Monday, March 10, 2008

Team Recruiting Countdown: No. 5 USC Trojans

No. 5 USC Trojans (Pac-10 No. 1)

2008 Haul: 19 signees, 8 Athlon Consensus 100

Scouting Report:

The only reason this class is not No. 1 or 2 is the quantity. Of course, having the top recruiting class in the nation three of the last four years will create a crowded depth chart to say the least. The Trojans only signed 19 prospects in this class but likely had the highest level of quality per recruit in the entire nation – websites refer to this as ‘average star rating.’ Nearly half of this class was ranked in the AC100.

With ridiculously good running back and quarterback classes the last two seasons, those positions were largely ignored this season. Instead, on offense Pete Carroll focused on the offensive line and the pass catchers.
The 2008 Trojan O-line class may be the best group of blockers to ever head to a single school. Three – Matt Kalil (Anaheim, Calif.), Tyron Smith (Moreno Valley, Calif.), Matt Meyer (Stockton, Calif.) – are ranked in the top 83 prospects in the nation. Kalil, younger brother of current Carolina Panther Ryan Kalil, is the highest rated and has the most ideal build and talents for left tackle. Smith is the most athletic and Meyer may have the most upside. All three will be stalwarts along the offensive line. Add two massive guard prospects in Khaled Holmes (Santa Ana, Calif.) and Daniel Campbell (Aldine, Texas) and the Trojans boast the top O-line class in the nation.

Senior tight end standout Fred Davis has graduated and star recruits Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton have yet to pan out. So Carroll went out and addressed the outside of his offense with arguably the top tight end prospect in the nation – Blake Ayles (Orange, Calif.) – and two stellar wide receivers. D.J. Shoemate (Anaheim, Calif.) is Kalil’s teammate at Servite High and is a bigger, thicker version of Florida’s version of Percy Harvin. He can be used in the backfield as well as a pure wideout. He may end up as the best prospect in this class. Brice Butler (Norcross, Ga.) travels a long distance to get to Southern Cal. He is not as physically gifted as some other elite wide receivers but has wonderful intangibles and a great natural feel for the wide receiver position.

As impressive as the offensive class is, the defensive side of the ball may be even better. Five defensive line prospects head to Los Angeles in this class and after two of the top D-lineman in the nation graduated (Sedrick Ellis, Lawrence Jackson), the timing could not be better. Nick Perry (Detroit, Mich.) leaves the Wolverine state with the state’s single season sack record — an astonishing 36 his senior year. The 6-6, 250-pound Wes Horton (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) may have the most physical ability of all the ends. At the tackle spot, Armond Armstead (Elk Grove, Calif.) and Jurrell Casey (Long Beach, Calif.) are to big bodies that will add depth to the interior defensive line.

T.J. Bryant (Tallahassee, Fla.), a prospect that was yanked from Florida State’s grasp, anchors the small defensive back class. Former BYU pledge, Uona Kavienga (Los Angeles, Calif.) is the most talented linebacker of this class.

USC is at the top of a very short list of division one programs that have the ability to recruit nationally. Three AC100 members, one each from Georgia, Michigan and Florida, head many miles from home to play at the western powerhouse. Campbell is not an AC100 member but is still highly rated and he hails from Texas.

Top Prospect: Matt Kalil – OL – Anaheim, Calif. (6-7, 290) AC100 No. 18

Kalil, the younger brother of Ryan Kalil, former USC Trojan and NFL rookie center, is a complete tackle prospect. What made the undersized Ryan so good was his technically sound brand of football. He was as fundamentally sound as a college center could have been. If Matt is capable of being as sound in his discipline as his older brother he could be great. This is because Matt is much bigger than Ryan.

At the moment, Matt’s pass blocking is easily his strength. He does show good technique in getting his drops and shooting his hands. His good balance and quick, decisive feet allow him to mirror pass rushers very well. In the run game, knee bend and leverage will be areas of focus once Kalil gets to Southern Cal.

Best of the Rest:

Blake Ayles – TE – Orange, Calif. (6-4, 240) AC100 No. 15
Tyron Smith – OL – Moreno Valley, Calif. (6-5, 275) AC100 No. 27
T.J. Bryant – CB – Tallahassee, Fla. (6-0, 185) AC100 No. 28
D.J. Shoemate – WR – Anaheim, Calif. (6-1, 218) AC100 No. 34
Brice Butler – WR – Norcross, Ga. (6-1, 185) AC100 No. 48
Matt Meyer – OL – Stockton, Calif. (6-6, 295) AC100 No. 83
Nick Perry – DE – Detroit, Mich. (6-4, 240) AC100 No. 95
Uona Kavienga – LB – Los Angeles, Calif. (6-0, 228)
Armond Armstead – DT – Elk Grove, Calif. (6-4, 290)
Wes Horton – DE – Sherman Oaks, Calif. (6-6, 250)

Sleeper: Drew McAllister – ATH – Alamo, Calif. (6-1, 190)

It is impossible to pick a sleeper in a class full of national recruiting prospects but McAllister fits the bill. He is as polished a passer on the high school level as there is in this class. His footwork and technique are second to none. The depth chart, 2009 stud Matt Barkley, McAllister’s lack of arm strength and great athleticism will likely push him to any number of other positions, however. He is an intelligent, well-coached football player, so he will make an impact no matter where he plays.

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