By Johnny Curren
Here’s a glance at some of the Class of 2017 defensive targets on the Trojans coaches’ wish list. With the return of defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to USC, this breakdown is based off his 5-2 alignment. As such, prospects typically classified as defensive ends might be identified as outside linebackers.
Interior Defensive Line
Offers: Martin Andrus (Los Angeles, Calif./Los Angeles), Noah Elliss (Highlands Ranch, Colo./Valor Christian), Haskell Garrett (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman), Greg Rogers (Las Vegas, Nev./Arbor View), Jay Tufele (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham), Marlon Tuipulotu (Independence, Ore./Central), Jordan Williams (Virginia Beach, Va./Frank Cox), Marvin Wilson (Bellaire, Texas/Episcopal)
The Trojans lost five senior interior defensive linemen from last year’s squad, and while the staff did sign Jash Fatu and Liam Jimmons in the most recent class, it’s safe to say that they still need to add more depth. There aren’t a ton of big bodies locally with Andrus standing out as the lone California recruit to have received an offer, so much of the staff’s efforts have been focused out-of-state. New offers have gone out in recent weeks to Rogers, Tuipulotu and Williams.
Offers: Baron Browning (Kennedale, Texas/Kennedale), Markaviest Bryant (Cordele, Ga./Crisp County), Zachary Carter (Tampa, Fla./Hillsborough), Breon Dixon (Loganville, Ga./Grayson), Hunter Echols (Los Angeles, Calif./Cathedral), A.J. Epenesa (Edwardsville, Ill./Edwardsville), Taquon Graham (Temple, Texas/Temple), Brandon James (Miami, Fla./Southridge), Deonte Johnson (Sacramento, Calif./Burbank), Joshua Kaindoh (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy), Dylan Moses (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy),Jarez Parks (Sebastian River, Fla./Sebastian River), Jaelan Phillips (Redlands, Calif./Redlands East Valley), Javaris Steward (Pomona, Calif./Pomona), Chase Young (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic)
The USC staff has already offered a whole host of prospects who fit the mold of what Pendergast is looking for at the Predator and ‘sam’ outside linebacker positions, so despite the signing of highly touted Class of 2016 recruits Oluwole Betiku and Connor Murphy, the Trojans staff would obviously still like to add a couple more bodies here in the next haul. Phillips is a highly touted local prospect that USC offered this past September. He took in a Trojans game in the Coliseum this past fall, but is also known to have heavy interest in UCLA, Stanford, Oregon and Washington among others. Bryant is the latest out-of-state talent to receive an offer from the Trojans.
Offers: Anthony Hines (Plano, Texas/Plano East)
Hines is the only pure inside linebacker recruit from the Class of 2017 to receive an offer from USC at this point, but with the departure of seniors Anthony Sarao and Lamar Dawson from last year’s team, and Michael Hutchings set to graduate following this coming season, you can be sure that more will follow as the process goes on. Dylan Moses, who has expressed interest in visiting USC, could also conceivably wind up on the inside in college, although he’s more commonly thought of as an outside linebacker.
Commits: Thomas Graham Jr. (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga)
Offers: Trajan Bandy (Miami, Fla./Christopher Columbus), Shawn Davis (Miami, Fla./Miami Southridge), Darnay Holmes (Calabasas, Calif./Calabasas), Greg Johnson (Los Angeles, Calif./Augustus F. Hawkins), William Poole III (Atlanta, Ga./Hapeville Charter), Jaylon Redd (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga), Stanford Samuels III (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Charles W. Flanagan), Shawn Wade (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy), Jamyest Williams (Lawrenceville, Ga./Archer)
The Trojans did add two cornerbacks in the most recent class, but depth is still a concern at the spot. Fortunately for Clay Helton and Co. there are plenty of quality prospects at the position in the Class of 2017, and the Trojans already have a pledge from one of them – albeit soft – in Graham. And while Holmes appears headed elsewhere, USC is very much in the running for fellow local standouts Johnson and Redd, Some cornerbacks who have yet to receive an offer, but who are on the Trojans’ radar include Deommodore Lenoir (Los Angeles, Calif./Salesian), Alex Perry (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman) and Elijah Molden (West Linn, Ore./West Linn).
Commits: Bubba Bolden (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman)
Offers: Brian Edwards (Miramar, Fla./Miramar), Cyrus Fagan (Dayton Beach, Fla./Mainland), DeAngelo Gibbs (Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge), Maleik Gray (LaVergne, Tenn./LaVergne), Richard LeCounte III (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Jeffrey Okudah (Grand Prairie, Texas/South Grand Prairie)
In Bolden, the Trojans hold a verbal from a hard-hitting safety prospect with unique size and athleticism, but USC isn’t done here yet. Gray came out for the Rising Stars Camp on campus last summer and had an excellent showing, so he’s a definite name to watch. USC has yet to offer any in-state safety recruits, so it will be interesting to see if they decide to jump in the mix with someone like Brandon McKinney (Orange, Calif./Lutheran) or Josh Talbott (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) soon.