With the spring recruiting evaluation period getting started it is a critically important time for Clay Helton’s staff to hit the road visiting high schools and checking in with the top prospects on the USC football wish list.
Here are some of the storylines to follow over the next month:
* Continue the momentum: Things are going well these days in the land of Troy, and Helton will be looking to keep it going. There was the Rose Bowl win, the top 5 recruiting class, a successful spring and then last night the evaluation period kicked off with a verbal commitment from one of the top defensive tackles in the nation in Tuli Letuligasenoa. USC is definitely a “flavor-of-the-month” amongst recruits and the evaluation period is another opportunity to help solidify that standing while determining which prospects will get the chance to wear the cardinal and gold.
* Know the way to Mater Dei: One of the important stops on the evaluation circuit will be to Santa Ana and the campus of Mater Dei, home of two of the top remaining targets on the Trojan wish list in WR Amon-Ra St. Brown and LB Solomon Tuliaupupu. There are certainly other Monarch prospects who will make a visit worthwhile (2019 QB J.T. Daniels comes to mind, as well as further evaluation of 2018 OL Tommy Brown) but St. Brown and Tuliaupupu are the priorities right now. I think St. Brown has clearly been the top offensive weapon in the area this spring, while Solomon (photo above) would be another crown jewel in what could be an epic linebacker class.
* OOS surprise: One of the more interesting aspects of recruiting is the out-of-state surprise, an annual ritual where a player with no obvious ties to USC ends up as a realistic option to shock the recruiting world and end up a Trojan. There are a pair of interesting options in Oregon with WR Chase Cota and ATH Talanoa Hufanga, or in Utah with OL Penei Sewell and DL Cameron Latu, or even in Ohio with a big-time OL like Jackson Carman. That’s the beauty of a surprise, you never know where it might come from.
* Do the Trojans take a running back: It’s an interesting question this year because we don’t necessarily NEED one, and this isn’t a particularly great group of backs, especially in-state. USC goes 5 deep at the tailback spot this year and that will include a pair of freshmen in Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr who represent a bright future at the position (not to mention a returning 1,000-yard rusher in junior Ronald Jones, as well as Aca’Cedric Ware and Dominic Davis). Some recruit names to keep an eye on are Maurice Washington (Oak Grove), Kirby Bennett (Bishop Gorman) and Keaontay Ingram (Carthage, TX).
* Cornering the market: You can never have too many good corners in a sophisticated passing conference like the Pac-12, and there are some nice options on the table for the Trojans to consider. There is already one commitment from Marcus Johnson, an extremely talented cover man who doesn’t have great size but the athleticism and tenacity are definitely there. Two other big-time corners from the area are Isaac Taylor-Stuart from St. Augustine in San Diego, and Olaijah Griffin from Mission Viejo. Taylor-Stuart has a unique combination of size and speed, while Griffin has good height as well in addition to terrific cover skills.