USC class has plenty of size
Skill players are talented, but the real value for the Trojans found in the trenches
LOS ANGELES -- The skill players the USC Trojans landed -- and one they didn't -- probably will dominate the discussion, but USC's latest recruiting class, ranked No. 4 in the nation by ESPN.com, is really about guys who practically never touch the ball.
USC's class consisted mostly of linemen and linebackers, the Trojans' two biggest areas of need. Of the 22 players USC signed Wednesday, 14 were linemen or linebackers.
"If we could have, we would have signed more. I think we might have seven or eight healthy bodies for spring ball on the offensive line," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "It was something that was very important to us."
HEAD OF THE CLASS
Expectations are high for wide receiver George Farmer, the No. 12 player in the ESPNU 150, and that's just within his family.
"George is not only going to play next year, he's going to start," said his father, George Farmer III. "You can write that down."
If he does, you have to wonder what it was like to be a defensive back in the Mission League over the last few years. One of USC's most dynamic playmakers last year, freshman All-American receiver Robert Woods, attended the same high school as Farmer, Serra High of Gardena. The Trojans also signed Serra receiver Marqise Lee.
Farmer's reputation is largely built around his size (6-feet-2, 192 pounds) and athletic ability (4.4-second 40). Some recruiting analysts have raised questions about his catching ability and his determination to pick up yards after the catch.
Kiffin named him as the most likely freshman to contribute in 2011.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Amir Carlisle was recruited hard by Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, who had a pretty good track record with running backs.
USC was able to snatch Carlisle, who grew up just a few miles from Stanford's campus, when Harbaugh left to take over the San Francisco 49ers. Carlisle had been committed to Stanford since before his junior season. He is only 5-10, 181 pounds, but he has exceptional speed, not to mention a 4.0 grade-point average at Kings Academy.
Because of USC's depth in the backfield, Carlisle is likely to redshirt his freshman season while he puts on bulk, but he figures to make an impact at some point.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
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Antwaun Woods could follow a long line of Southern California interior linemen to make their marks at USC before moving onto the NFL. It can't hurt that he'll be coached by Ed Orgeron, who helped Mike Patterson, Sedrick Ellis and Jurrell Casey thrive in recent seasons.
Woods is 6-1, 315 pounds and ranked the No. 5 defensive tackle in the ESPNU 150. The Taft High of Woodland Hills product has a reputation for a relentless attitude and great strength.
He missed some time because of a knee injury last year, but if he's sound he'll have a chance to play right away since Casey decided to leave after his junior year for the NFL.
Cody Temple didn't make the ESPNU 150 and he's ranked as the No. 110 offensive guard in the nation, but USC coaches saw enough potential to recruit him even though he played only one season at offensive line.
He's only 6-2 and 280 pounds, which means he's almost certain to redshirt next year, but he's athletic for his size and he brings a defensive mentality to the offensive line. He's also versatile enough that he could play defense if things don't pan out on the offensive line.
His technique is raw, but offensive line coach James Cregg could have plenty to work with.
If USC fans are judging by the standards of the recent past, they could be disappointed with the No. 4 class in the nation. The Trojans landed No. 1 classes under Pete Carroll (and with Kiffin as the recruiting coordinator) on a routine basis.
But to crack the top five while on NCAA probation and with another year left on a two-year bowl ban is a huge testament to this coaching staff's tenacity and to the power of USC to attract young talent. The tandem of Kiffin and Orgeron is a force to be reckoned with and young football players still want to be Trojans.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Mark Saxon covers USC football for ESPNLosAngeles.com.