“Quality Over Quantity”: Meet the Newest USC Trojans
USC's 2013 Class Leads the Nation in Average Star Rating
The biggest storyline coming out of the USC Trojans’ National Signing Day haul was the small size of the 2013 class.
The Trojans signed just six students on Signing Day; the other seven were already installed on campus as early enrollees.
It’s a star-studded class – the highest average star-rating in Rivals.com history – but if USC’s 2012 season had come closer to meeting expectations, it could have been even better than it’s No. 11 ranking.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin put together an impressive list of verbal commitments back in the summer, and as of July, the Trojans were on track to sign the best class in the nation, despite being in year two of NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions.
The Trojans limped to a mediocre 7-6 record, and as the team’s hopes of a National Championship, or at least a shot at the Rose Bowl, trailed away, so did some of their recruits.
USC had nine decommits, from November until Signing Day, when Torrodney Prevot pulled a last-minute switch and signed with the Oregon Ducks.
It’s still among the nation’s top recruiting classes, second only to UCLA in the Pac-12 (not a familiar place for USC). It might have been larger if the Trojans had performed better during the regular season, but it also could have been even smaller if assistant coach Kennedy Polamalu had been fired before Signing Day, instead of three days after.
When the team announced Polamalu’s departure, running backs Justin Davis and Ty Isaac, and incoming linebacker Michael Hutchings, all took to Twitter to voice their shock and disappointment at the announcement and, presumably, its timing.
The newest Trojans might be dismayed by the team’s downward trajectory in 2012 and subsequent turnover on the coaching staff this offseason, but it’s too late to jump ship now.
Here’s a look at USC’s undersized but overwhelmingly talented 2013 recruiting class.
Browne has long been one of the Class of 2013's strongest commits, and he's one of the year's most highly touted players. USC continued its recent trend of nabbing the nation's top-ranked quarterback prospect and Gatorade National Player of the Year when it signed Browne. The 6'5" signal caller threw for 4,526 yards, 49 touchdowns, and just five interceptions in his senior year at Skyline high school, all while maintaining a 3.5 GPA.
Like his talented predecessors, the five-star from Sammamish, Washington enrolled in January to get a jump on learning the playbook and to have a chance to participate in spring workouts. With Matt Barkley headed to the NFL, the quarterback position is wide open. Redshirt sophomores Max Wittek and Cody Kessler have been neck and neck for the last three years, and while Wittek won the backup job, he flopped so impressively in the Hyundai Sun Bowl that the job could be Browne's for the taking.
Browne was the top QB prospect and USA Today All-USA Offensive Player of the Year, and the Trojans also managed to sign his defensive counterpart. Su'a Cravens, the No. 1 ranked safety prospect, was the USA Today All-USA Defensive Player of the Year and the Gatorade California Player of the Year in 2012.
Recruited as a safety, Cravens played defensive back, linebacker, wide receiver, and running back in his senior year. He had 97 tackles, eight sacks, three interceptions, four forced fumbled and three pass breakups, plus 542 yards and 14 touchdowns on offense. The Trojans were shaky in the secondary in 2012, to put it nicely, and they'll be able to use a player of Cravens' caliber right away.
Leon McQuay III
With Cravens and McQuay III coming in, the Trojans have the top two safety prospects in the country and hope to be set at that position for the next few years. McQuay III announced he would become at Trojan during the Under Armour All-American Game and enrolled at USC for the spring semester. His last-minute decision took an early enrollment spot from longtime commit Kylie Fitts, a longtime commit, couldn't enroll early. Fitts signed with UCLA instead, as the Trojans did what they felt they had to do to accommodate a top talent.
McQuay III was a first-team USA Today All-USA player as a junior and second-team as a senior. He was also a finalist for the Franklin D. Watkins Award, which recognizes the nation's top African-American male high school scholar-athletes. According to the USC Rips It blog, McQuay III, a Florida native, was drawn to the Trojans because of his interest in a career in music; he plans to major in audio engineering.
A four-star offensive lineman from nearby Hermosa Beach, Nico Falah confirmed on National Signing Day that he was honoring his verbal commitment to become a Trojan. Falah was a U.S. Army All-American and MaxPreps first-team All-American his senior year. He played for St. John Bosco high school, which went undefeated in its league with key victories over Southern California high school football heavyweights Mater Dei and Santa Margarita high schools.
