Upon arriving in Los Angeles last week, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and his assistants were faced with the difficult task of filling four mid-year enrollment slots. The commitment of ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Claudeson Pelon (Orlando, Fla./Mesa Community College) earlier this week alleviated some concerns, but the Trojans head into their first big on-campus recruiting weekend in search of at least one more worthy prospect who is eligible for early enrollment.
If that carryover spot from the 2013 class were to go unused, USC would not be able to regain it. Two early enrollees and two uncommitted targets make up the list of expected visitors this weekend. A look at who will be on the USC campus:
No. 8 OG Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) - Lobendahn listened to other schools when the firing of Lane Kiffin created some uncertainty, but his spot in USC’s recruiting class never was truly in doubt. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound lineman toyed with the idea of visiting other schools, but the turnaround under former interim head coach Ed Orgeron was enough to convince him to stay close to home. There were even some concerns that UCLA's hire of Kennedy Polamalu, a former Trojans assistant and respected coach in the Polynesian community, would give Lobendahn something to think about. But Lobendahn’s commitment to USC and early enrollment status was never in jeopardy, even with the coach who began recruiting him three years ago now at the rival program. Lobendahn was the first prospect to receive an in-home visit after Sarkisian arrived from Washington, and the official visit this weekend could essentially be viewed as a victory lap.
No. 21 OT Chris Brown (Los Angeles/Loyola) - Brown is not an early enrollment candidate, but he might be the most important visitor of the weekend. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive tackle intends to make a quick decision, perhaps as early as Monday, so the fact that the Trojans have the opportunity to make the last impression should have the staff feeling confident. Brown already visited Texas A&M and Oregon, but childhood favorite USC spearheaded his recruitment by becoming the first school to offer back in October. Sarkisian noted he wants to sign at least five offensive linemen in this class. Brown would be the fifth, with top target and ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) still available.
No. 28 DE Don Hill (Boise, Idaho/Timberline) - Hill bagged a scholarship offer from the Trojans on Tuesday and decommitted from Washington shortly thereafter. He is an early enrollee candidate who hopes to make a decision soon, so it was crucial for assistant Peter Sirmon to get the 6-foot-4, 235-pound prospect on campus before the start of the dead period. Hill could become the Trojans’ fourth mid-year enrollee and a major coup for the staff at a position of need. His standing relationship with the coaches who previously recruited him at Washington could prove to be the difference.
No. 141 OT Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont) - Another recruit who had been recruited by the Washington staff, Austin originally committed to the Trojans despite interest from Harvard, among others. There was never any doubt that Austin would be able to enroll early, and any concerns about his place in USC’s class disappeared during an in-home visit last week.