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What’s left for 2021 recruiting on offense

Last week we looked at several of the must-get prospects for the USC Trojans in the 2022 recruiting class, but there is still work for head coach Clay Helton and his assistants to do in the 2021 class. With more than a handful of spots left in this cycle, the Trojans have a number of targets still on the board. Today, we take a look at what’s left for USC to do on the offensive side of the ball.


Commitments: Jake Garcia (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) and Miller Moss (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei)

What’s left?: At this point, it’s all about holding onto Garcia, the nation’s No. 37 overall prospect. He’s the top quarterback target for Miami and the Hurricanes won’t give up easily on him, as they’d already made an impression before he announced his commitment to USC.

Ultimately, it could be easier for USC to fix its numbers at the quarterback spot during the 2021 calendar year, as the NCAA is likely to allow first-time transfers to gain immediate eligibility at their new school. That means any quarterback transferring for the first time would be able to contribute immediately, making USC’s holes on the quarterback depth chart easier to fill even if Garcia heads elsewhere.

But holding onto both commitments absolutely sets USC up for future success in the best way possible. While it’s true that both quarterbacks are unlikely to finish their careers at USC due to the nature of the position and the ability for quarterbacks to find immediate success after transferring, these are two of the best quarterbacks in the country and grabbing both doubles USC’s chances of finding a star to take over after Kedon Slovis heads to the NFL. Both are absolutely capable of becoming the next great quarterback and picking one over the other at this point seems to come down simply to a matter of preference.

There doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer at the high school level if USC is forced to scramble late for a replacement at quarterback, as there was last year with a few uncommitted prospects who turned into significant targets for the Trojans late in the process.

These 2021 quarterbacks are going to enter the position room in a battle for the No. 2 spot heading into what could be Slovis’ final season at USC, so there is plenty of incentive for both committed quarterbacks to stay in the class.

At this point, both Garcia and Moss are likely to enroll early at USC.

Running back

Commitments: Brandon Campbell (Katy, Tex./Katy)

What’s left?: Grabbing a commitment from the four-star back from Texas was a big recruiting win, as the 5-foot-10, 190-pound back held offers from some major programs. He’s a do-it-all back who seemingly fits perfectly in this USC offense as a pass catcher and someone who can operate between the tackles.

USC needs to find another back in this class, as the depth chart there will look a bit like the one at quarterback next year. The Trojans are set to lose three seniors from the roster and head into the 2021 season with just Markese Stepp and Kenan Christon as scholarship backs, and that’s only if Stepp doesn’t declare for the 2021 NFL Draft after his redshirt sophomore season.

While a one-two punch of Stepp and Christon at the top of the group sounds ideal, having a true freshman in Campbell as the only option below them sounds less than.

Four-star back Byron Cardwell (San Diego/Morse) is the top running back in California, and was really only threatened there by four-star athlete Prophet Brown (Elk Grove, Calif./Monterey Trail), who recently committed to USC as a cornerback.

Cardwell is one of the biggest potential additions left for the offense and the combination of he and Campbell would give the Trojans one of their best running back hauls in more than a few years. But Cardwell is hearing plenty from out-of-state schools, including Florida, Texas A&M and others.

USC is also in the mix for three-star back Tavierre Dunlap (Del Valle, Tex./Del Valle). The 6-foot, 195-pound back has a fairly eclectic list of finalists for a Texas tailback. He is clearly set on heading out of state, as no Texas schools are among his top eight. Arizona State, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, USC, Utah, Virginia Tech and Washington were among his top schools when he announced them in early July, and Dunlap received an official offer from the Trojans over this past weekend.

Dunlap is teammates with 2022 wide receiver and USC target Caleb Burton, who checks in as the No. 1 wide receiver and No. 11 overall prospect in the country.

Wide receiver

Commitments: Quay Davis (Dallas/Skyline), Michael Jackson III (Las Vegas/Desert Pines)

It’s been interesting at wide receiver in this class as there are a number of really talented in-state prospects this season, but USC has gone out of state for its two very talented commitments.

Davis and Jackson look like great fits in this offense with their skillset translating well to playing inside and outside, their strength and aggressiveness, and their ability after the catch with the ball in their hand.

The Trojans signed a really big group of receivers in the 2019 class, but signed just two in the 2020 class. With this offense’s ability to showcase receivers and put up big numbers, it’s likely the Trojans will recruit the position with the idea that at least a few of the very talented receivers coming into the program will be there for just three years. That, combined with the number of receivers needed to run the offense efficiently in the first place means the Trojans absolutely could add another receiver to this already-committed duo.

With the targets left on the board, again the Trojans could be looking out of state.

Malcolm Johnson Jr. (Alexandria, Va./St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes) might be the top target left, and the 6-foot-1, 185-pound receiver checks in as one of the fastest prospects at his position. He’s being chased by a number of schools at this point, with Alabama, Maryland and Oklahoma all still in the mix with other programs.

USC also extended an official offer over this past weekend to four-star athlete Titus Mokiao-Atimalala (Ewa Beach, Hawaii/James Campbell) and could come even closer to home if they make a strong push for three-star receiver Makai Cope (Culver City, Calif./Culver City).

Tight end

Commitments: Lake McRee (Austin, Tex./Lake Travis)

What’s left?: USC is targeting tight ends that can make an impact in the passing game first, and the 6-foot-4, 217-pound McRee fits that mold. He was used in a variety of ways during his sophomore season (he missed his junior season due to injury) and he’s a willing blocker, but his skill set allows him to shine as a receiver.

USC doesn’t need a second tight end in this class, as McRee will join redshirt freshmen Jude Wolfe and Ethan Rae, and the Trojans have proven already that this offense can work with a fourth wide receiver rather than a tight end. But the Trojans will likely continue to recruit four-star prospect Michael Trigg (Tampa, Fla./Carrollwood Day), who also holds a scholarship offer from Andy Enfield and the USC basketball program.

Offensive line

Commitments: Mason Murphy (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./JSerra), Saia Mapakaitolo (Mission Hills, Calif./Alemany), Maximus Gibbs (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco)

What’s left?: The top offensive prospect remaining on the board for USC is offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia (Orem, Utah/Orem). Oregon sat as the clear leader for Suamataia for much of the process, but the Trojans haven’t given up the pursuit and will do everything they can to make it interesting for the No. 58 overall prospect.

USC is also in the mix for three-star offensive guard Ross Maseuli (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), a massive 6-foot-3, 325-pound two-way lineman capable of playing guard or nose tackle. USC will have to beat out Alabama, Hawaii, Miami and Michigan for his commitment.

After signing six offensive linemen in the 2020 class, USC could take four or five in this class to boost its numbers at the position after the Trojans signed just four high school offensive linemen in the 2018 and 2019 classes combined.

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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