Lane Kiffin had to make sure that his recruiting class of 2012 didn’t miss and if reports are correct he has done his job. Facing NCAA sanctions that limited the number of players USC could sign, Kiffen had to target the right 15 players. “We can’t control how many we sign, but we can control who we sign,” Kiffin told the Associated Press. USC clearly targeted the right players, landing Rivals.com’s 7th-ranked class with just twelve players, three under their reduced limit.
They started with a splash as WR Nelson Agholor, the nation’s No. 3 prospect at receiver out of Tampa, faxed in his signed letter of intent. He’s joined by fellow Floridian Leonard Williams, a defensive lineman who chose the Trojans over Florida and Florida State. In his signing day press conference, Kiffin referred to Williams as one of the incoming freshman most likely to make an immediate impact. Agholor could be another, as he joins the ridiculously talented receiving corps that already includes young stars Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
Another wide receiver, Darreus Rogers, confirmed his intent to attend USC. Rogers was a longtime USC commit, but he recently took official visits to Arizona State and wasn’t a lock for the Trojans until he made his announcement.
There weren’t any huge De’Anthony Thomas-like surprises, though the Trojans did lose defensive end Pio Vatuvei, a USC verbal commit, to Washington.
Kiffin was more disappointed about missing on three offensive tackles. Kyle Dodson signed with Ohio State, and Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy both elected to attend Stanford. Murphy was seen as the most likely of the three to join the Trojans, especially if Peat committed to the Cardinal, but he stuck with Stanford, as did defensive end Aziz Shittu.
USC did, however, manage to snag four-star cornerback Devian Shelton at the last minute. Shelton had most recently visiting Washington and Nebraska, but when the Trojans extended an offer just before Signing Day, he jumped on it.
Other than a few letters that arrived later than expected, keeping the coaching staff on edge, there wasn’t much drama for USC on Signing Day.
QB prospect Cyler Miles added some drama when he backed out of his scheduled announcement. Miles was a solid Washington commit until assistant coach Doug Nussmeier left. Miles reopened his recruitment, even reaching out to the Trojans to let them know he was available again, but he ultimately decided to stick with his original plan, signing with Washington. It didn’t seem likely he’d get much playing time any time soon at USC; Matt Barkley has one more season, and last year’s recruits, redshirt freshmen Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, are expected to compete for the starting job in 2013.
The rest of the day’s haul was solid but unsurprising. As projected, offensive linemen Max Tuerk, Jordan Simmons, and Zach Banner, tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, fullback Jahleel Pinner, and linebacker Jabari Ruffin all sent their letters to USC. It’s a talented group – Simmons is the nation’s #1 offensive line prospect, Ruffin is the top outside linebacker, Pinner is the top fullback and Banner, who chose USC on Monday, is the #2 offensive tackle.
The recruiting class fills holes on the O-line, but it leaves Tailback U a little thin at a marquee position, following the offseason transfer of Amir Carlisle, and the unceremonious departure of Dillon Baxter. Tailback D.J. Foster committed to Arizona State over USC, leaving the Trojans without a tailback in the 2012 recruiting class.
Kiffin plans to hold on to the three spots that have not been signed, hoping to add more players mid-year as he has during the past two offseasons. Though USC came in under the 15 signee limit, their current roster sits slightly above the 75-man limit (under the NCAA sanctions, the Trojans are limited to 15 new signees per year, from 25, and 75 scholarships total, from 85), but the Trojans have until the fall semester to bring it to 75.