As the semester begins at USC, nine new signees have enrolled in spring semester classes and will suit up for spring practice.
The Trojans are not traditionally known for signing junior college transfers, but USC coach Lane Kiffin scoured the junior college ranks looking for talented players to fill in the depth chart.
“It was very apparent that we had depth issues and that we should not wait until the fall,” Kiffin told the Los Angeles Times. “We had the ability to get some guys and count them back. That’s why we did it and we think we helped ourselves.”
Defensive back Isiah Wiley, a transfer from Arizona Western Junior College, registered 44 tackles and three interceptions in ten games at Arizona Western J.C. Wiley is only 6-foot-1, but he is known for always being in position to make a play on the ball.
Offensive linemen David Garness and Jeremy Galten add much needed depth to the Trojans’ offensive line. Both will compete for playing time as two starters, Tyron Smith and Kristofer O’Dowd, were lost to graduation. Garness and Galten were named All-NorCal Conference first team selections in each of their two seasons playing at the junior college level.
Linebacker Dallas Kelley led Chaffey Junior College in tackling and was subsequently named to the All-Central West Conference first team. With two starting spots open, significant playing time is there for the taking if Kelley can impress coaches in spring ball.
Quarterback Cody Kessler, the 2010 Gatorade California Player of the Year has been lauded for his strong arm and mobility. As a high school senior, he threw for 2,831 yards and 36 scores, while running for eight touchdowns.
Quarterback Max Wittek, the Mater Dei graduate, threw for 2,252 yards and 24 touchdowns and ran for six scores during his senior year. Although Wittek is not as mobile as Kessler, his vision is better, and he is more of a gunslinger.
Fullback Soma Vainuku the cousin of former USC standout and current Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga, was named to the Cal-Hi All-State Medium Schools first team.
Long snapper Peter McBride graduated from high school early and will be a valuable addition to John Baxter’s special teams unit. Some scouts believe McBride is ahead of the curve when it comes to long snapping technique.
Placekicker Andre Heidari, the gem of the class and ranked number one at his position by several recruiting services is known for his powerful, accurate leg. Field goals have been an adventure for the Trojans the past two seasons, as they have made just 22-of-33 attempts. Lane Kiffin was hesitant to attempt any field goal over 30 yards in 2010, but Heidari’s presence should allow USC to expand its range.
All nine players will count against USC’s scholarship total for 2010, with the 2011 class being limited by NCAA sanctions. USC is only allowed to offer fifteen scholarships, per class.
“Identifying, enticing and signing players capable of completing coursework so they can graduate early from high school or transfer mid-year from a junior college is more difficult than it appears,” Greg Biggins of ESPNRise.com told the Los Angeles Times.
“As a high school player, you basically have to know at least a year in advance so you can start stacking your [class] schedule,” he said. “And the school has to make sure kids want to do that and that their school and district will allow them to.”