It’s been an intriguing week for USC football recruiting, as five-star quarterback and former Alabama recruit Ricky Town de-committed from the Crimson Tide and gave his verbal commitment to USC. Though there’s plenty of intrigue about Town’s potential at the college level, the high school junior (class of 2015) still isn’t going to put on a Trojan uniform until after next season. The class of 2014 recruiting season, however, is about to be finalized, and precisely a week from now, National Signing Day will set all the new recruits and rosters in stone.
Though the vast majority of the Trojans’ 2014 recruits are expected to sign their letters next Wednesday, there are a couple key recruits the Trojans will need to pursue in order to take 2014’s recruiting class from “intriguing” to “outstanding.”
The first of these recruits is Gardena, Calif. safety/athlete Adoree’ Jackson: listed at 5-foot-9 and a solid 182 pounds with a 4.44 40 yard dash, Jackson has yet to commit. According to 247sports.com, however, Jackson is a solid favorite to follow in the footsteps of his fellow Junipero Serra High School alumni Marqise Lee, George Farmer and Robert Woods in taking his talents to South Central.
Watching film of the 2012 CIF SS Western title game between Junipero Serra and Chaminade, it becomes quickly apparent that Jackson is no ordinary athlete. On one particular kick return, the recruit’s next-level athleticism is on full display. He has the long, fluid strides of a track runner and transitions effortlessly between evading defenders, maintaining his balance and immediately firing on some world-class jets to torch his pursuers.
Jackson seems to have an otherworldly grasp of his body’s internal momentum, to the point where he’s spinning and pirouetting naturally not just in a flashy way to avoid defenders, but employing the circular motion with force to twist free from poorly executed shoestring tackles.
This type of fluidity of movement makes him best suited at a defensive back position and as a kick returner, though the possibilities offered by his athletic versatility are practically endless. He has fantastic hip flexor and upper body control, and could make for a very long 60 minutes for opposing Pac-12 receivers. Jackson is a consensus five-star athlete, and though he hasn’t set a schedule for his last official visits quite yet, his final three schools (in no particular order) include USC, that one school across town which will remain unnamed and the University of Florida.
Another top recruit and five-star athlete the Trojans could haul in is John “JuJu” Smith from Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach, Calif. According to 247sports’ “Crystal Ball,” Smith is heavily favored to commit to USC. Smith is the 20th ranked player in the nation according to the site and the No. 4 recruit in the state of California.
Smith, who was a two-way star in high school, draws comparisons to another Long Beach Poly graduate: Cal alumnus and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. But position and high school are where the comparisons end. Whereas the 5-foot-10 DeSean Jackson had game-changing speed and agility that translated well to big-play potential on offense, Smith’s strength and coverage instincts on intermediate routes could land him a spot at free safety.
This assessment is not to rule out any possibilities. A review of Smith’s game film against Santa Ana-Mater Dei reveals one of his greatest assets: Smith’s size and wingspan. It would be unsurprising if Smith came to USC and became part of an already deep wide receiving corps. At 6-foot-1, 200 lbs., the Long Beach Poly senior already has professional size and is capable of breaking tackles and tacking on yards after the catch.
Adding Adoree’ Jackson and John “Juju” Smith could be two huge flourishes on the USC recruitment haul, and could bump the Trojans into the top 20 of overall rankings for recruiting classes.
Though the Trojans could run into depth issues in the trenches with the departure of defensive lineman George Uko and offensive lineman Marcus Martin, junior college transfer Claude Pelon, who enrolled for the spring semester earlier this week, should be part of the solution to that problem.
The Trojans have also addressed needs at the offensive line by recruiting two of California’s top three offensive linemen in Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao. Both are rated as consensus four-star recruits and will provide valuable depth on the Trojans’ thinning offensive line.
In many ways, 2014 is shaping up to be a highly successful recruiting class for the USC Trojans -— not only as a way to build depth on the roster, but laying the foundation for future success.
So sure, Ricky Town is verbally committed to USC for the recruiting class of 2015 — but the Trojan faithful have plenty to be excited about in the more immediate future.
Euno Lee is a senior majoring in English literature. He is also the Managing Editor of the Daily Trojan. His column “Euno What Time it is” runs Wednesdays.
UPDATE: in an earlier version of this article it was reported the Trojans would need to replace senior offensive lineman Aundrey Walker. The article has been corrected to refer to Marcus Martin, who will be leaving to the NFL.