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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

USC Back on Track with 2021 Recruiting?

July 20, 2020

USC’s 2019 recruiting class was a disappointment.

USC’s 2020 recruiting class was a disaster.

USC’s 2021 class? It’s looking more like business as usual.

Even when the Trojans have had down years, they’ve managed to recruit at a high-level after Pete Carroll left for the NFL. It didn’t matter who was coaching or recruiting, they were pretty much guaranteed an outstanding class even with scholarship reductions.

Their 2013 class was ranked 13th, but the average rating for their 11 commitments was over 96. Every other cycle they finished with a top-10 class from 2010-2018 with a handful of top-five finishes.

That changed in 2019 when they dipped to 19th and then went they dropped all the way to 55th in the country in the last cycle.

Saying that Clay Helton was in desperate need of a bounce back year on the recruiting trail is a gross understatement. That bounce back is happening with USC’s class currently ranked 7th in the country. They have 12 4-star prospects committed and that already surpasses the previous two classes combined 4-star total (nine).

They’ve accomplished that by retaining offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and adding some impact recruiters to their defensive staff. Those moves have worked out pretty well so far, particularly in-state.

USC has nine of the top-30 prospects from California committed. The pandemic limiting visits to other programs has certainly helped them there, but regardless of why they’ve had the bump, that’s a significant difference over having only two of the top-30 in the previous cycle.

Everything on paper would indicate that this is going to be a great class for them, but one of the keys will be keeping this talent in the class. No season for college football would probably help them in that respect because the administration won’t fire Helton after not playing any games. If they do play this season and underachieve like they had in the last two years, then that is something that would likely lead to at least a few of these blue-chip prospects looking elsewhere.

Another important key is them closing on some other top uncommitted prospects. Landing elite defensive lineman, and former Clemson commit, Korey Foreman‍ would be huge. Their class is loaded at receiver, defensive back, and linebacker, but not so much on the defensive and offensive lines. They also don’t have anyone I consider a top-50 prospect in the fold and Foreman would change that.

Offensive line is again one of the biggest problem areas for them. They have two committed, but neither are elite prospects. It’s not a good year on the offensive line in California and that doesn’t help their cause. Though they landed a very good player in Jonah Monheim‍ in 2020 (Notre Dame tried hard to flip him), USC has not been able to sign the kind of talent that can match up with Notre Dame’s defensive line. They haven’t signed enough players overall and definitely not enough ones who project to be great.

It’s important to remember that while the ranking will look great because of all of the skill talent they are bringing in, it could be misleading if they don’t magically steal a couple of out-of-state studs to block for them.

There is also the fact that USC has two great quarterbacks committed in this class. Jake Garcia‍ and Miller Moss‍ are both top-100 talents. Will they both stay committed? Losing one would be a big hit to their class ranking as they are the top-two prospects committed.

One thing that stands out from a Notre Dame perspective is how there’s not much overlap with recruits Notre Dame has offered. Only Xamarion Gordon‍, Prophet Brown‍, and Colin Mobley‍ were offered by the Irish and Mobley was probably not someone Notre Dame was going to take.

Perhaps the days of Notre Dame going head to head with USC for top recruits are long gone, but the days of USC recruiting at a top-10 level don’t appear to be. They are one of the programs that would oddly be helped in recruiting by not playing this fall and have absolutely taken advantage of the lack of on-campus visits this spring and summer.

This should be their best in-state haul in recruiting since 2018 and not coincidentally their best class since that year as well.

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