an upright rushing style, he has good vision and doesn’t waste time hitting the hole, and he’s also adept at breaking tackles. Jones averaged 8.4 yards per carry in his senior season, while rushing for over 2,000 yards.

How he fits at USC: With the departure of Javorius “Buck” Allen, Jones could be asked to contribute immediately, and he’s advanced enough physically that he appears ready to do just that. How quickly he picks up the playbook could play a pivotal role.

Key stat or fact: The No. 1 ranked running back in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: DeMarco Murray

 

* Isaiah Langley

Pleasanton (Calif.) Foothill

6-0, 165

High school position: Cornerback/Wide Receiver

Projected USC position: Cornerback/Wide Receiver

Description of skills: Starring on both sides of the ball on the high school level, Langley possesses long arms, quick hips and great ball skills that make him a natural fit at cornerback in college. Will probably need to bulk up a bit, but he has the make-up to be a significant contributor in the future.

How he fits at USC: Langley adds depth to a cornerback position that could certainly use it. Might also be able to make an impact on special teams, and with his ability on the offensive side of the ball, there’s even a chance he could wind up at receiver if things don’t work out on defense.

Key stat or fact: The No. 9 ranked athlete in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Kevon Seymour

 

* Iman Marshall

Long Beach (Calif.) Poly

6-2, 200

High school position: Cornerback/Safety/Receiver

Projected USC position: Cornerback

Description of skills: A physically aggressive corner with size and standout coverage ability. There has been talk that his future could be at safety, but right now he is one of the best corners in this class. He’s a big-time difference-maker who opposing teams constantly had to be aware of on every play on the high school level.

How he fits at USC: He could pair with Adoree’ Jackson to form a special duo at the cornerback spots. Physical and big enough to also potentially make an immediate impact inside at nickelback.

Key stat or fact: No. 1 ranked cornerback in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Josh Shaw

 

* Osa Masina

Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton

6-4, 245

High school position: Outside Linebacker/Running Back

Projected USC position: Outside/Inside Linebacker/Tight End

Description of skills: Masina is a fantastic all-around athlete who possesses rare physical tools. Not only does he have the size, speed and instincts to make plays close to the line, but he’s fluid enough in his movement that he can also drop back and be effective in coverage.

How does he fit at USC: Masina will arrive at USC college-ready, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him challenge for immediate time – likely at SAM linebacker, but also potentially at one of the inside linebacker spots. A versatile enough athlete that he could also get a look on offense at tight end.

Key stat or fact: The No. 8 ranked outside linebacker in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Rey Maualuga

 

* Tyler Petite

Moraga (Calif.) Campolindo

6-6, 235

High School Position: Tight End/Defensive End

Projected USC position: Tight End

Description of skills: Petite is a tall and long athlete with strong playmaking skills as a receiving tight end. Will probably need to bulk up a bit to be a really effective blocker in college, but he already has strong technique in that regard, and he possesses the frame to add weight.

How he fits at USC: With just two scholarship tight ends returning next year at USC, Petite has a chance to enter the rotation the second he arrives. He’s shown the ability to make plays while lined up inside and on the outside, so he looks to be a perfect match for Sarkisian’s offensive scheme.

Key stat or fact: The No. 2 Tight End-Y in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Jordan Cameron

 

* Christian Rector

Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola

6-5, 260

High school position: Defensive End/Tight End

Projected USC position: Rush End/Tight End

Description of skills: Has a nice first step and a high motor which allowed him to cause havoc near the line of scrimmage in high school. Possessing a great work ethic, he’s also fairly advanced when it comes to his technique.

How he fits at USC: Rector will likely line up at rush end in USC’s 3-4 defense. Somewhat bigger than the players Trojans’ defensive coordinator utilized at that spot last season, he’ll need to show he can drop back in coverage and play more in space – which he didn’t do as often at Loyola. Also a tight end on the high school level, he could get a look there.

Key stat or fact: Compiled 53 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a senior.

Who he might remind you of: Wes Horton

 

* Ykili Ross

Riverside (Calif.) Poly

6-2, 185

High school position: Safety/Cornerback/Wide Receiver

Projected USC position: Safety/Cornerback/Wide Receiver

Description of skills: Ross is a phenomenally gifted athlete who starred in all three phases of the game for Riverside Poly. On defense, he’s a sure tackler with a nose for the ball. On offense, he showcased soft hands and game breaking skills– something he also put to use as a punt and kick returner.

How he fits at USC: Ross has said that the staff sees him as a safety/cornerback type who could also possibly take some limited reps on offense at wide receiver. His quickest path to playing time looks to be at safety, as well as on special teams – possibly as a return man.

Key stat or fact: The No. 24 ranked athlete in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Earl Thomas

 

* Kevin Scott

Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian

6-5, 315

High school position: Defensive Tackle

Projected USC position: Defensive Tackle/Defensive End

Description of skills: Another basketball player growing up, remarkably Scott didn’t play football until his senior year of high school, so he’s extremely raw, but with the physical tools and athleticism that he put on display this past season, many view him as star waiting to break out. He excelled in pass-rush situations in 2014, showcasing an explosive first step.

