Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Future Game Wreckers: USC

June 20, 2017

The Pete Carroll era at USC is remembered by most for producing prolific offense. It is Heisman winners like Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and Carson Palmer that are most often mentioned when people bring up that time for the Trojans.

That's a disservice to what also made USC great during Carroll's time in Los Angeles. It was stud defenders like Troy Polamalu, Sedrick Ellis, Keith Rivers and Clay Matthews. In total there were 20 defenders selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft that played for Carroll.

They had great players at all three levels of their defense. Over their eight game winning streak over the Irish, Notre Dame failed to score 20 points in five of those games. USC has always had the skill, but it's when they have elite defenders that they become even tougher for the Irish to beat.

Unfortunately for those who root for the guys in blue and gold, USC just signed a class with some players on defense that look like they will be difference makers at the next level. It all starts up front with three outstanding defensive tackles.

Strong up the middle

Oregon, Utah, and Alaska aren't typical states that produce blue chip defensive lineman year after year, but USC went to all three of those areas to sign them back in February. Marlon Tuipulotu is a 3 technique that is already on campus. He has violent hands for someone at this stage of his development and projects to be a big time pass interior pass rusher. Jay Tufele is the top other top 5 defensive tackle that the Trojans landed. He has a great first step and could end up being a disruptive player as a 3 tech or nose.

The under the radar prospect of the group is Brandon Pili. Notre Dame fans may be familiar with him because he is someone the staff targeted late in the process so it stings a little bit more that he went to USC. He may not be as highly regarded as the other two, but don't be surprised if he is competing with those guys to start in a year or two. No other program in the country signed a defensive tackle class as good as the Trojans.

They added a pretty darn good future Will linebacker in Levi Jones out of Austin, Texas, but I think the two safeties they are bringing in are the ones that Irish fans will hear about the most. Bubba Bolden out of Bishop Gorman is twitchy, instinctive and has ridiculous ball skills. Isaiah Pola-Mao is freakishly long, has awesome range, and his ball skills are are just as good as Bolden's. No two safeties were more impressive at The Opening Finals last summer.

I know Irish fans don't want to hear it, but it would be surprising if at least half of these guys didn't become impact players for the Trojans.

Again with the impact skill talent

If there is a 5 star wide receiver or running back from southern California, then there is a really good chance that recruit is going to end up at USC. That's just fact. Even in the lean years, they still seemed to land skill players of that caliber.

Stephen Carr is maybe the most versatile offensive player in the class. There are other backs that could end up being dynamic from the backfield that signed in February, but I don't think any of them are also a 5 star talent as a receiver as well. It's probably too crazy to think he can be like Bush was for them, but he has similar all-purpose skills. He's going to get a lot of touches during his career and I expect he is going to help them from day one.

Joseph Lewis is another 5 star prospect that should contribute immediately. He is physically ready to go right now and should be a future number one. If they are having issues replacing some of the production they lost last season, then I wouldn't be surprised to see him make the same kind of impact JuJu Smith-Schuster made as a true freshman in 2014.

4 star athlete Greg Johnson might have been a bit more hyped up as well if they didn't sign Carr and Lewis. He could end up at corner, but I think he has a chance to make a more immediate impact at receiver.

A left tackle with All-American potential

From 2004-2012, USC had six offensive tackles drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. Since that great run they have had zero taken in the first two rounds and only one drafted, period. It's one area where they haven't recruited and developed up to usual standards.

They signed a future left tackle in this class, though, that I think has a good chance at being a first round pick in three or four years. Austin Jackson has to add some weight and get stronger, but he is a big time athlete that should end up becoming a premier pass blocker. He might not currently be a top five tackle prospect in the class, but his ceiling is as high or higher than most of those players that are.

This is the second top 5 recruiting class that USC has had in the last three cycles. The other one was in the top 10. They land great players every year, but the ones they landed at defensive tackle and safety in particular should help their defense reach previous heights.
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