Clay Helton and USC continued their roll and won big on Wednesday. The Trojans reeled in a string of high-profile prospects on National Signing Day to vault their class into contention as one of the best in the nation. A group that already boasted a ton of talent got much better on Wednesday.
The day started early for Helton and company with Texas linebacker Levi Jones picked the Trojans over Florida and Florida State. Then things got sweeter when USC scored two five-stars within a few minutes of each other, as offensive tackle Austin Jackson and defensive lineman Jay Tufele both picked the Trojans.
After that, Four-star tight end Josh Falo picked USC over Oregon and Colorado in a Bleacher Report video, using the Haka dance as his method. Then two teammates — five-star receiver Joseph Lewis and four-star athlete Greg Johnson committed to USC — and five-star running back Stephen Carr firmed up his commitment to the Trojans by signing and sending in his letter of intent.
So on the day Helton and his staff pulled in three four stars and three five stars while also securing Carr’s commitment despite some late visits to other schools. That’s how you close in style.
All told, Helton and his staff brought in 23 players, including four five-star commitments, 13 four-star commits and seven three stars. According to Scout, USC brought in seven of the nation’s top 100 recruits, and 13 of the top 300. The class will be further bolstered by four-star offensive lineman Jalen McKenzie, who will enroll in the fall with what is termed an “advanced scholarship.” His commitment will count towards the 2018 class but be eligible to play next season.
USC got better along both lines, pulling in five offensive linemen and five defensive linemen. Along with Jackson and McKenzie on the offensive side, the Trojans grabbed four-stars Alijah Vera-Tucker and Brett Neilon, and three-star Andrew Voorhees. On defense, USC was able to sign four-star edge rusher Hunter Echols, three-star defensive end Jacob Lichtenstein out of Florida, and at tackle snagged Tufele, four-star former Washington commit Marlon Tuipulotu and diamond in the rough candidate Brandon Pili. Helton has long said he wants to win along both lines and his 2017 recruiting class reflects that philosophy.
Given how the season began for USC, and the fact that many were calling for Helton’s head after a 1-3 start, the team’s turnaround has been remarkable. The Trojans reeled off nine wins in a row to finish the season, including a thrilling Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. Freshman quarterback Sam Darnold proved himself to be one of the top young signal-callers in college football and the team is stacked heading into next season.
The season may have turned around when Darnold took over under center, but recruiting began to turn when four-star quarterback Jack Sears switched his pledge to USC following the team’s road victory over Washington on November 12. Sears’ commitment got Helton and his staff rolling and it didn’t let up through signing day.
I had my doubts about Helton when the Trojans started 1-3. I was wrong and have been willing to admit it. It’s obvious the man knows what he’s doing, as he has USC winning on the field and dominating on the recruiting trail. While rival head coach Jim Mora sat across town getting testy during an ESPN interview, Helton and company were busy steamrolling through a huge day.
The rest of the Pac-12 better watch out. The Trojans are free of sanctions and reeling in a ton of talent. It’ll be difficult to stop them now that they’re on a roll.
Helton and his staff deserve a ton of credit for sticking with their plan and following through despite a rough start to the year. Now they’ve got USC back where it belongs among the top programs in the country.