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O/NSO: Turning recruiting pages edition

The Obvious: In the span of less than a week, the USC Trojans turned the recruiting page for the class of 2021 and continued adding to the recruiting page for the class of 2022. The Cardinal and Gold recruiting fortunes went from understandable disappointment to cautious optimism, as the Men of Troy lost a 5-star defensive lineman to Ohio State to apparently close out the class of 2021 but gained their first offensive line commitment, a 3-star, for the class of 2022.


The Not So Obvious: The loss of class of 2021 5-star defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau (Sammamish, Wash./ Eastside Catholic) was not a shock because it was expected that Tuimoloau had his heart set from the beginning on being an Ohio State Buckeye. However, the addition of 3-star offensive lineman Keith Olson (Napavine, Wash./Napavine) for the Trojans’ class of 2022 was at worst a distraction from losing Tuimoloau and at best an intriguing young O-line prospect who is a Pac-12 legacy.

However, it shouldn’t be overlooked that there is great enthusiasm and momentum for the class of 2022 as illustrated by the response from currently committed members from that class who are determined to help bring in a super collection of athletes.

Despite the loss of 5-star defensive lineman J.T. Tuimoloau for the class of 2021, Trojans class of 2022 5-star defensive lineman Mykel Williams is vowing on his Twitter (photo above) that the Trojans recruiting efforts for his recruiting class are far from done.

The Obvious: Thus far, the Trojans recruiting effort for the class of 2022 has drawn positive reviews.
The Not So Obvious: Losing a 5-star defensive tackle and gaining a 3-star offensive tackle certainly brings some scrutiny, but the situations are different. The fact remains, the Trojans are so far doing well for the class of 2022 on the defensive side of the ball and are also doing well with skill players on the offensive side. However, all eyes remain trained on offensive line recruiting – as it should be. There is no getting around it. While it’s still early in the process, the offensive line recruiting of quality prospects who have yet to commit to the Trojans is still a major topic of discussion.
The Trojans defensive class of 2022 is being spearheaded by Georgia 5-star defensive lineman Mykel Williams (photo above) from Columbus  Hardaway HS, who has announced his plans to sign with the Trojans.

The Obvious: During June, the Trojans made a major push to get quality and high profile offensive linemen on campus for official and unofficial visits.
The Not So Obvious: In the last three recruiting classes, the Men of Troy have signed just two offensive linemen who would be classified as elite recruits. Consider an elite O-line recruit in the 5-star and 4-star variety. It seems that the Trojans have placed their hopes on the development of 3-star recruits not by design but necessity. In other words, past high profile O-line recruits haven’t been buying what the Trojans are selling.
The Trojans are bringing in some of the most elite offensive line prospects in the country like 4-star Addison Nichols (photo above) from Norcross, Georgia.

The Obvious: There are many theories why the Trojans have been having continuous difficulty when it comes to offensive line recruiting as opposed to the defensive side of the ball.  
The Not So Obvious: Whether the past underwhelming O-line recruiting has been hurt by the parade of offensive line coaches hired by Clay Helton, the current Air Raid offense, or the overall perception of Clay Helton running the program, it’s all fair game for debate. The results thus far speak for themselves; there’s no beating around the bush. All three theories can be argued effectively. This is what makes this O-line class of 2022 recruiting class all the more important. If the Trojans can’t sign quality offensive linemen starting with local prep stars like 4-star Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco’s Earnest Greene (6-4, 330), the cycle will continue.     


For the class of 2022, the Trojans need to sign SoCal’s best offensive lineman Earnest Greene (photo above on right) from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco H.S.

The Obvious: Fair or unfair, the fact that the recent O-line commitment from another 3-star again begins to raise recruiting questions.
The Not So Obvious: Let’s make one thing clear. The O/NSO is not ready to call uncle for the offensive line recruiting class of 2022. There are a number of standout prospects that are still in play, and the Trojans are definitely trying. As a point of reference, much of the recruiting effort spotlights on first-year USC offensive line coach Clay McGuire, who is trying not to follow in his O-line coaching predecessors shoes when it comes to recruiting quality offensive linemen. Trojans fans need to allow McGuire to do his recruiting thing before making a judgement on the new coach.


Trojans first-year offensive line coach Clay McGuire has landed 3-star offensive tackle Keith Olson (photo above) from Napavine (Wash.) High.

The Obvious: The Trojans are hoping to continue its impressive recruiting run for the class of 2022 and are hoping to eventually upend current defending Pac-12 champion Oregon by matching the Ducks position recruiting group by position recruiting group.

The Not So Obvious: In recent recruiting battles between the Trojans and Ducks, the Trojans have been holding their own with the glaring exception of offensive linemen. If there’s a difference in the two teams at the moment and possibly into the future – to be frank – the Trojans are behind the Duckies in quantity of quality offensive line talent. While the Trojans just got a 3-star commitment from a player that could end up being a positive  through development, Oregon just received a 5-star commitment from the nation’s No. 2 rated offensive lineman in Kelvin Banks (Houston, Tx/Summer Creek). The Ducks have been able to stockpile quality offensive linemen in recent seasons and the Trojans haven’t.

The Trojans are hoping that first-year offensive line coach Clay McGuire (photo above) can turn around the fortunes of USC offensive line recruiting efforts for the class of 2022.

The Obvious: Some recruit-niks will consider the loss of defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau as a negative.

The Not So Obvious: The recruiting loss of Tuimoloau should not be a reflection that the Trojans didn’t do enough or were asleep at the switch. No, the Trojans fought hard for J.T. The fact that the Men of Troy were in it to the very end is a positive and a credit to the defensive coaching staff. No criticism from the O/NSO on this former prospect.   

The Trojans are in a good position with class of 2022 defensive lineman Christen Miller (photo above on right), who hails from the state of Georgia. Miller is considered one of the top defensive linemen in the Southeast.

The Obvious: The Trojans had a very good recruiting month in June, and the loss of Tuimoloau shouldn’t derail future recruiting success of defensive linemen.

The Not So Obvious: Trojans D-line coach Vic So’oto has shown he can mix it up with the other big boys that recruit the position across the country, and the O/NSO won’t be shock if the Trojans get some very nice additions in the near future. Stay tuned.

Heading into the recruiting class of 2022, defensive line coach Vic So’oto (photo above) has been well received by Trojans D-line recruits. (Photo by John McGillen via USC Athletics)

The Obvious: BTW, if you’re looking for losers in the J.T. Tuimoloau derby, you’d have to say it’s the hometown Washington Huskies.  

The Not So Obvious: This is the third big-time prospect that the Huskies have lost to the Buckeyes, and there is no way to put it other than current UW head coach Jimmy Lake has a lot of work to do to keep the Great Northwest talent at home. It figures that Lake will be feeling even more heat after J.T.’s Ohio State announcement. The Trojans have been working Washington and seem to be making some positive inroads with many of the locals.

The Obvious: And finally, thanks to a new recruiting dead period, fans of USC recruiting can relax and look forward to the opening of training camp, which begins the first week of August.   

The Not So Obvious: Think about it, the opening of training camp will be here sooner than you can say Kedon Slovis, Drake London, and Drake Jackson.

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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