By leading his team to a 5-1 record since taking over the program, including last Saturday's 20-17 win against a top five Stanford, USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron has breathed new life into the Trojans storied program.
That holds true with USC's recruiting efforts as well.
Since taking over for Lane Kiffin, who was fired in the early morning hours of Sept. 29, Orgeron has landed five commits and has USC tending for more.
It's been an interesting situation to watch and examining what the Orgeron-led Trojans have done on the recruiting trail to date, it's full of intelligent moves with positive long-term implications.
The first four pledges of the Orgeron era probably did not garner national headlines, but safety Uchenna Nwosu (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne), linebacker Olajuwon Tucker (Gardena, Calif./Serra), wide receiver Shay Fields (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and wide receiver Ajene Harris (Los Angeles, Calif./Crenshaw) all come from top Los Angeles-area talent producing high school programs. That certainly torpedoes any notion that the Trojans are “too aloof” to recruit the talent-rich local area heavily, a notion that was discussed multiple times with high school coaches and prospects. All of the first four commits for Orgeron are excellent high school players that can easily fall into the “sleeper” category and despite not one rating above a three star according to 247Sports Composite rankings, it would not surprise to see some of these become significant players for USC in the future.
The fifth commitment brought a little more in terms of fireworks. Four-star offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) flipped from Alabama to USC on Monday night. Like the others, Talamaivao is a top prospect at a top talent-producing Los Angeles-area high school program. Unlike the others, Talamaivao is one of the top prospects at his position in the country for this cycle, ranking No. 4 at offensive guard in the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
USC isn't finished, either. There are three key prospects this cycle in the Los Angeles area that the Trojans are trending with to varying degrees. ??
Adoree' Jackson, CB/ATH, Gardena (Calif.) Serra- Jackson is one of the most explosive playmakers in this cycle and could still head to the southeast- Florida or LSU- for college, but a disappointing season for the Gators and the Tigers being a relative newcomer in the race for his services, plus family considerations (rooted in Los Angeles now) could bode well for USC at the end. According to 247Sports Crystal Ball, which measures recruiting expert prediction trends from across the country, Jackson is trending Trojans at 62 percent. Jackson is the top overall prospect in California this cycle.
John “JuJu” Smith, S/WR, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly- Smith, a versatile 6-foot-1, 206-pound athlete who could project at a high level both at safety and receiver, likes west coast suitors like USC, but also has maintained a high interest in Notre Dame and is a key recruit for the Irish. Smith scheduled an official visit with the Trojans in mid-January and the new coaching staff will be in tact and in place, giving USC a chance to roll out the red carpet. Smith is the No. 14 overall prospect in the 2014 class and Crystal Ball has the Trojans as the favorite with 50 percent of the total predictions.
Damien Mama, OG, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco- Mama is a massive 6-foot-6, 340-pound mauler with elite feet and athleticism who could be a tackle or guard (best projection) in college. The U.S. Army All-American is ranked as the No. 1 offensive guard prospect in the 2014 class. Proximity to home has long been a factor in Mama's decision and the feeling has never been stronger, given his friendship with Talamaivao, that he will end up at USC. Crystal Ball agrees, predicting Mama to the Trojans at 92 percent.
Landing these three could boost what will be a smaller USC class numbers-wise into the top 20 with a shot at a top 10-15 class when all is said and done. That would be an excellent and almost unprecedented type of effort considering the early season coaching change and the fact that uncertainty, which impacts comfort level, negatively impacts a recruiting class worse than anything, including wins and losses.