Rodgers is one of two incoming freshman from Eastern Christian Academy in Elkton, Maryland, which played just three games last season. Another four-star offensive lineman, Rodgers played center and guard in high school (primarily during his sophomore and junior seasons at Red Lion Christian Academy) and is the top-rated offensive guard in this year's class. The 6'3", 310 pound lineman already has big plans for the O-line over the next few seasons. He told WeAreSc.com's Blair Angulo: "I feel as a team we've got to learn to punch first."
The incoming running backs got a shock a few days after Signing Day with the news that USC abruptly dismissed running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu. isaac, the No. 4 RB prospect, tweeted simply: "Disappointed."
A five-star from Shorewood, Ill., Isaac missed part of his senior year with shoulder and groin injuries but still rushed for 1500 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns, plus 12 catches for 287 yards and three touchdowns. The previous year, he was the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year with 45 rushing touchdowns.
It came down to Florida and USC, and in a televised Signing Day announcement on ESPNU, Powell chose USC. He played defensive end in high school, but at just 6'2", 220 lbs., he was recruited as an outside linebacker. The four-star from Deltona, Fl., played high school football at Mainland High School, alongside current USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams. He had two excellent seasons back-to-back, with 104 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, four forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns as a junior, and 102 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, and 12 sacks as a senior in 2012.
Like high school (and now USC) teammate Khaliel Rodgers, Bigelow had a shortened senior year at Eastern Christian Academy, so the five-star defensive lineman was even more eager than his fellow early enrollees to get on campus and get back to football. Bigelow is the No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in this year's class, but he has played more at defensive end. As a junior at Red Lion Christian Academy, he recorded 20 sacks and 40 tackles. Bigelow was recruited by assistant head coach and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, but his role in the defense will be determined by the Trojans' new defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast.
Davis, a four-star running back from Stockton, Ca., enrolled early at USC in hopes of securing the spot behind Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan. He had 1,806 yards and 23 touchdowns on a whopping 229 carries in his senior season, but he had an even better season a year ago as a junior, with 274 carries for 2,613 yards and 39 touchdowns. The U.S. Army All-American was already entrenched on campus when the Trojans abruptly fired assistant coach Kennedy Polamalu a few days after Signing Day, and according to a series of tweets he posted, he didn't seem too happy about it. "Lots of thoughts right now....It's going to be very hard to replace coach P."
Steven Mitchell is a four-star wide receiver from Pasadena, in UCLA territory, but he was a solid Trojans commit throughout the recruiting process. He averaged 17.7 yards per catch as a senior, with 62 receptions for 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also had 202 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns.
The No. 6 wide receiver prospect also played defensive back at Alemany High School, where he excelled and earned Sierra League Co-MVP last season. He's on the small side for a receiver at just 5'10" but it hasn't affected him on the field.
"Every time he touches the ball, he has the chance to go the distance," his high school coach Dean Herrington told the Los Angeles Times, per the USC Rips It blog.
Hutchings was the No. 6 outside linebacker in this year's recruiting class, and the four-star was a U.S. Army All-American and the Cal-Hi Sports "Mr. Football" for his senior season. He played on both sides of the ball last year, at linebacker, running back, and receiver. On defense, he had 113 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions. His high school, Concord De La Salle, won three straight championships over the last three seasons, and the team was undefeated in 2012, thanks in part to Hutchings' ability to fill a variety of roles.
Four-star cornerback Hawkins is another top recruit in a DB-heavy class for USC. The Trojans desperately needed to strengthen the secondary, and with CB Nickell Robey entering the draft early, the secondary is wide open. Robey was fast but undersized; Hawkins is only about an inch taller, but he's still the No. 8 corner in the nation. He played on both sides of the ball in high school at Rancho Cucamonga, where he was a corner and a receiver. On defense, he had 53 tackles and two interceptions last season.
Rogers was originally a member of the Class of 2012, but he did not qualify in time to enroll for the fall semester. All season, he was a vocal supporter of the team on Twitter, particularly during games and after tough (and all too frequent) losses.
When he came out of high school, Rogers was a four-star wide receiver prospect. In 2011, he was a first-team MaxPreps All-State player who had 64 catches for 1,251 yards and 10 touchdowns during his senior season. He was finally able to start practicing with the team during workouts before the bowl game, and after a full year out of competitive football, he's ready to be back in action.