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Kingsley Suamataia commits to Oregon, and what that means for USC

Four-star offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia (Orem, Utah/Orem) announced his commitment to Oregon on Tuesday evening, giving the Ducks their fourth four-star offensive linemen in the 2021 class and the top offensive tackle in the West region.

Oregon was the leader for Suamataia–the nation’s No. 59 overall prospect–for virtually the entire process, and though USC was able to make it close in the end, they won’t get points for coming in second.

Suamataia now joins Bram Walden (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro) and Jonah Miller (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) as four-star offensive line targets USC chased in this class who are now committed to Oregon.

Clearly, Oregon has the advantage when it comes to offensive line recruiting. Head coach Mario Cristobal was an offensive lineman for two national championship teams with Miami, and served as the offensive line coach for part of Alabama’s dominant run. Now at Oregon, he’s produced arguably one of the greatest offensive tackles in college football history in Penei Sewell. Suamataia would seemingly now have an opportunity to slide in and replace Sewell in the starting lineup.

The Trojans brought in a tremendous haul of offensive linemen in the 2017 recruiting class. Austin Jackson has already become a first-round pick, while Alijah Vera-Tucker looks to be on his way. The Trojans got solid production out of Brett Neilon and Jalen McKenzie last season, while Andrew Vorhees got off to a good start in his USC career, but has dealt with injuries since.

But USC brought in just four total high school offensive linemen in the 2018 and 2019 class combined, and even adding grad transfer Drew Richmond couldn’t completely mask the lack of bodies. Over the last two years, the USC offensive line simply hasn’t measured up to the best groups in the country, or even the conference. The Trojans have had to use three quarterbacks in each of the past two years, and there is very little confidence that the line can generate a push in the run game every time the offense needs it. The USC offensive line has not been able to routinely dictate the pace and physical nature of the game against its opponent, and whether it’s due to recruiting, development, scheme, or a little bit of everything, no team will win its conference or national titles consistently without a strong offensive line.

It’s a real issue for USC, but it’s one that the Trojans seem to be addressing.

The Trojans have thrown scholarships at the problem over the past two classes. USC signed six offensive linemen in the 2020 class and have three committed this year. But in the 2020 class, only offensive guard Jonah Monheim was regarded as a four-star prospect. In this 2021 group, offensive tackle Mason Murphy (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./JSerra, photo above) is the lone four-star. The five offensive tackles in the 2020 class were ranked No. 52 or lower at their position, and USC’s recent history of turning lower-ranked prospects into stars is not great.

That being said, it’s easy to see the potential in that 2020 group, as Monheim could be a future starter at multiple positions, and a fully-healthy Courtland Ford (Cedar Hill, Tex./Cedar Hill) provides everything you want in a left tackle. There are two seemingly developmental prospects with high upside in this 2021 class, in Saia Mapakaitolo (Mission Hills, Calif./Alemany) and Maximus Gibbs (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), but Murphy could be the guy to watch. He has really blossomed this offseason and there’s no doubt he’ll be looking to jump right in with that 2020 group that will be looking to dot the top of the depth chart as that 2017 class departs.

But trying to hit homeruns consistently with lower-ranked offensive line prospects is not a recipe for success at a high level, and while there is still some time to add a prospect or two to the 2021 class, the Trojans can really start to turn things around there with the 2022 class. Going out and grabbing the best offensive linemen available should always be a priority for the Trojans.

It’s not often the West Coast will produce a large group of big-time offensive linemen, but the 2022 class looks to be a good group as far as USC is concerned. But this is going to be another massive recruiting test. There is talent in the area, but its in the backyard of other Pac-12 programs, as California has just two offensive linemen among its top 50 recruits.

Of the top-10 national offensive guards, No. 2 Earnest Greene (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), No. 5 Dave Iuli (Puyallup, Wash./Puyallup) and No. 10 George Maile (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) are all top USC targets with interest in the Trojans. The local pickings are slimmer at the top when it comes to tackles, but the Trojans have offered the nation’s best, and will try to get into Washington to raid Josh Conerly (Seattle/Rainier Beach) and Malik Agbo (Federal Way, Wash./Todd Beamer). In state, the top tackle is three-star Kenji Swanson (Chatsworth, Calif./Sierra Canyon), whom the Trojans have offered.

Ultimately, Suamataia’s commitment to Oregon isn’t surprising, and doesn’t derail what is building up to be a very good 2021 recruiting class for USC. But it’s going to be difficult to catch and ultimately pass the Ducks in the Pac-12 pecking order if recruits like Suamataia continue donning whatever colors Oregon is wearing now, rather than cardinal and gold.

Erik McKinney

Erik McKinney began writing for WeAreSC in 2004, during his junior year at USC, covering the Trojans football team and recruiting. He then moved on to ESPN.com in 2011, where he served as the West Region recruiting reporter and then the Pac-12 recruiting reporter. He took over as publisher of WeAreSC in January, 2019.

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