Wednesday will mark the first signing day for Steve Sarkisian as head coach at USC and the first chance to show that he is up to the task of heading the recruiting efforts for the Trojans.
There’s no doubt that Sarkisian had built a good reputation as a recruiter in his five years at Washington and he’s off to a good start in his first two months with the Trojans. Sarkisian has the opportunity to really flex his recruiting muscle with what he is attempting to pull off on signing day.
The top three uncommitted players in the state of California are all still in play with Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco). Not only are the Trojans among the final choices for all three players, but USC is considered at least a co-favorite for each player as well.
If Sarkisian can somehow get signed letters of intent from all three -- or even from two of the three -- it would be a dramatic signal to the Trojans' recruiting rivals.
In the immediate term it would add elite players -- each ranked among the top three at their positions by ESPN. It would also elevate USC to a possible top-10 finish in the ESPN Recruiting Nation class rankings.
With 15 current verbal commits -- five of whom are already enrolled for the spring semester – Sarkisian has the Trojans sitting at the No. 24 spot in the rankings heading into signing day. It was critical for Sarkisian to fill the four early enrollee spots to count against the Class of 2013, which he did, and he has built a nice foundation to the current class, particularly on both sides of the line. The addition of any of the elite trio on signing day, however, would be vital at the top end of the class.
A strong signing day would also allow Sarkisian to help build upon the momentum that has already begun for the 2015 class. The Trojans recently earned a verbal commitment from quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), who flipped from Alabama. Town is ranked as the No. 2 quarterback in the ESPN Junior 300. There was also a verbal commit at the recent Elite Junior Day from cornerback Taeon Mason from Pasadena (Calif.) Muir.
The early success in the Class of 2015 is important to note because that will be the first class in four years in which the Trojans can sign a full 25-player class. USC has been limited to 15 players per year because of NCAA sanctions related to the Reggie Bush case. The 2015 class is considered to be strong in California -- 31 players from the Golden State already have four-stars in the ESPN Junior 300 -- so it’s a good time for Sarkisian and the Trojans to begin rebuilding the roster back to full limits. After having each of the three previous classes reduced, it will seem like a recruiting bonanza to the USC program to get those ten additional bodies next year.
First things first for Sarkisian -- closing out the 2014 class. It’s not going to be a smooth ride as SEC schools such as Florida and LSU are still in the hunt for Jackson, with UCLA making a late push as well, and rumblings of Smith showing interest in the Oregon Ducks.
USC fans have short memories when it comes to signing day changes, from De’Anthony Thomas flipping to Oregon to the five late decommits last year. These players are too good for other schools not to continue making runs at them, and nobody really knows how much of the interest from the players is legitimate. The one thing we do know is that everyone will find out on Wednesday, when all three players make their announcements on ESPNU.
And there might not be anyone who stands to gain more than Sarkisian. One of the primary reasons that USC athletic director Pat Haden gave for hiring Sarkisian is that he offered a smooth transition, in part because of his knowledge of USC and the Southern California recruiting landscape. If things fall the Trojans' way on Wednesday, it would not only be a smooth transition, but a dramatic statement about where USC recruiting is now and where things are headed.