The early signing period and transfer portal have made January something of a strange time for recruiting, as programs are simultaneously putting the finishing touches on the 2021 prospects who will sign in February, mining the transfer portal for impact additions to the roster, and also working to build momentum with the 2022 class. As far as the Trojans are concerned, the past week brought news on all three of those fronts.
The Trojans aren’t involved with a ton of uncommitted prospects in the 2021 class at this point, but there was some good news with one of the top targets remaining as four-star linebacker Raesjon Davis (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) announced his five finalists. It’s a list that includes LSU, Ohio State, Oregon, USC and Vanderbilt. At this point, all signs are pointing to USC for the former LSU commitment, but the Trojans will need to finish off this race because those other four programs won’t stop recruiting him.
If the Trojans can ultimately land Davis, it would put the finishing touches on a very good recruiting class, especially locally and especially on the defensive side of the ball. Since January 2, the Trojans would have landed local, impact players at all three levels of the defense, with defensive end Korey Foreman, cornerback Ceyair Wright and then Davis.
USC is still involved with No. 2 overall prospect J.T. Tuimoloau (Sammamish, Wash./Eastside Catholic), but that’s something of a longshot at this point with Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and Washington heavily involved. The Trojans are also after four-star offensive lineman Austin Uke (Dallas/Parish Episcopal), who recently picked up an Oklahoma offer and it will be interesting to see if the new Texas staff honors the Texas offer that was extended to Uke in December.
Major 2022 news coming
No. 3 overall prospect in the 2022 class Domani Jackson (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) is planning to announce his commitment this coming Saturday, Jan. 23.
Arizona State, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC were listed by Jackson as his top six schools prior to this upcoming announcement, though it looks as though the Wolverines, Buckeyes and Trojans will head into the weekend as the favorites.
No matter what happens, this will be a major commitment. Just five of the top 30 players in the 2022 class are committed (three of them to Ohio State) and Jackson will make it four of the top 10 players committed at this point in the cycle. If it’s Ohio State, the Buckeyes will be on pace for one of the great recruiting classes of all time. If it’s Michigan, the Wolverines might be able to grab the nation’s top two cornerbacks and put a bit of dent in that Ohio State recruiting momentum.
If it’s the Trojans — and the guess here at this point is that it will be — USC will truly be off and running with the 2022 class. USC has four commitments in the 2022 class to this point, including three four-star prospects. But it’s not often that an elite, non-quarterback, California prospect elects to commit this early in the process. Jackson represents that combination of standout athlete and personality that can bring other prospects with him to the school of his choice.
If USC does indeed win out when Jackson makes his announcement, it’ll be a big deal.
Transfer portal updates
USC has seen some ups and downs with the transfer portal this offseason. Obviously losing running back Markese Stepp to Nebraska is a blow at that position. But the Trojans have done well on the defensive side, adding former Alabama defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher and former Texas defensive back Xavion Alford.
It’s likely the Trojans will continue to peruse the portal for a couple of additions on the offense side, specifically at offensive tackle and running back.
One major offensive tackle quickly went up on the board and came off it, as former five-star Tennessee tackle Wanya Morris announced a top three of Oklahoma, Texas A&M and USC, then announced a commitment to the Sooners on Monday.
A few running back targets have popped up. Buffalo’s Kevin Marks entered the portal but then withdrew his name and returned to Buffalo. But two backs remain in the portal as USC targets: Texas running back Keaontay Ingram and Michigan running back Zach Charbonnet.
Charbonnet was a star at Oaks Christian, so he’d be returning home to Southern California. The only issue is that UCLA is also close to home, and the Bruins have done a much better job with the running game the last two years and are likely the preferred destination for players at that position looking to make an impact. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see UCLA as the eventual landing spot for Charbonnet.
As far as Ingram goes, there is obviously the familiarity with the two Texas coaches who came over to USC last year, though both Todd Orlando and Craig Naivar are on the defensive side of the ball. The Trojans have Texas connections on the offensive side as well, as plenty of the coaches there are from the state and USC just signed running back Brandon Campbell out of the state in the 2021 class.
USC might not be done with former Texas players, as linebacker Ayodele Adeoye is also in the portal and he could be an intriguing target on that side of the ball.
A new 2023 offer
Class of 2023 cornerback Ethan O’Connor (Anaheim, Calif./Servite) announced an offer from USC on Monday night. Arizona State, LSU and UCLA have already offered the 6-foot-1, 160-pound, two-way athlete.
Servite has a couple of standout 2022 prospects that USC will chase, in five-star wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan and four-star tight end Keyan Burnett.
Top group for 2022 standout
Four-star safety Zion Branch (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) announced a top 11 late last week. Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas join a host of Pac-12 programs, including Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, USC and Washington. USC is doing well with Branch and he could eventually be part of another outstanding group of defensive backs that would inject a bunch of talent into the cornerback and safety groups along with the just-signed group of 2021 prospects.