How he fits at USC: The least refined of the Trojans’ four interior defensive line recruits, Scott will add depth initially, and if he continues to develop, both physically and technically, he could be a real player to watch down the line.

Key stat or fact: Compiled 17 sacks this past season.

Who he might remind you of: Kenechi Iodize

 

* Cameron Smith

Granite Bay (Calif.)

6-3, 240

Mid-year Enrollee

High school position: Inside Linebacker

Projected USC position: MIKE Linebacker

Description of skills: Smith is a prototypical middle linebacker with good size, solid instincts and a rough and tumble brand of play. A tireless worker, he’s shown great improvement when it comes to his pass coverage skills over the course of the last year.

How he fits at USC: Already enrolled, he will jump right into the mix at MIKE linebacker this spring, where he’ll learn the tricks of the trade from Michael Hutchings and Lamar Dawson among others. Another player capable of contributing on special teams.

Key stat or fact: Averaged 11.4 tackles per game this past season.

Who he might remind you of: Chris Galippo

 

* Cole Smith

Mission Viejo (Calif.)

6-4, 280

High school position: Center

Projected USC position: Center

Description of skills: Smith is a pure center who has played the spot his whole life. He learned how to play the position from his father, former NFL All-Pro Doug Smith. Possessing outstanding fundamentals and strong leadership skills, he was the anchor of Mission Viejo’s offensive line. Will need to add some weight.

How he fits at USC: After routinely converting guards and tackles to center in recent years, the Trojans have now decided to add a natural center to the roster in Smith. Once he’s bulked up, there’s reason to believe he will be a reliable option in the middle.

Key stat or fact: Smith is the first high school center signed by the Trojans since Jeff Byers (2004), who actually spent most of his USC career at guard.

Who he might remind you of: Ryan Kalil

 

* Marvell Tell

Encino (Calif.) Crespi

6-2, 190

High school position: Safety/Wide Receiver

Projected USC position: Safety

Description of skills: Tell is a tall and rangy safety with excellent cover skills, but he also isn’t afraid to mix it up. With his height and length, he’s able to cover a lot of ground, and he always seems to be around the ball.

How he fits at USC: Tell is a great fit at safety, where the Trojans don’t currently possess a lot of depth. Could see time early, both at safety, as well as on special teams.

Key stat or fact: The No. 6 ranked safety in the ESPN 300.

Who he might remind you of: Leon McQuay III

 

* Ricky Town

Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure

6-3, 205

Mid-year enrollee

High school position: Quarterback

Projected USC position: Quarterback

Description of skills: Town is a fundamentally sound, heady passer with a strong arm and solid leadership skills. Like Darnold, he’s also remarkably efficient, completing 70 percent of his passes as a senior, with 32 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. He’s by no-means a dual-threat quarterback, but with great pocket presence and quick feet, he can also make plays on the ground.

How he fits at USC: Town is another excellent passing prospect who figures to factor heavily into the quarterback competition following Kessler’s departure. He’s already enrolled at USC and he will participate in spring ball, so he’ll get a nice jump on things.

Key stat or fact: Finished No. 8 in the final 2014 Elite 11 rankings.

Who he might remind you of: Mark Sanchez

 

* Aca’Cedric Ware

Cedar Hill (Texas)

6-0, 200

High school position: Running Back

Projected USC position: Running Back

Description of skills: Ware is a complete back who brings speed, vision and a physical rushing style to the position. Running with determination and a ton of confidence, he put up gaudy numbers as a senior, amassing 2,440 yards and 34 touchdowns on the ground.

How he fits at USC: Like Davis and Jones, Ware’s signing is big for a Trojans team that has just two veteran scholarship tailbacks returning. Possessing an outstanding work ethic, he’s already added ten pounds to his 5-11 frame since the end of his senior season, providing reason to believe that he’ll be able to hit the ground running when he arrives on campus this summer.

Key stat or fact: Helped lead Cedar Hill to two consecutive state titles.

Who he might remind you of: Buck Allen

 

* Isaac Whitney

Riverside (Calif.) City College

6-3, 198

Mid-year enrollee

Junior College position: Wide Receiver

Projected USC position: Wide Receiver

Description of skills: Like Hampton, Whitney brings outstanding height to the wide receiver position, and he also possesses surprising quickness and speed for a player his size. With his combination of talents, he proved to be a serious problem for opposing cornerbacks to deal with on the junior college level.

How does he fit at USC: With his physical tools and experience (he played two years at Division II Central Oklahoma prior to landing at Riverside City College) on top of the fact that he will participate in spring practice, Whitney has the look of a player who will contribute next year.

Key stat or fact: Caught 49 passes for 809 yards and four touchdowns in 2014.

Who he might remind you of: Dwayne Jarrett



Johnny Curren
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Johnny Curren

Johnny Curren started as a recruiting writer with WeAreSC in the early 2000's, and has also worked at Fox Sports West and Student Sports. Johnny is an Emmy Award winner while covering HS football at Fox.


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