USC Trojans’ Undersized Recruiting Class Still One of the Nation’s Best

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Deep breaths, USC fans. The Trojans didn’t sign as many recruits as expected, but the ones they got, and the ones already on campus, are so good that there’s no reason to panic. Yet.

The news media loves to blow things out of proportion, and they love to hate USC coach Lane Kiffin, so the headlines all day screamed that the already-shaky wheels were coming off the Trojanmobile.

Should we go with “Not so fast” or “C’mon, man”?

Yes, USC lost nine recruits between November and National Signing Day. Yes, even though they’re operating with ten fewer scholarships that normal due to sanctions, they still undersigned this class. Yes, that looks bad. We can all wring our hands and talk about the fall of Troy and how UCLA has finally ended the football monopoly in Los Angeles.

Or, we can take a closer look at the recruits Kiffin did get, because although the man has his issues as a head coach, recruiting was always his strong suit, and he did a solid job again this year. USC signed just 13 players in this year’s class, which is ranked No. 13 overall by Rivals.com.

Five-star running back Ty Isaac and four-stars Nico Falah (offensive line), Khaliel Rodgers (offensive line, above), Steven Mitchell (receiver), Michael Hutchings (linebacker), and Quinton Powell (linebacker) all signed with the Trojans Wednesday.

Seven others are already on campus as early enrollees: defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow (pictured above), quarterback Max Browne, defensive backs Su’a Cravens, Chris Hawkins, and Leon McQuay III, running back Justin Davis, and receiver Darreus Rogers.

Five of those players were five-star recruits. That’s the most in the nation, and it’s more than the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences – combined. Oregon was the only other Pac-12 team to land a five-star, and UCLA, which finished slightly above USC at No. 11, had to sign ten more players than the Trojans to do it.

While fans, rivals, and members of the media were busy freaking out about the players who snubbed USC, the Trojans were accumulating a class that Kiffin described as “quality over quantity.”

That’s not just spin from a recruiter who underperformed. USC only signed four- and five-star recruits. Even with thirteen players (twelve if you don’t count Rogers, who was supposed to be part of last year’s class), the Trojans’ recruits had the highest average star rating (4.42) in Rivals history.

Browne, USC’s quarterback of the future (possibly beginning this spring after Max Wittek‘s disastrous showing in the Sun Bowl), was the Gatorade National Player of the Year and the USA Today All-USA Offensive Player of the Year. Cravens, a five-star safety, was the Gatorade California Player of the Year and the USA Today All-USA Defensive Player of the Year.

USC lost out on some big names, definitely, including four-star defensive end Torrodney Prevot, who unexpectedly signed with Oregon instead of USC on Wednesday, but it could have been much worse.

Think about it: The Trojans started the 2012 season ranked No. 1 in the nation. They finished with a 7-6 record, tumbling out of the rankings altogether.

Back in July, when they had hopes of a BCS Championship, they had the No. 1 recruiting class. The poor 2012 season, made worse by the coaching staff’s incompetence during games, press conferences, and recruiting, changed the minds of some recruits, but the Trojans still finished in the Top 15, despite signing fewer players than any other team in Rivals.com’s top 60.

Because they didn’t fill their remaining roster spots, the Trojans will have more available for next year’s class, which many consider to be a deeper group. USC has one more year of sanctions, during which the team can only have 75 players on scholarship, as opposed to the normal 85-man limit, and undersigning this year means the Trojans will be able to offer closer to a full class next year.

It could’ve been a stronger day for USC, but the small class they reeled in is still one of the top in the nation. The concern shouldn’t be about the recruits, but whether the coaches can make the most of their excessive talents.

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