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What’s left for 2021 recruiting on defense

While there won’t be any USC football this fall, there is still a 2021 recruiting class to finish off for the Trojan coaches. Earlier this month, we looked at what was left to do on the offensive side of the ball in this class. Today, we’re taking a look at the work left to do on defense.

With 18 total commitments in the class, it breaks down to nine offensive players and nine defensive. The Trojans are likely shooting for around 25 prospects in this class, so there is still room to add several recruits on this side of the ball. And there is work to be done in the front seven.

Defensive line

Commitments: Colin Mobley (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic), Jay Toia (Simi Valley, Calif./Grace Brethren)

What’s left?: There is no more important prospect on the board than defensive end Korey Foreman (Corona, Calif./Centennial). The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect is a former Clemson commit and he’ll hear plenty from Alabama, Georgia, LSU and others, but the USC coaches have made him a priority target. The importance of his recruitment is two-fold, as he would likely be a major contributor on defense immediately, and he would also register as a massive recruiting win and building block for this USC defensive staff.

Foreman isn’t the only major prospect on the defensive line still being targeted by the USC staff. The nation’s No. 2 overall prospect, defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau (Sammamish, Wash./Eastside Catholic), will hear from the Trojans plenty, though Ohio State is a major player there. The Trojans will also target a couple of elite defensive tackles, in five-star Maason Smith (Houma, La./Terrebonne)–a good friend of Foreman–and four-star prospect Tywone Malone (Oradell, NJ/Bergen Catholic)–the nation’s No. 53 overall prospect and also a standout baseball player.

The Trojans have been in good shape with four-star defensive end Aaron Armitage (Blairstown, NJ/Blair Academy), the nation’s No. 197 prospect, though getting him on campus for a visit would be a big help in potentially grabbing a commitment.

Defensive end Tiaoalii Savea (Las Vegas/Desert Pines) is a two-way lineman being targeted for the defensive side of the ball by USC. The nation’s No. 213 overall prospect is a high school teammate of USC wide receiver commit Michael Jackson III.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Josh Simmons (La Mesa, Calif./Helix), as he’s spent this offseason looking to make the move from offensive line to defensive line a permanent one. As an offensive lineman, he was one of the must-get prospects for USC in this class. On the defensive side, it’s likely the Trojan coaches could want to take their time evaluating him. Without a fall season, that’s going to be difficult to do, and is one of the reasons recruiting will be that much tougher to stay on the same timeline with so little senior film potentially available before even the regular February signing day.


Commitments: Julien Simon (Tacoma, Wash./Lincoln), Ma’a Gaoteote (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco)

What’s left?: The biggest goal here is to flip four-star linebacker Raesjon Davis (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) from his commitment to LSU. While USC should always have a shot at a coveted prospect from Mater Dei, this won’t be an easy battle to win, as LSU has plenty of recruiting momentum going right now.

Four-star inside linebacker Ethan Calvert (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) is the other big name still on the board, and the No. 72 overall prospect is uncommitted right now. Calvert is plenty familiar with the Pac-12, as his older brothers played football at Washington and UCLA and now Calvert could be headed on his way to USC–though UCLA, Utah and Washington are all pushing hard.

Defensive back

Commitments: Anthony Beavers (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne), Jaylin Smith (Mission Hills, Calif./Alemany), Prophet Brown (Elk Grove, Calif./Monterey Trail), Xamarion Gordon (Downey, Calif./Warren), Calen Bullock (Pasadena, Calif./Muir)

What’s left?: There’s not much left to do in the secondary, as the USC defensive staff hit both safety and cornerback hard when they first arrived. Beavers, Gordon and Bullock are likely safeties–though Beavers could eventually bulk up to the point where he slides down to safety–while Smith looks to be a likely nickelback and Brown, who is a talented running back as well, will head to USC as a cornerback.

Nathaniel Wiggins (Atlanta/Westlake) had been a major target, though it looks as if he’ll ultimately commit to LSU later this week. That leaves local standout cornerback Ceyair Wright (Los Angeles/Loyola) as potentially the lone addition to the defensive backfield. Wright is one of the nation’s best cornerbacks–the No. 71 overall prospect–and would be an outstanding addition to this group of defensive backs.

Erik McKinney
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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