Helton has developed disturbing recruiting trends
USC’s start to the 2018 football season has Trojan fans questioning whether or not this staff can actually coach.
Here’s a newsflash. USC’s issues go far beyond that. This staff can’t recruit very well either.
At this point, USC isn’t just failing to live up to Pete Carroll’s recruiting standards, it’s failing to live up to the recruiting standards set by Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. Those two coaches contended for top prospects from coast-to-coast and competed for recruiting titles. USC doesn’t do that anymore.
Let’s take moment to review some evidence about how Helton and his staff has underwhelmed in recruiting. It will allow you to see disturbing trends at a few key positions.
USC’s 2019 class is looking incredibly average so far and the Trojans are getting beat for top kids in their backyard. It seems Oregon is contending to take USC’s Pac-12 recruiting crown and the Ducks haven’t done much on the field to warrant that.
The Trojans can’t seem to get a top quarterback in this class. This is a continued and disturbing trend. Outside of Sam Darnold and JT Daniels, there’s been serious struggles at this position in the post Matt Barkley era. Like the quarterback spot, USC’s tailback commits aren’t highly ranked at all either. Outside of Jason Rodriguez, USC is struggling to find top end offensive linemen. Right now, the staff is looking at some projects and will likely have to rely on those players in the future at USC. The Trojans have loaded up at tight end, again, but much like every other class recently, USC can’t seem to find a five-star elite type at that spot. Wide receiver recruiting is going well, or excessive, as it always is under Tee Martin. USC has talent but way too many commits and Martin has also made too many offers. We’ll judge him further after everyone signs. While all these prospects all have impressive film, the two best options for USC might remain on the board still. So that grade is incomplete by far.
Defensive recruiting in 2019 isn’t looking much better. The Trojans are doing absolutely nothing in regards to signing high end defensive linemen. That’s a necessity. USC needs to sign Siaki Ika in this class. He’s the only incredibly high end DT this staff still has a shot with. That could be a challenge.
The safety position has become a big question mark at USC in a hurry and there doesn’t seem to be a response in this class at all. It looks like Noa Pola-Gates and Sione Vaki could be USC’s options in this class. Neither are committed yet and even if they do choose USC, I’m not sure those recruits are problem solvers.
Cornerback is also a potential issue. While USC has highly regarded Chris Steele committed, will add Max Williams’ commitment tomorrow and has Trey Davis on board, there’s a lot of high end talent at that spot USC missed on. The Trojans need all of it, especially since Davis and Williams are projects.
The 2018 class was heavily praised but USC still failed to bring in an elite tailback. USC underwhelmed greatly at offensive tackle in this class as well. That could be a big issue in years to come.
The decision is leave DT Tuli Letuligasenoa out of that class is already looking very foolish. It’s also clear USC didn’t recruit well enough at safety. While Talanoa Hufanga is playing well at times, missing on Jaiden Woodbey and Julius Irvin could prove very costly in the near future.
The 2017 class is another heavily praised class that shouldn’t be so heavily praised. USC failed to sign a lot of high end talent they wanted from this class. Three of the very best players in the Los Angeles area (Wyatt Davis, Darnay Holmes and Jaelan Phillips) spurned USC. The Trojans also missed out on Najee Harris, who would have been a huge addition to this backfield. Three of the top four players at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman HS (Tate Martell, Tyjon Lindsey and Haskell Garrett) chose other schools over USC. USC also failed to sign its top quarterback targets this year (Martell and Tua Tagovailoa). Just years later, the Trojans are relying on a freshman quarterback. It’s also worth noting that Tee Martin’s own son, Amari Rodgers, was a 2017 recruit who backed off his commitment and chose Clemson over USC. Martin is USC’s offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach. Rodgers is a wide receiver. It’s quite shocking.
2016 was Helton’s first class and it was a mess. USC failed to sign a top quarterback that year and went with Matt Fink. Just years later, USC has a freshman starter. The Trojans also had to scramble to find a tailback in this class and flipped Vavae Malepeai away from Oregon late. Malepeai wasn’t an elite tailback recruit and USC almost missed on him and well. Like most years, USC signed some good wide receivers but also signed a few that were completely unnecessary. USC also underwhelmed when it came to recruiting offensive linemen again, so they took on a talented recruit with known personal problems in EJ Price. That backfired.
On defense, Oluwole Betiku was arguably USC’s top prospect. He started playing football in high school. That’s a problem at a program like USC. Outside of Betiku and Jackie Jones (who like many in this class are no longer at the school), USC didn’t really sign any star recruits on defense. That’s pretty noticeable just a couple years later. USC could have really benefitted from having a star defensive tackle or safety in this class.
It’s also worth noting that of the 24 prospects from Southern California USC offered in the 2016 class, only 9 signed with the Trojans. USC relies so heavily on those kids to keep the talent level up. Especially now that they struggle to recruit the best-of-the-best from outside the West Coast. Because of this, the Trojans likely have to get far away from Helton’s first class to have a chance to compete for something special.
Unfortunately the 2019 class is off to a 2016-esque start.